Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Naive Discovery

Nothing excites me more in music than hearing a new style of music or an instrument played differently than I have heard before. Therefore I was pleasantly stunned behind the wheel when a story about the Mandolin played on The World, a radio show produced by PRI and broadcast daily on NPR.

In this part of the world, our view of the mandolin is shadowed only by that of Appalachia. And, in my naiveté, I hadn't given much thought to the origins of this bluegrass buoy and its transcontinental migration, not to mention the styles of music it has influenced. As The World's Marco Werman reminds us "The New World is two continents."

The radio story centers on Hamilton de Holanda, Latin Americas "mandolin virtuoso," who artfully navigates his bandolim like Magellan in his namesake Strait--with the gusto of Latin rhythms, conjuring images wholly different than the rolling hills, corn cobs and snake poison we associate with bluegrass and Dear Old Rocky Top.

The Portuguese are most likely responsible for the mandolin's transplantation into the New World by way of Naples, Italy--where the mandolin originated--through trades and conquests at the height of Portugal's empire.

The mandolin gets its name from its shape,
mandorla, or "almond" in Italian. Think about the musical sounds you might hear floating in a gondola along Venetian canals, and you'll get an idea of the mandolin's original context. A far cry from the fast-fingered, thick-pickin' mountain boys.

I won't say anymore because I want you to click the link above and listen to the article and music for yourself. As they say, "There's a whole world out there." The same can be said for music.

Check it out.


Anonymous said...

Well said about the mandolin, definitely one of the more underappreciated instruments in music outside of folk or a few types of world. Help with the broken link?

dianne727 said...

i've been a mandolin junkie since the first time i saw chris thile play. he's some kind of freaky mandolin prodigy.

Thomas said...

Hey Patrick,

Sorry about that. Thanks for leaving your mark. I fixed the link. Take a listen to the story. It's very interesting.

Drew said...


mando from the italians.

banjo was an african folk instrument.

fiddle from the scotch-irish.