What do you think of when you see the word “dulcimer?” If you know anything about traditional musical instruments, particularly those familiar to our area, you may think of what we call an “Appalachian” dulcimer. That kind is laid on your lap horizontally and strummed with one hand and noted with the other. There are a few musicians who actually finger pick them like a dobro. Other people will think of a “hammered” dulcimer which is totally different from the Appalachian version in that it has many strings mounted to a trapezoid shaped box. The strings are struck by two small hammers. These are also great for traditional and celtic music.
Several weeks ago, I went to a tool collector’s meeting in Bethania, NC, and was introduced to a type of dulcimer that I didn’t know exists. Kenneth Bloom of Mt. Airy is a musical instrument maker and musician who has revived the use of the “bowed dulcimer.” Kenneth says that they were common prior to the Civil War, but for several generations were virtually unknown. Kenneth set about designing, building and playing these instruments in various sizes. He played one at his presentation, and I was really impressed by the great, complex music he could perform on one of his instruments. You can see more about Kenneth, his instruments and his music at his web site, http://www.boweddulcimer.com/. He continues to evolve his designs and improve the sound quality and volume and is gaining widespread recognition for his work in the music world.
Given that all of his instruments are hand-made by Kenneth in his own shop, all of us tool freaks were really impressed! That degree of craftsmanship is rare. If you have a chance to see Mr. Bloom perform, I think you’ll be impressed, too. Oh, and he’s got CDs for sale on his web site.