The Medieval Hurdy-Gurdy

A symphony made by Bryan Tolley
Decoration inside the symphony shown above


Bryan Tolley was inspired by the miniature illustration in the Cantigas des Santa Maria of Alphonse the Wise for the creation of his 13th century symphony.

The instrument has a walnut case, the soundboard is from spruce, and the interior adds a precious touch with a parchment rose and decoration in gold leaf.

             
 
Miniature illustration from the Cantigas des Santa Maria d'Alphonse Le Sage (XIIIème siècle)  
 
Royal instrument of the middle ages; ancestor of the hurdy-gurdy. The name symphony (or chiffonie) reminds us that the instrument was capable of producing several sounds at the same time.

The instrument was initially associated with people of quality; it was then abandonned and left to the beggars until the 16th century. The symphony is generally constructed in a rectangular form that contains all the mechanisms.

Une chiffonie fabriqué par Bryan Tolley


Ergonomic design for the medieval symphony, simple to play due to a keyboard that can be readily adapted to many of the early modes. A small wheel eliminates the need to cut a slot in the soundboard and thus improves the acoustics of the instrument. One chanterelle and two drones, ball bearings and mechanical tuners are fitted on this symphony. The body is made of plywood with mortice and tenon construction; a spruce soundboard is fitted inside and the instrument is finished with coloured stain and varnish.