EUROPA 2014: National Musical Instruments – Three Drones Bagpipes stamp from Slovakia

EUROPA 2014: National Musical Instruments – Three Drones Bagpipes stamp from Slovakia

This year the international EUROPA stamp issue is dedicated to national musical instruments. Thereupon, Slovak post Pofis issued a stamp featuring the three drones bagpipes.

Bagpipes are a folk musical instrument of a very ancient Near Eastern origin. They were known by the Ancient Greeks, Romans and Nordic nationalities. The Slavs in the Pannonian basin knew them in the 8th century and there is evidence of the bagpipes being in Slovakia in the 14th century. In the 18th century, the bagpipes were a fashionable instrument in France, where their pastoral sound characterized well the fashionable interest in imitation of the village life. Today the bagpipes are mainly used in Scotland (the bagpipe choirs being a part of military bands), on Sicily, in Romania, in Czech Republic (mainly in Domazlice and Strakonice region) and in Slovakia, of course, the bagpipes being a typical musical instruments of the shepherd culture. They are most popular in Orava, Pohronie and Gemer regions.

There are more types of bagpipe construction. The melody is created in so-called chanter with a tonal range from six to eight tones. In case of a more complex instrument, bagpipes can have more pipes. In the 14th century the bagpipes started to be equipped by one to three so called bourdon pipes, with the help of which the instrument could sound uninterrupted interval of the base note (alternatively a fifth, etc.) using the bourdon technique. The bleat sound and diatonic melody of the bagpipes accompanied by a constant bourdon base tone are often ornamented by sharp thirds, etc. Bagpipes can be tuned in different ways, as the length of the individual pipes also varies.

The air supply to all the pipes is guaranteed by an air bag made of the animal skin. A musician can regulate the air supply by applying pressure of his elbow on the bag, which is tied to the upper arm by a leather string and released or pressured by the shoulder movement. The incoming air causes vibration of a delicate tongue, wrapped around by a string attached to a hollow tube with one end sealed (similarly to a clarinet).

Throughout Slovakia the bagpipes with three drones are the most popular, while in Central Slovakia the bagpipes with four or five drones are also known and in Orava region the Goral bagpipes with two drones can be found.


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