A Kanun

17 • A Kanun

Ottoman Turkey, late 19th century
92 cm long; plane, maple, skin

‘A sort of dulcimer with gut strings, touch’t wit both hands, as the Harp, only this lyes flat and Horizontall.’ Dr John Covel (1638–1722)

One of the most admired and sophisticated instruments of Ottoman classical music, the kanun is associated with the aristocracy and taught in conservatories throughout Turkey and the Middle East. Although iconographical references are made to it as early as the 16th century, little specific was known about it before the 19th when it underwent a number of important developments. One of these was the addition of mandal levers underneath each string to enable microtonal changes to their tuning. There is a reduced mandal system on this example, which suggests it is a transitional instrument linking the old system (which used wooden tuning pegs) with the new. It is in excellent condition.