June 24, 2009

Haydee's Guzla

Posted in Music tagged at 8:41 pm by j128

Guzla In Alexandre Dumas’ The Count of Monte Cristo, the Count’s consort Haydee – a Greek princess, daughter of the noble Ali Pasha – plays an unusual instrument called the guzla.

In the Penguin Classics edition of Monte Cristo by Robin Buss, in the Notes the instrument is described as

“A Balkan musical instrument, like a violin with only one or two strings.” (pg. 1256)

After I read its said description, I was intrigued to learn more about it, and I was really surprised that there is hardly any information about it on the Internet…until I found out that the guzla is also known under different spellings. It is alternately spelled as gusla or gusle.

It is a relatively little-known instrument – or at least, in the West – in today’s world and from most sources it is described as a museum piece and quite rare; it has been compared to the Russian balalaika in appearance and it can be imperfectly reproduced in sounds by the cimbalom; it has many similarities to the rebab, which was widely played during the Ottoman Empire throughout Turkey.  

The instrument is not typically played on its own, rather it is accompanied by the player’s voice; called the guslar, when telling or singing epic stories or legends. The instrument consists of one or two strings made of horsehair with a bow made of horsetail pulled over the string(s) and a wooden sound box: often being made of maple as it is considered the best material covered with animal skin and a neck with a carved head, as illustrated in the image to the left. To play, the guslar supports it upright between the knees or legs and the long neck rests against the thigh, and the string(s) is/are plucked.

During the nineteenth-century, the East and its associated objects were seen as hallmarks of the region and were held highly with a certain degree of awe, as clearly evident in Viscount Albert’s fascination of the Orient.

The anime Gankutsuou: The Count of Monte Cristo replaces the guzla with a harp as Haydee’s instrument and she is highly skilled at playing it as she was the guzla in the original novel. The spelling of her name is also changed to Haidee.

Links

Guzla – Answers.com

Balalaika – Wikipedia definition

Cimbalom – Wikipedia definition

The Count of Monte Cristo – My review here on my blog, The World Is Quiet Here

Gankutsuou: The Count of Monte Cristo – My review here on my blog, The World Is Quiet Here

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1 Comment »

  1. gabriel said,

    i’m also reading Count, thanks for explaining the guzla 🙂


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