Classical 91.5

Lute Long and Prosper

Jun 1, 2018

Credit Brenda Tremblay

You don't have to journey far to view fascinating musical instruments on display.

In Alfred, this summer, for example, see and touch Vladimir Horowitz's own Steinway piano, #314503, now known simply as CD 503, on its tour throughout North America during Alfred University’s upcoming MostArts Festival, scheduled for July 8-14th.

Farther downstate, at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, feast on your eyes and ears on some 5,000 examples of musical instruments from six continents and the Pacific Islands, dating from about 300 B.C. to the present.

But only in tiny Ticonderoga, New York  can you get up close and personal with an alien instrument from a strange new world.  

It's a Vulcan lute.

Leonard Nimoy, in the role of the logician Spock, regularly played the Vulcan lute on the original series.

What is it?

According to construction plans:

AN UNUSUALLY HARMONIOUS AND MELODIC ACCOMPANIMENT OR SOLO INSTRUMENT WHOSE ORIGIN IS LOST IN VULCAN ANTIQUITY. IT COMBINES THE TONAL QUALITIES OF A HARP, LUTE, SITAR, AND TO SOME EXTENT, VIOLIN.

THE MOST FAMOUS MODELS HERE MADE BY SARPEK SOME 5 VULCAN CENTURIES AGO OF WJHICH SOME 300 ARE KNOWN TO STILL BE IN EXISTENCE. OTHER FAMOUS MODELS WERE MADE BY SAJEK OF VULCAN AND SEPAR OF TRILIAN.

THE TONAL PATTERN IS MODAL DIATONIC RATHER THAN CHROMATIC AND REQUIRES A HIGH DEGREE OF SKILL TO PERFORM IN THIS REGISTRATION.

WHILE A SKILLED PERFORMER MANIPULATES THE STRINGS WITH THE FINGERS OF THE RIGHT HAND, A PLECTRUM (PICK) MAY ALSO BE USED.

Musicians have built, commissioned and/or written new music for this alien instrument.

If you're in the Adirondacks, you can see a fine example in an abandoned supermarket in Ticondaroga, where an enterprising (get it?) science fiction uberfan has orchestrated the recreation of the original 1960s sets from Star Trek: The Original Series.   This Vulcan lute is signed by a number of series actors. 

Did Leonard Nimoy really play this instrument?

It's hard to say, since Vulcans never bluff.