Thursday, January 29, 2009

Full Bladder?

I just got myself a bladder-pipe from a historic instrument craftsman in the Czech Republic. More pictures are on the way.

The Bladder pipe is one of the rarest medieval instruments to see these days. The earliest references to it are from the 13th century, but it may actually be a lot older. It's not so much an ancestor of the bagpipe, as much as it is a cousin, though, if we find earlier references to it in the future, there might be reason to believe it is at least an ancestor of some smallpipes. However, it's most likely that it was a simplified version of a bagpipe, easier to set up and use, cheaper to make, and smaller than conventional bagpipes. In the later years of it's popularity, it was associated with peasants.

The pipe looks similar to the legendary Indian "snake charmer" instrument, but it is not. The Indian "Been", as it's called, is a completely different instrument, and has no bag or bladder.

Back in the day, the bag of the bladder pipe was an actual sheep's bladder -- when fresh, it was very elastic, and able to be filled so as to expand and allow the player to breathe. Unfortnately, sheep's bladders do not last very long before they need to be replaced, so the modern bladder pipes use a thin leather kid-skin bag. It's less elastic, but it works, and last a lot longer. Until I learn how to play it correctly, I'm sort of usig the bag as a bagpipe bag, smooshing my face into it while closing the hole with my tongue, and inhaling. Maybe that's how you're supposed to do it, but it takes a bit more coordination than bagpipes. By the time I'm done, I might have the skills required to play digeridoo!

Here is a sound sample of my new toy!