Wednesday, September 22, 2004

Ancient Persian Santur Enjoys Modern Popularity

"The santur is an ancient instrument estimated to be more than 2,000 years old. It is thought to have originated in Persia, but is seen in Assyrian archaeological carvings dating from 660 B.C. The santur was brought to Europe by the Crusaders, where it evolved into the psaltery and the dulcimer, which enjoys popularity in folk music of North America, especially in the Appalachian tradition.

The trapezoid-shaped Persian santur has nine sets of quadruple strings made of bronze for the low register, and nine sets of quadruple strings made of steel for the high register, for a total of 72 strings. The strings are struck with light wooden mallets suspended by three fingers of each hand. The santur may be the only traditional Persian instrument that is not touched directly by the artist.

An 11th-century Persian poet, Manuchehri, compares the sound of the santur with melodic bird song."