Instruments of Dune

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Instruments of Dune

Postby A Thing of Eternity » Mon Oct 26, 2009 1:46 pm

I'm reading DM right now, and as I make it through the rest of the books I plan on adding to this thread as extensively as possible.

I haven't yet looked much into the baliset, but I didn't even need to do research for the main instrument that pops up again and again in DM - the rebaba. Knowing FH's love of slightly mutating words, this is clearly the same instrument (or very closely related to) as the middle eastern/asian rebab, or it is closely related to another similar instrument, the rubab. These two instuments are actually fairly different dispite the closeness of their names, and the fact that rubabs are sometimes called rebabs. Gets a little confusing!

According to the more common definitions I've run across, the name rebab more commonly refers to the instrument I've linked to a video of below. It is similar to other asian "violins", and is an upright bowed instrument without frets (and commonly without a fingerboard at all).

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LcaOk1DF3Fw
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The rubab is a much more interesting instrument in my opinion. It is of the lute family and is played in the same positon as a guitar. It has a fretless metal fingerboard (EDIT: it actually has a wooden freboard, often heavily inlayed, I was thinking of a sarod), usually around 6 "played" strings (3 melody and 3 drone) and 11 or 12 sympathetic strings. It is one of my all time favourite instruments, I can't wait to get my hands on one.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cPhPqUKdLWw
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I haven't yet noticed FH mentioning the rebaba being bowed or plucked so I'll have to check for that, which should tell me which instrument he meant it to be closer to.
Last edited by A Thing of Eternity on Mon Oct 26, 2009 10:04 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Instruments of Dune

Postby SadisticCynic » Mon Oct 26, 2009 3:11 pm

Awesome instruments; some really lovely sounds from them. If I'm not mistaken the rebab is used heavily in the soundtrack of the movie Hero; I always wondered what that instrument was.

For the rubab, what are sympathetic strings (sorry if this is a stupid question)? Are they to resonate with the vibrations from the "played" strings?

In Dune Messiah have you got to the chapter where Scytale goes to see Farok and his son plays semuta music for Otheym's daughter? Semuta music is descibed as wailing, which would sound more like the rebab, but I can't recall if he was playing a rebaba or a baliset.
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Re: Instruments of Dune

Postby A Thing of Eternity » Mon Oct 26, 2009 3:33 pm

SadisticCynic wrote:For the rubab, what are sympathetic strings (sorry if this is a stupid question)? Are they to resonate with the vibrations from the "played" strings?


Yes, they resonate "sympathetically" with the plucked strings, the most common instrument with symps is a sitar, they create that bizarre haunting buzzing ringing wash of sound in the background of all sitar music. The real key to the classic symp sound comes from the special bridge on these kinds of instruments. Instead of allowing the srings to ring freely like a guitar or cello bridge, they're sloped so that as the strings oscellate they hit it repeatedly and cause both a buzzing sound, and rapid shifts in the harmonic content of the notes.

Some western instruments make use of sympathetic vibration as well, but the only one you'd ever hear this on today is a piano. Normally when you press a key, you just hear the note played - but if the sustain pedal is pressed down (lifts the dampeners from all strings) then when you strike a key many other strings will ring as well. The strongest resonances occur on octaves of the same note, and then less and less for notes that have less and less to do with the note struck (5ths will ring louder than 3rds, then 6ths, etc). But there is no buzzing.

The coolest thing I've ever seen is this guy, Mark Deutsch. I have his CD. He took a five string upright bass, and built a module that rests against the body and contains 30 something sympathetic strings, all with the fancy "buzzing" Jiwari style bridge. He both plucks and bows it, and it also has some drone strings, but I don't care much about them... the music he plays is absolutely mindblowing, and he plays in a different note system than western music. The really cool thing about his instrument is that it has symp strings that are deep bass notes, which is a total first in the world, as he explains in this video.

Watch this and have your brain exploded by awesomeness.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=crSi9IxPfYA

In Dune Messiah have you got to the chapter where Scytale goes to see Farok and his son plays semuta music for Otheym's daughter? Semuta music is descibed as wailing, which would sound more like the rebab, but I can't recall if he was playing a rebaba or a baliset.


I think it was a rebaba, and yes, I was thinking of that passage as leaning towards a bowed instrument... plucked acoustic instruments are rarely described as wailing.
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Re: Instruments of Dune

Postby SadisticCynic » Mon Oct 26, 2009 3:51 pm

Cool! The amount of resonance he can pull from that thing is incredible. Must be terrible to tune though. :)
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Re: Instruments of Dune

Postby A Thing of Eternity » Mon Oct 26, 2009 3:56 pm

Especially if he has to do it by ear (no tuner will have his notes programmed into it), but maybe he has modded a tuner to do the job, or uses a tone generator to generate reference pitches which he can tune to.
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Re: Instruments of Dune

Postby A Thing of Eternity » Mon Oct 26, 2009 5:32 pm

Not that anyone cares, but I realized that I'm not actually saving up for a rubab, but for a sarod (close cousin). It's basically a suped up rubab.

