Glossary of Italian folk harp terms

  • arpa: “harp”
  • arpa popolare: “folk harp” or harp of the people
  • arpa viggianese: “Viggianese harp” or harp of Viggiano, still made today by master luthiers in southern Italy.
  • arpicedda: a southern Italian dialect variation of arpicella or “little harp,” a particular kind of bright-sounding portable diatonic harp meant to be played while standing or strolling.
  • Basilicata: One of the twenty large administrative regions of Italy, it is located along the instep of the boot of Italy between the toe (Calabria) and heel (Puglia) and is known for, among other things, its rich harping tradition. Many Italian-Americans can trace our roots back to this area of Italy.
  • ciaramedda: a southern Italian dialect variation of ciaramella, a small double-reed folk instrument similar to an oboe or shawm.
  • lira calabrese: a vertically played, round-bodied fiddle found in Calabria, similar to the medieval rebec and originally from the Middle East.
  • liutaio (masculine noun, pl. liutai): “luthier” or maker of stringed instruments
  • Lucania: another name for Basilicata
  • Marsicovetere and Marsiconuovo: two of the towns in Basilicata known for their folk harp tradition
  • organetto: a small bellows-driven reed instrument, similar to an accordion
  • quadriglia: Italian folk dance, one of a class of dances sometimes called a “quadrille” in English and simultaneously performed by four couples together. This class of dances is the ancestor of the American square dance.
  • tamburello: a small frame drum with rattles along its sides, a large tambourine. This is played in complex and often dotted rhythms alongside other instruments.
  • tarantella: an energetic Italian folk dance known for beginning slowly and increasing in pace until it becomes quite fast at the end. Folk myth with roots in ancient Greek and Roman times held that this dance could help the dancer ward off the bite of the wolf spider, hence its evocative name.
  • Viggiano: one of the towns in Basilicata known for its folk harp tradition
  • zampogna: the Italian bagpipes, a multiple double-reed instrument connected to the inverted skin of a goat that is inflated by the breath of the player and used to drive air through the reeds. It is an ancient import from Greece, where it was called tsimponia, a word that is a cognate to “symphony,” meaning “many sounds together.”

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