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Folklife in the Museum: Hall of Musical Instruments

Two presentations took place in the Hall of Musical Instruments of the National Museum of History and Technology.

Anglo American hammered dulcimer traditions, co-organized by the Division of Musical Instruments and the Folklife Program. Participants in this presentation were drawn from several regions of the United States to demonstrate the different playing styles developed in West Virginia, Michigan, and New York over the past three centuries. Similarities and differences among these styles were compared in a series of workshops and performances. All of the performers came from the Anglo American tradition. (Slightly varied types of hammered dulcimers also form an important part of German, Hungarian, Arabic, Turkish, and Chinese American musical-instrument traditions.)

Music of India, co-organized by the Department of Anthropology of the National Museum of Natural History and the Folklife Program. The different types of Indian music are typically performed by small ensembles that include a lead vocalist or instrumentalist, at least one percussionist, and often one or more instrumentalists providing imitative melodic accompaniment. (There is no harmony in Indian music.) These ensembles also use a drone instrument, which plays only the tonic and one or two other important pitches of the mode being performed. Within the basic ensemble framework, musical texture may vary from a single voice or instrument performing over a drone to a complex performance in which all instruments and the voice simultaneously play variations of the same melody. Underlying the melodic component are tuned drums and often other percussion instruments, each elaborating on the rhythmic framework of a piece. In this year's Festival, most of the principal instruments of India were presented in a series of concerts and lecture-demonstrations. The informal lectures explored such topics as the structure of the music, procedure in the use of ragas, the interrelationships between melody and rhythmic accompaniment, and the relationships of folk and classical traditions in Indian music.

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