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Svenska fioler med resonanssträngar

Double-deckers

Double-decker is the popular name of a type of fiddle with sympathetic strings where the pegs are ordered in two rows in the peg box. The pegs for the playing strings are placed in the upper rows and those for the sympathetic strings in a row below or behind the other pegs. There is no official name of the fiddle type and nobody knows what they were called when they were built. Violino d'amore is a possible name but not specific enough to distinguish these fiddles from other violins with sympathetic strings. In his essay contribution to the knowledge about viola d'amore" Daniel Fryklund wrote the following about the swedish double-deckers: In Sweden I have found a peculiar type of violino d'amore with 4 playing strings and 8 sympathetic strings. The later are mounted in small pegs, placed behind the larger pegs for the playing strings in the pegbox which has been expanded backwards. I haven't heard of such a placement of the pegs on any other instrument. Fryklund also writes that since both the signed instruments of this type are built in Sweden (Skåne), the instrument model might be specific for Sweden. He also suggest that these fiddles have been common but later converted to standard violins. In the recent decades many more double-deckers have been discovered and Fryklund hypothesis is more or less confirmed even though some signed instruments have been built in other parts of southeastern Sweden. In total, 22 double-deckers have been discovered in Sweden, in museums, owned by private individuals and a few pictures of instruments that unfortunately has disappeared. The best outcome of an analysis of these double-deckers is an hypothesis that the instrument type originated among professional luthiers in Ängelholm around year 1700. From Ängelholm the ideas was later spread to other professional luthiers in Stockholm and possibly other larger cities, and to less professional luthiers among common people in the country-side and smaller towns.

Except of a strange hardanger fiddle, a newly built viola d'amore owned by an indian musician there are no known violin-like instruments where the pegs are placed in two rows in the pegbox. The only preserved instrument which might indicate a foreign origin of the Swedish double-deckers is the peculiar tenor violin M132. Of the 22 double-deckers that are found in Sweden, 7 of them are signed and an additional 4 st med tämligen stor säkerhet härledas till de signerade instrumenten tack vare stor likhet med dessa. Det kan såklart inte med säkerhet sägas att de osignerade instrument som inte går att härleda till någon känd fiolmakare är byggda i Sverige, men det finns inte heller något som tyder på motsatsen. Påståendet att dubbeldäckarna är en svensk företeelse kan därför med rådande faktaunderlag inte falsifieras. De äldsta daterade dubbeldäckarfynden är byggda i Skåne under det tidiga 1700-talet eller möjligen sent 1600-tal och allt som allt har 8 av 22 can be traced to luthiers due to similarity with signed instrument. The unsigned instruments with an unknown origin might of course be built outside Sweden, but there is currently no evidence or indications of that so the hypothesis that the double-deckers originated in Skåne can not be falsified. The oldest dated double-deckers are built in late 1600s or early 1700s and at least X of Y instruments are from Skåne. If you draw a line from northwestern Skåne to Stockholm you will have a border within which (south of) all signed or traced double-deckers have their origin. Unsigned instruments could of course be built north of this line or abroad but there are no such evidence or indications. When examining the unsigned instruments the impression is that none of them is older than the oldest double-deckers with a known origin so even if a few of the unsigned instruments can be traced to a luthier or place they will most likely not change the hypothesis of the Scanian origin of the fiddle type.

Double-deckers have the following features (to different extent).

Music for double-deckers

There is no known music written for the double-deckers or any documentation of which music that double-deckers were used for. It would have been interesting to know who the customers to the luthiers in Ängelholm were. I guess it was more or less professional musicians or hobby musicians in the higher classes. The distinction between different genres (classical or folk music) was not as obvious as today and some professional musicians such as bell-ringers also had a role in providing entertainment music for the peasantry. The double-deckers seems to have later been spread to less professional luthiers and my guess is that they also became more common among local folk musicians. When sympathetic strings went out of fashion the price of double-deckers have probably decreased and they might have been sold to fiddlers in the country-side. There are tales from late 19th century and early 20th century about local fiddlers playing on instruments with sympathetic strings and scordatura (retuning) is common in Swedish folk music. We do not know how the double-deckers were tuned but scordatura is common for hardanger fiddles and viola d'amore and is very probable for double-deckers as well. My experience of double-deckers with 8 sympathetic strings is that they are less of a drone instrument than fiddles with fewer sympathetic strings. Many sympathetic strings acts as a general reverb and reacts to more than just the most important tones in the scale. There is also possibility that the sympathetic strings on double-deckers with 8 under strings were tuned in four pairs to strengthen the drone effect. As long as we don't know we are all free to choose how to use the double-deckers and what music to play.

The origin of double-deckers

The diagram above is based on place of construction.

Year of construction for double-deckers
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