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A portable medieval str. instr., shaped like a viol, dating (in Eur.) from early 12th cent. First str. instr. to which kbd. principle was applied. The instr. is hung round the player's neck or strapped to the body at an angle which lets the keys fall back under their own weight. Bowing action replaced by wheel cranked by a handle. Outer rim of wheel, coated with resin, makes all str. resonate at once, providing a continuous drone like a bagpipe. Fingering is also mechanized, the same str. being stopped at different points to produce required scale. Orig. required 2 players, but during 13th cent. improvements enabled solo perf., thus transforming its use from a cumbersome instr. to one capable of providing dance mus. By 14th cent. there were 6 str. and a kbd. compass of 2 chromatic octaves. Application of the term to any instr. worked by turn of a handle, e.g. barrel‐org., street pf., is incorrect. See lira organizzata.

Subjects: Music.

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