Making Musical Instruments
Opus 1 - Organistrum

Making Musical Instruments
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    The organistrum is the precursor of the hurdy-gurdy. In both instruments, sound is produced when the strings are rubbed by a crank-activated friction wheel. Because of the organistrum's large size, two musicians were required to play it: one to turn the crank and the other to actually play the instrument, using rotating keys. The keys thus came into contact with two strings, while a third string acted as a drone. The three strings were probably tuned to the tonic, the fifth and the octave, an arrangement well suited to the polyphony prevalent at the time, in which the voices moved in parallel fourths and fifths.

      Organistrum - CMC 74-246/S74-2306/CD94-161
    By Edward Turner
    British Columbia
    Ontario maple,
    European curly maple, walnut, metal, gut
    Overall length: 142 cm;
    body: 56 x 36; sides: 11 cm

    Organistrum - CMC 74-246/S74-2306/CD94-161
    Ornemental detail at the base of the crank: the griffin, a mythical creature.

    The instrument appears occasionally in twelfth-century sculptural reliefs in England, France and Spain. It was used in the cloisters to teach music, provide pitch for singers and accompany religious music.

    Edward Turner based this organistrum on a twelfth-century bas relief from the portico of San Miguel de Estella church in Santiago de Compostela, Spain. The reproduction displays a remarkable wealth of detail, including a carved griffin head, whose mouth opens onto the crank that activates the friction wheel.


    Edward Turner

    Edward Turner

    Edward Turner has enjoyed a rich and varied career. After studying architectural design and graphic arts at the École des Beaux-Arts de Montreal, he turned to making harpsichords and stringed instruments as a result of his interest in pre-nineteenth-century music and instruments. He devoted himself full-time to this endeavour after opening a workshop in Vancouver in 1971. He later went to work for the University of Edinburgh, where he conducted research and specialized in drawing instruments from the Russell collection of early keyboard instruments. Harpsichord makers around the world use his technical plans and drawings of the most important harpsichords in the collection.

    Turner has played a significant role in the revival of instrument making in Canada. He has built several replicas of early instruments, including harpsichords, lutes and hurdy-gurdies. He has promoted instrument making through workshops and lectures in Canada and other countries around the world, including the People's Republic of China, which he visited in the early 1980s.

    In 1985, Edward Turner resumed design and graphic arts. He created reproductions of historic aircraft for Expo 86 and has designed sailboats.