Tag Archives: Instrument

The Oud

My informant, (18), from Lebanon, describes an instrument as a folk object: “An instrument in Arab/Middle-Eastern culture that was very popular is the Oud. And it’s literally spanned for generations and generations. It resembles a guitar, it has 6 strings but it has three holes. […] If the Oud is ever played, it’s kind of like you’re listening to God. And like you have to respect it, even though it’s incorporated into some songs, the main origin of the Oud is like the king of all instruments because it resembles that celestial body, and it has representations of the moon because of the higher pitch. And it’s mainly played with the older generation; it’s died down over the years. Usually you bring it around like campfires.” I asked the informant how often he is in a group where it is played. “Every summer I’d say 10-20 times. It’s something that people casually bring out to play, but it has such a big meaning to it. It’s very common to experience it even though it has such a high meaning. It also resembles wealth and luxury cause they’re very expensive. It’s typically played in summer, because it’s usually played outdoors: That’s important. It’s usually played outdoors so that the sounds flow out into the world instead of staying inside. It’s tradition to play it in the summer, because summer is when everybody gathers together, especially during holidays, or weddings. Mainly it’s Lebanon, Jordan, Palestine, the Middle East., mainly like West Middle-East.”

“So usually men play the Oud and they play it in gatherings and that’s when everyone has to be quiet, they have to listen, or else its seen as disrespectful because the oud is seen as a symbol of the celestial Arab body.” When I asked about the specifics of the rules of when it is played, my informant said, “Truth is about Middle-Eastern culture is that nothing is that deep. It’s their culture, they do it cause they can, they should be able to do it whenever they want to.” So it would seem that, at least from his point of view, the specific rules are less important than the fact that people should be allowed to enjoy their culture the way that they want to.

The informant seemed to be self aware of the patriarchal implications of men being the ones expected to play this instrument connected to the divine, and that the whole group is expected to listen when a man is playing the instrument. It’s interesting that the instrument can be so casual yet so important at the same time, and I think that this suggests that the culture has integrated the more traditional beliefs to more contemporary contexts. As the informant mentioned, the instrument is used in a lot of songs, but still retains its underlying cultural significance.

Duduk Armenian Folk Instrument

Context: The duduk is an Armenian instrument originating some 3000 years ago. It is a wind instrument which was at one point made of bone, but now it’s made from wood. The Armenian Genocide took place from 1915 to 1923 and it included the targeted murder of around one million Armenians. Informant GG describes the duduk’s use and cultural significance.

Main Piece: Transcript:

GG: There’s usually two people playing [the duduk]. One plays a steady “dum” while the other plays on top. The interesting thing about it is how somber it sounds… It’s usually associated with sad things like the Armenian Genocide… if you see anything about that you’ll notice in the background that the Duduk is what’s being played.

The duduk is often played at live performances today, and as GG said, it’s somber sound can be associated closely with tragic events, such as the Armenian Genocide, or at funerals and community services. 

Thoughts: Music which accompanies a cultural aspect of society can often set the tone for how that culture is represented to its participants. Because Armenians have historically experienced such terrible events, the use of the duduk as a cultural instrument to display feelings of sadness can help non-Armenians understand the loss that the country and people saw with the Armenian Genocide. 

Preparing for Performances

Main Piece:

Informant: We played with xylophone for a couple of years before percussion. And once we were able to be in percussion, you got to use it a lot more. So it’s basically for the kids that wanted to have more time playing on it and making music with it and going more into depth with the instrument. That was for those students who wanted to.

Something we did, we would go around the carpet playing different instruments. So we would say like. . . like we had this certain beat that we would do on every single one. And to prepare for all of our performances, we would do a thing called “Rock your mallets to the top.” So we would say “Rock your mallets to the top.” Then you’d go to the bottom and say, “to the bottom do not stop. Hit them in the middle please. Hit them on your long tong C’s.” And then we’d change to D’s and then we’d change to minors.

Interviewer: Do you think you could do the whole thing for me?

Informant: It’s not very long. It’s . .  *laughs,  “Rock your mallets to the top. Boom boom boom boom boom boom boom. To the bottom do not stop. Boom boom boom boom boom boom boom. Tap them in the middle please, doo doo loo doo doo loo. Hit them on your long tong c’s. Boom boom boom boom boom boom boom.

So we basically would do that and then we’d switch instruments. And then she would say, uh, she would just count to 3 and, or we would do certain, different like patterns and she, our music teacher, would do it and we would repeat them back. And sometimes she would say, we’d put it in different, um, you could take certain bars off. We would do C pentatonic a lot, where you take off your F’s and B’s and so there would be groups of 2 and groups of 3 and then she would ask us to do a certain thing on a group of 3 and a certain thing on a group of 2. And that’s kinda how we prepared for every single one of our performances.


The informant is a twelve-year-old Native American girl from the Choctaw, Blackfoot, and Lakota Nations. She was born and raised in Tennessee and frequently travels out west to visit family and friends. She is in sixth grade.


During the Covid-19 Pandemic I flew back home to Tennessee to stay with my family. The informant is my younger sister. I was asking her about groups she was a part of at school.


She emphasized that this was a musical group for those who wanted to dive deeper into the subject, in this case, spend more time learning the instrument. It was fun to hear the rituals and chants the students would use during practice and before a performance. Ritual is a creative process, key in attaining a certain frame of mind and promoting active engagement. It is also a picture of the beauty that can come out of community and teamwork. It is not solely about the individual. Rather, individuals in a group working together as a cohesive unit.