BEOWULF: Hurdy-Gurdy & Theremin




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Published on Oct 9, 2008

This is a short excerpt from the 8th century epic tale of BEOWULF. The instrument I am using to accompany myself is called a hurdy-gurdy , a popular instrument of medieval Europe. The hurdy-gurdy in this video was made for me by Alden and Cali Hackmann of Olympic Musical Instruments in Indianola, Washington, and is a fully equipped electro-acoustic instrument with a built-in sound console.

Hurdy-gurdy players, like bagpipe players, cannot control the volume of their instruments which makes it difficult to use for accompanying the human voice but the intensity and sheer volume of the instrument also made it ideal for great halls and public places in ancient times. One advantage that it has is that it is a complete instrument, able to play melody, harmony and rhythm.

The hurdy-gurdy in this video is plugged into an RSP Technologies Intelliverb processor which I control with a MIDI Ground Control foot switch. The only other instrument used in this video is a Moog Ethervox theremin.

The original Beowulf epic was written in Old English which is no longer spoken and cannot be understood by English speakers today. I used a modern adaptation of the words for this video. For anyone who is interested, I have posted the text to my website, along with some closeup photos of the hurdy-gurdy. You can also hear a stereo mp3 of the song just as it was performed, without the YouTube distortion.



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