In the musical life of inhabitants of the Carpathians we can find a legendary exotic instrument that has long been the companion of hutsuls. The trembita.
Trembita – a signal instrument
In old times it was a signal instrument. Several vigilantes who were placed on the tops of Carpathian mountains, broadcasted news about the approach of the enemy by the signal of trembita, like in relay. The sound of trembita often helped to orient Carpathian hunters or travelers that got lost in bad weather. Nowadays signal of trembita reports the arrival of artists in the mountain village, the beginning of Hutsul weddings or about other celebrations. Since ancient times, as tradition sounds of trembitas were reporting first exit of cattle on mountain pastures(polonyna), giving start to raft shifters on mountain rivers. But more often trembitars submit sad news of the death of some of the mountain people.
How does trembita look like and how it is made
Trembita, on the outside, is a wooden conical tube with a length of two to three meters. They are being made in the following way: cut straight trunk fires, plane it, giving it the desired contour of the instrument. Then split lengthwise into two or three parts and remove the core. The resulting thin walls are being put and tightly wrapped up in birch bark, after inserting mushtuk in a thin hole in trembita. You can also find shortened trembitas – the length of one or two meters.
According to ancient tradition, Hutsul’s trembita should be made of the lightning of thunder, the tree which was hit by lightning. It is believed that such trembita sounds in the best way. By the way, none of the best carpenters can cut spruce as smooth as lightning. The age of the tree must be around 120-150 years. Moreover, lightning tree should be mature, as they say: the longer it will stand under winds, the louder trembita will sound.
After bringing home the lightning tree, master tries to drive the blade of an axe into the wood so that, to cut the “trumpet” in half by slowly pressing. This is – a very critical operation. The blade can dive inside only for 1-15 cm for this piece is “kissed by metal” and has to be cut off, otherwise it won’t sound. A three-meter one piece should be cut into two equal parts (if not made fluently – work is in vain). Then the master set to cutters and scissors of various configurations with which “he makes the voice of the instrument”. Carefully, during a long time and days (making a single instrument can last almost a year) he takes away the core of both halves of the piece. We have only two millimeters shell left. The work piece weights 8-10 kilos and a made trembita – one and a half kilograms. So, 6-8 kilograms of wood should be scratched out manually, not injuring edges which will be put together without the use of glue. You must make two halves and firmly pull them with hoops. These hoops are made of spruce branches. Branches should grow on spruce on the east side of the tree, and not more than one and a half meters away from the ground. Because these stems, as explored among people, are flexible and strong. After that – the last stage: making mushtuk. It should always be sycamore, because this wood has a sweet taste, therefore, this mushtuk will be pleasant to put to lips. When mushtuk is ready, resembling the reed pipe’s or clarinet’s one, then you can test the instrument.
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