european musical instruments in India

Max Langley mlangley at
Thu Mar 27 20:29:58 UTC 1997

One correction: the viol family is designated 'da gamba', and the viola da
gamba represents the gamba held between the legs like a cello. Modern
music instrument history acccounts two families: the viol family, with
curved plates; and the violin family, with curved ones. I wonder if viols
with adjustable frets would suit Indian music better than the louder
violin family? 

> From: Jacob Baltuch <jacob.baltuch at>
> To: Members of the list <indology at>
> Subject: Re: european musical instruments in India
> Date: Thursday, March 27, 1997 2:48 PM
> >On Thu, 27 Mar 1997, Jacob Baltuch wrote:
> >
> >[..]
> >
> >>
> >> Re: early (1800s) violin "technology" found in Carnatic violin. Is
> >> bow different from the usual bow? Bow type changed radically in
> >> around 1820.
> Just a correction. I was partially mistaken. The bow changed less
> abruptly that I was implying. The concave shape of the bow was invented
> as early as 1770-1780 by one of the Tourte (Francois?) I believe the
> mechanism was introduced by Francois Tourte around 1820 give or take 10
> In any case plenty of time, as Vidyasankar Sundaresan pointed out.
> One point I didn't see mentioned re: the adoption of violin (and not
> of other European instruments). Maybe what also favored it was the
> fact that it can play in any tuning, not only the equal-tempered one
> (unlike say the guitar or European wind instruments)? Sure,
> are key, but one can also ask, why did only the violin find such
> individualities while other Euro. instruments didn't. Note the violin is
> also the only European instrument adopted into classical Arabic music.
> I would assume (although I couldn't myself say) that Indian violinists
> take advantage of this capability & play the ragas correctly, which they
> don't do on electronic keyboards. (Although if they really wanted to go
> thru the headache they could. There are MIDI keyboards which can
> tuning tables from say a computer or a sequencer. Or maybe in the styles
> of music which would tend to adopt synthesizers one shouldn't expect
> musicians to worry too much about shrutis)
> And one can also ask, was there a specific empty niche the violin found
> Carnatic music? Was it experimentation for the mere joy of
> (With then lasting results)

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