Observing the Cultural Development of the Hammered Dulcimer in the Alpine Region through its Crafting, Materials, and Secrets

Wey, Yannick (2023). Observing the Cultural Development of the Hammered Dulcimer in the Alpine Region through its Crafting, Materials, and Secrets Saryn(4), pp. 17-33. Kurmangazy Kazakh National Conservatory 10.59850/SARYN.4.11.2023.34

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The makers of hammered dulcimers in the Appenzell (Switzerland) and Salzburg (Austria) regions are considered artisans of their very specialized craft. A trapezoidal wooden case with a bridge, the instrument is beautified with ornaments and symbols of religious and popular belief. Its sound is produced by a process mediated through several materials: the player uses small hammers struck by hand on several strings, the vibration of which is transmitted to a resonating body. In contrast, historically, the hammered dulcimer had strikingly negative associations: It was ‘devalued to a dance instrument’; ‘disgusting because of the great noise of sounds’; it ‘should be nailed to the houses of ill repute’ and ‘[he] who [...] is in the habit of playing on the dulcimer, may be a regular thief and robber’. Such rebukes – some of which notably addressed directly to the object, not to the players – contrast with contemporary perception and raise questions about relationships between the material object, its properties, and their relationship to perception. Through the detailed inspection of historical and contemporary specimens and their stories, we trace the transformation from the once shunned object to the artisanal work and carrier of cultural heritage. Dulcimers as ‘sensual objects’ (Harman) that transformed themselves and together with their associates: players, makers, and the sound environment. We trace the different allusions around the hammered dulcimer as objects to the crafting material, the stories from makers, and the artistic and symbolic emanation of the ornamentation. This further demands a critical reflection on the status of the craft and the material objects that exist to this day without digital technologies and in nondigital spaces.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


Bern Academy of the Arts
Bern Academy of the Arts > Institute Interpretation
Bern Academy of the Arts > Institute Interpretation > Musical Instruments


Wey, Yannick0000-0002-2416-1285


M Music and Books on Music > M Music




Kurmangazy Kazakh National Conservatory




Yannick Wey

Date Deposited:

22 Dec 2023 11:00

Last Modified:

22 Dec 2023 11:00

Publisher DOI:






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