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DulcimerPlayer
11-05-2009, 03:04 PM
Finished a thread at everything dulcimer.com where I posed the question about the historical application of mountain dulcimers during the civil war era. During some preliminary research I had seen many musical historians making remarks that did not look good for the dulcimer use in a CW historical context. After a round about on the forum I purchased a copy of “A Catalog of Pre-Revival Appalachian Dulcimers” from Amazon.com. Between the forum and book (Jean Ritchie’s forward is the best read ever on dulcimers), I am now much more comfortable in using my MD as a civilian re-enactor. Jean’s forward is also the best example of how many well read researches can come up with a completely wrong stance because they did not ask the right questions at the right time or where not in the right place at the right time. One very interesting point made by Jean Ritchie concerned a historical comment to the effect that “dulcimers were uncommon and that fiddles and banjo’s where the instruments of use the mountain communities.”
Jean (growing up in eastern Kentucky), stated: “My father, Balis Ritchie, saw his first fiddle played by his schoolteacher’s visitor, a man from Virginia, when he (Balis) was about seven years old. That would be about 1876. He made his own fiddle from a gourd, remembering the one he had seen at age seven, when he was seventeen (1886). He played his gourd fiddle around at parties for several years, because it was the only one in the community or region…, and there were no banjos at all. Up until that time the dulcimer was the only instrument to be counted around there.”

I also had to chuckle at Ritchie’s description of travel in that “It was a time (1917-1923) when travel was by jolt-wagon or on horseback.

The string on dulcimers can be seen at:

http://everythingdulcimer.com/discuss/viewtopic.php?f=3&t=21999

Ross L. Lamoreaux
11-05-2009, 04:55 PM
Refer back to your old thread on this, and the conclusion of some other pretty learned folks- the dulcimer was about as common to a Civil War camp as leopard skin pants. You're going to do want you want though, since you've expended more energy continuing to perpetuate your want than to actually look at the contemporary evidence such as photographic images, personal journals and diaries and the like. Your cited example ironically is not only post-war, but second hand. Its awful funny that there are dozens of images of camp musicians and period musicians, yet nobody seems to be playing a dulcimer and plenty of banjos, guitars, and fiddles....

Willow Branch
11-06-2009, 11:27 AM
Refer back to your old thread on this, and the conclusion of some other pretty learned folks- the dulcimer was about as common to a Civil War camp as leopard skin pants. You're going to do want you want though, since you've expended more energy continuing to perpetuate your want than to actually look at the contemporary evidence such as photographic images, personal journals and diaries and the like. Your cited example ironically is not only post-war, but second hand. Its awful funny that there are dozens of images of camp musicians and period musicians, yet nobody seems to be playing a dulcimer and plenty of banjos, guitars, and fiddles....

Ross,
I respect your comment, and agree that there is little if any evidence of Mountain Dulcimers in the Civil War Camp, but I believe the context of "Dulcimer Player" comments have broadened to the Mountain Dulcimer in the Civil War era, not limited to the civil war camp. This is a cut and paste from the URL provided in this thread (the emphasis is mine):

"1. Problem:
a. I do some re-enacting in the Civil War era as a civilian, not so much a hard core re-enactor, but more a entertainer and educator about the mountain dulcimer."

No doubt the mountain dulcimer was around (if only regionally) in the era, and it appears to me that this thread would be equally suited for the Civilian forum.

Regards,

5strings
11-06-2009, 10:22 PM
I will let this thread stay right here if DulcimerPlayer wants to chat about the 'Dulcimer' being played by civilians as a Mountain instrument or whatever. I like to bend the rules here as I enjoy all music and intruments from the Civil War era. If the dulcimer creeps back into being played in camps etc., I will close the thread.

mmescher
11-11-2009, 08:57 PM
Without comment of whether the mountain dulcimer is a valid instrument to play for a civil war impression, if we assume it is, then the next element is determining its context. If it was restricted to only remote regions, then playing one in a scenario outside of those regions would not be appropriate. If it could be shown to be widespread, then it could be used in many more impressions.

If we can take the example of the gourd fiddle, such an instrument might be fine in a region where regular fiddles or violins were difficult to procure. But I couldn't see playing one in a parlor in a large city.

Like many other elements of life during the time period that were done only in limited areas, a lot of research would be needed to feel comfortable including such items in an impression. The quote from Jean Ritchie is intriguing and might be used to track down other evidence of dulcimer use which doesn't rely on recollection.

Michael Mescher