Gilles Chabenat - Vielle à Roue
Gilles Chabenat - Vielle à Roue


Electro-acoustic hurdy-gurdies by Denis SIORAT


Nomadic and adaptable in nature, the hurdy-gurdy has been undergoing constant changes for over a thousand years.  Little by little, new strings were added to the wide-open surface of the wheel, the “infinite bow,” strings whose functions are often expressed by evocative terms: first the “chanters” (melody strings) then the “drones”, the “trompettes” (rhythmic drones), and the sympathetic strings.
In addition, the evolution of the way these registers are used is linked to context. The sound of the buzzing bridge, for example, an essential component of the dances of Central France, is absent in Galician music.  In baroque music, it’s function is primarily one of emphasis, whereas in today’s music it has gained in autonomy and is often dissociated from the melody.
This type of diversity enriches the possibilities offered by the instrument and sometimes blurs the line between invention and subversion (pizzicati or tapping on the drones or sympathetic strings, glissandi on the chanters or trompettes, back-and-forth motion of the wheel, percussion on the crank knob, the body, or the keyboard…).
Far from being exhaustive, this list will continue to grow, shaped by the interplay of constraints.  The hurdy-gurdy keeps putting on new faces, sparingly staging its secrets for the delight of its mesmerized audience

Gilles Chabenat

Photos : App'ar studio - Vichy