Table of contents:



Video: Russian Music Instrument Gusli - Virtuoso Playing Gusli (gu zheng, zither, dulcimer, Swarmandal...) 2023, December

Most of the contemporaries, hearing the word "gusli", will remember only the Novgorod Sadko, or the Wolf from "Well, wait!". But this amazing instrument is older than modern Russia, and went through a difficult and complicated history with it.

The balalaika is often called the symbol of Russia, but the history of Russian gusli is much older. If everywhere the now known "Andreevskaya", triangular balalaika spread in Russia only at the end of the nineteenth century, then the first mentions of the harp, in connection with the ancient Slavs, are found in the Greek texts of the sixth century. But the gusli themselves are even older: in ancient Greece, this instrument was called the kifara, or psalter, and it was often used in divine services. By the way, the book "Psalter" is called so because the sacred hymns were performed to the accompaniment of "psalteries", that is, the ancient gusli. The simple and effective form of ghusli has earned recognition among many peoples and has stood the test for dozens of centuries.

Modern science classifies the gusli as a "psaltery-like fretless stringed plucked instrument", and there are a great many varieties of them. Almost every country in Eurasia has its own gusli - the Finns have this kantele, the Iranians and Turks have the eve, the Germans have zither, and the Chinese have guqin.

All of these words are rooted in the words “buzz”, “goose”, and his “ha-ha-ha”. And in Russian dialects, and in Sanskrit - "gu" means to sound. No hooke - no sound, no buzz, that is, no sound.

But besides this, the term "gu" in Sanskrit also means to go, to move. Let's remember the Russian word to walk. We are walking a holiday, we are walking a wedding, that is, we both sound and move. In the old Russian folk tradition, images of waterfowl also play an exceptional role. Often it is the goose, swan, duck that represent the sphere of the sacred, in the ritual songs of the calendar cycle. And in these same ritual songs, it is the Gusli that is an obligatory component of dubbing the sacred text.

What's so special about the harp?

on the Internet you can easily find materials about their miraculous sound, which can heal from diseases. We do not undertake to judge how esoteric versions of the sacred sound of ghusli are close to the truth; however, this instrument is actually used today in music therapy. The peculiarity of gusli is that it is very easy to start playing on them, and to extract melodic sounds, even if you have no experience at all. Not only the famous Sadko, but every epic hero knew how to play them. It was considered an honorable and necessary skill for a true warrior.

Among the epic guslars were Dobrynya Nikitich, Stavr Godinovich, Alyosha Popovich, Dunai Ivanovich, Churilo Plenkovich, Solovey Budimirovich, and of course, Sadko-guslar, who, before becoming a squad leader-naval commander, was a professional musician. Of course, the gusli were reliable and constant companions of buffoons, they belonged to the court of both the nobility and the common people. The gusli had a difficult relationship with the church: on the one hand, this is the only instrument that was officially sounded at divine services, and the huge table gusli, because of the clergy's love for them, were even popularly called “priest's” by the people. On the other hand, the official instructions of the church to prohibit and destroy the gusli are known.

For example, the preacher of the 12th century, Kirill Turovsky, threatened with death throes those "who bewitched, hums in the harp, tells fairy tales." In the 16th century missal, among the questions in confession, there are the following: “Did Yasi sing a song of demons? did not the yasi play harp? " And Abbot Pamphil scolded the Pskovites for the fact that "during the Kupala night they played tambourines and snuffled and hummed with strings."

By the way, many people think that the storytellers performed epics to the harp, but science has not yet found confirmation of this. But it is proved that they danced to them, sang songs and ditties, and even the goose ringing often accompanied the rituals. The image of the guslar musician in folklore and literature is rich and ambiguous. He can simply entertain the people, or he can act as the keeper of secret knowledge and carry on himself the function of communication with the other world.