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March 27, 2008



Fun post! There is also Nigel Eaton, who played hurdy gurdy in the '90s Page/Plant band as well as on several sessions (my favorite being David Rice's sadly ignored Greenelectric album).

Kip W

I saw Sting in that performance. He didn't press any of the keys, just stood there and turned the crank to play the drone. If you ask me, that was just a gurdy.

Listener Rick

I would also append the splendid Swedish medieval-rock band Garmarna, whom I once saw play their hearts out to an audience composed largely of me at a corporate event in a small club in Boston back around 2000. Garmarna are more like Ingmar Bergman Swedes than Abba Swedes. Their Stefan Brisland-Ferner employs the hurdy-gurdy in live performance, adding intensity to electrified versions of brooding traditional folk tales full of revenge and violence.

Andy Alexis

Don't forget the late Ethan James, formerly known as Ralph Kellogg of the 1960s psychedelic rock group Blue Cheer. He had a late career as a hurdy gurdy master. He also ran the Radio Tokyo studios in LA and released albums under the name Ralph Records in the late 1970s/80s.


I was also going to recommend Garmarna for the list - in performance they run the hurdy gurdy through a wah pedal and play it like an electric guitar. Stefan Brisland-Ferner had a side project called Hurdy Gurdy that released a very cool disc called Prototyp of hurdy-gurdy-driven rock, using the instrument as a "medieval synth" and while they use some traditional melodies, it's definitely not a folk CD. My other question is why no hurdy gurdy is featured in the song Hurdy Gurdy man? Srsly.

Quizmaster Chris

Wow! Last night we were listening to Donovan's greatest hits & my girlfriend asked me "So what is a hurdy gurdy, anyway?" I gave a one-sentence answer that was pretty vague. Today I check the 'FMU blog for the first time in days & find this... thanks!

I forwarded the link, seeing as this is pretty much the definitive hurdy gurdy one-stop-shopping source out there now...

Wenhaston Blackheath

I'd totally agree with the 'medieval synth' comment- more specifically, I'd suggest that it's a medieval 303! The trompette (the buzzing mentioned in the article) is somewhat similar to the 'accent' on a 303, when it's played rhythmically.

The pieces above mostly used the instrument as a drone, and didn't really demonstrate the trompette- this piece from Misericordia might show it better:
(warning- may contain bagpipes).

Nigel Eaton's myspace is a good place to start for anyone interested in the folk/medieval hurdy-gurdy tradition- there are loads of excellent players out there, mostly French.

There's also a hurdy-gurdy festival in the UK next month:

Anthony Dolphin

And lest we forget: Keiji Haino's overdriven, and abrasively beautiful hurdy-gurdy recordings.

'21st Century Hard-y Guide-y Man' (PSF 1995)
'Even Now, Still I Think' (PSF 1998)

David Lynch

It's great to hear some attention given to the hurdy-gurdy. It's a great instrument, and I was glad to see you spotlight Zaar. My personal favorite hurdy-gurdy band at the moment is Pienza Ethnorkestra whose sole album "Indiens d'Europe" is influenced by the Zeuhl sound of Magma and (more proximately) One Shot. I've mentioned them before, I think, but I can't recommend them highly or often enough.

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