Back to the italian version
Versione italiana

A great mystery: the origin of Resian instruments

Music is an important aspect of Resian culture. Chant or instrumental, music occupies an important role in every valley-dweller’s life. You can say that, in the past, music and songs used to accompany Resians from the cradle to the grave, beating their beautiful and joyful times but also the sad ones during their life. Today, the majority of the songs have been forgotten, while the instrumental music, played only with the two instruments, the “zytyra” and the “bunkula”, still resists.

The scholar Gaetano Perusini writes that, at the beginning of 1700, in Friuli region (also Resia, which belonged to it) wind instruments were quite common: fifes, bagpipes and flutes.

The historian Sreznevskij, who visited Resia in 1841, witnessed the presence of “gusli” (oslje) and of “zampogna, cornamusa” (dudä). About “gusli”, he says that it is similar to the zither. There should be no doubts about the reliability of his description since, having Russian origin, he quite for sure knew the gusli, typical instrument of Russian popular music, especially in the places along Volga river.

Valentino Ostermann writes that the Slavs use an instrument called “cetra” or “zitare”, even if he does not describe it.

Perusini supposes that it is similar to the German zither (Zither) or to the psaltery (Hackbrett).

J. Strajnar, on the contrary, supposes that the terms “cetra” and “zitare” refer to a more ancient instrument, predecessor or popular copy of “full-blown” violin. He remembers that in Transylvania before the 1500 the term “ceterâ” used to indicate a plucked stringed instrument, and after that only the violin, while the violoncello and the popular double bass that accompany the violin, were always called “broancâ”. According to Strajnar, therefore, the resemblance to the terms “zytyra” and “bunkula”, used in the present, is amazing. Such likeness could astonish less if one think that those Countries used to be the preferred destinations of Resian migrant workers (blade sharpeners, fabrics and fruit traders), especially those coming from Oseacco and Uccea, who used to go to Rumania in order to carry out the activities of masons and woodmen.

Regarding the term bunkula, it is interesting to notice that in Cergneu, as well as in other places of Friuli region, there is a musical instrument for children, whose name is “brunkäliza”, from the verb “brunkät” = “to whirr”.

We return now to Sreznevskij. It is interesting that he pointed out the bagpipe, whose presence in Resia could explain the peculiarities of Resian music. First of all its tuning. Resian zytyrauzy (zytyra players) tune their instruments approximately one pitch and a half higher than the violin standard tuning. In Poland, the more archaic instrumental complex is composed by violin and double bass with two, three and four strings. In all the cases, the bass accompanies the violin with a drone. The bass with two strings is called dudy (bagpipe).

The presence of the bagpipe in the vicinity of Resia has not been testified only by Sreznevskij. The more ancient evidence is the song written by the German poet Seifrid Helbing, “Der junge Luzidarius” that says “In Carniola they have prayed us/to dance a Slovenian dance/to the sound of a bagpipe…”. Perusini remembers a document of 1536, from the Archives of Moggio Abbey, that mention two music players from Pontebba “… Juri pivador et Petriz pivador”; “pivador” it means exactly players of “piva”, that is bagpipe.

In the end, it is interesting to notice the ancient and compulsory match of bagpipe with tambourine, the last one covered with several rattles, small pieces of metal, small bells, rings, present in Friulian tradition and commonly called “piva-simbolo” that, according to Starec, could represent the survival of a northern Veneto-Adriatic model… Currently, all zytyra players accompany the sound of their instrument with the incessant and rhythmic beat of the foot, which could be led back to the sound of the cymbal. Such hypothesis would appear more credible bearing in mind the results of the research lead by the University of Padova in collaboration with Rotta Giovanni from Gniva, which highlights that the Resian population, except for Stolvizza dwellers, has Adriatic origin. One shall remember then the good relationships that the Resian community had established with Venice, from which, in exchange for the guard to the borders on Mount Guarda, had obtained a remarkable autonomy, including legislation and levy.