While we were in Venice, Florida a few weeks ago I came upon some of the most beautiful instruments that I have seen in a long time. They were hanging on the sides of a booth at a street fair and their delicate sound filled the air of the booth.
The bowed psaltery was a popular instrument in before the Renaissance and is related to the hammered dulcimer. It is played by drawing the bow across the strings which run between pegs at the bottom and along the edges of the face. It has a plaintive and haunting sound, very much in tune with it’s era.
I had seen these before at folk festivals, but none to compare with the ones in this booth. The craftsmanship on these instruments was just wonderful, with beautiful, original designs and exquisite inlay. And what really caught my eye were the hanging racks that held the instruments. Nothing like I had ever seen before. Apparently many people were buying the instruments simply to hang in their homes, they were so lovely.
I spent a long time talking with Archie Smith, who builds each of these bowed psalteries by hand, and was so impressed with his work that I invited him to the show. He brought one of the psalteries with him and made quite a hit playing it in the lobby during the intermission.
You can see why I was so impressed from the pictures I've included, but if you’d like to see more of them then go to his website at http://www.archiesmithinstruments.com/. I recommend a visit just to see his amazing designs.