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Re: Instruments of Dune

Postby Seraphan » Mon Oct 26, 2009 6:01 pm

Easier to tune?

Not that anyone cares

Hey, i do.
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Re: Instruments of Dune

Postby SadisticCynic » Mon Oct 26, 2009 7:13 pm

Looks pretty; is that a bell at the headstock, or am I looking at this wrong? :)

By the way, on the subject of instruments in Dune, the baliset is said to be played with a multi-pick. I kind of imagined some sort of staggered plectrum; is there anything analagous to this in our instruments?
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Re: Instruments of Dune

Postby A Thing of Eternity » Mon Oct 26, 2009 10:02 pm

Seraphan wrote:Easier to tune?


Probably not easier to tune, though if the pegs are of higher quality this may be so. They both have way too many strings for us westerners.

One major difference is the metal fretboard (my mistake in my opening post saying that the rubab has a metal fretboard. I was thinking of a sarod. Rubabs have wooden fretboards that are often heavily inlayed) - the real major difference though this that the rubab has a "drum skin" type soundboard (like a banjo) which tends to lack sustain (though has a cool "plucky" tone like a banjo) and can deteriorate in humid weather. The sarod on the other hand has a wooden soundboard like a sitar, and as such there is less attack in the tone and more sustain, as well as improving durability. It also has that bell thing SadCyn asks about below.

SadisticCynic wrote:Looks pretty; is that a bell at the headstock, or am I looking at this wrong? :)


It essentially is a thin bell yes. You see them often on sitars and veena instruments, but they are more commonly made of a gourd (like the body) than of metal, aside from sarods which seem to have metal ones. All it is is an extra resonating body, and acts as more surface area to amplify the instrument. Indian/middle eastern instrument tend to have less efficient soundboards than western instruments like acoustic guitars, lutes, and the violin family, and as such are quieter. Adding more resonating surface area makes the instrument louder, and improves the tonal complexity and sustain of the instrument.

By the way, on the subject of instruments in Dune, the baliset is said to be played with a multi-pick. I kind of imagined some sort of staggered plectrum; is there anything analagous to this in our instruments?


I've wondered about that myself many times... to be honest I prefer not to think of it because I think FH may have been talking out of his ass and trying to sound "future-y". I've never heard of anything similar in real life (because it would be a hinderance to playing, not a help), and I don't know what the heck FH was thinking.
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Re: Instruments of Dune

Postby inhuien » Wed Oct 28, 2009 6:57 am

A Thing of Eternity wrote:
By the way, on the subject of instruments in Dune, the baliset is said to be played with a multi-pick. I kind of imagined some sort of staggered plectrum; is there anything analagous to this in our instruments?


I've wondered about that myself many times... to be honest I prefer not to think of it because I think FH may have been talking out of his ass and trying to sound "future-y". I've never heard of anything similar in real life (because it would be a hinderance to playing, not a help), and I don't know what the heck FH was thinking.
The closest real world analogy to a multipass, I mean multipick is the banjo pick. Least thats the only one I can think of, I've never thought he was going for a kind of comb affair if you follow what I mean.

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Re: Instruments of Dune

Postby Omphalos » Wed Oct 28, 2009 11:57 am

Leelo Dallas, multipass.
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Re: Instruments of Dune

Postby Seraphan » Wed Oct 28, 2009 1:01 pm

Omphalos wrote:Leelo Dallas, multipass.

Fifth Element.
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Re: Instruments of Dune

Postby A Thing of Eternity » Wed Oct 28, 2009 1:04 pm

inhuien wrote:
A Thing of Eternity wrote:
By the way, on the subject of instruments in Dune, the baliset is said to be played with a multi-pick. I kind of imagined some sort of staggered plectrum; is there anything analagous to this in our instruments?


I've wondered about that myself many times... to be honest I prefer not to think of it because I think FH may have been talking out of his ass and trying to sound "future-y". I've never heard of anything similar in real life (because it would be a hinderance to playing, not a help), and I don't know what the heck FH was thinking.
The closest real world analogy to a multipass, I mean multipick is the banjo pick. Least thats the only one I can think of, I've never thought he was going for a kind of comb affair if you follow what I mean.

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That would make more sense, but those are picks plural, so I don't know if that's what FH meant.
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Re: Instruments of Dune

Postby Redstar » Wed Oct 28, 2009 6:28 pm

My dad wrote a book. First chapter is pretty good, the rest is dated and tells rather than shows to a great extent.
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Re: Instruments of Dune

Postby A Thing of Eternity » Wed Oct 28, 2009 6:42 pm

Redstar wrote:My dad wrote a book. First chapter is pretty good, the rest is dated and tells rather than shows to a great extent.


Huh? Wrong thread again? :D
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