THE ROTE. COMMENTS ON THE MEDIEVAL HARP-PSALTERY
There has been much controversy surrounding the Latin name of the instrument called rota and its vernacular equivalents (rotta, rote, rotte, rothe, rocta, etc.), which were in use in sources dating from between the sixth and fifteenth centuries. The term was regarded as a model example of medieval organological polysemy and was applied to practically all types of chordophones. However, a thorough analysis of source material, and a comparison of written sources with iconography, allow one to identify precisely the designate of the name rota as the triangular zither with strings on both sides of the resonator. This type of instrument, because of its unusual construction and performance technique has been defined in the literature of the subject as a harp-psaltery or harp-zither. Although the instrument has been ignored by the majority of works on medieval music, sources confirm the presence of the rote in the musical culture of Western Europe, Byzantium and a part of the Muslim world, certainly from the ninth century; moreover, the rote appears to be one of the most popular instruments in twelfth-century court culture. The many depictions of the rote in the iconography provide information which supplements the cursory references to the instrument's structure and performance technique, as well as the rote's position in the musical culture of the Middle Ages.
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