To the History of Melodic Percussion Instruments. Asian Ancestors of the Xylophone (Metallophone) and Instruments Functionally Related to it


The prehistory of instruments (e.g. xylophone) which have practically gone out of practice and currently being revived in Asia dates back to 4-3 millenium BC. Approximately from the 2nd half of the 1000 in different regions of Asia, the development of melodic instruments such as xylophone (including lithophones and metallophones, according to C. Sachs — E.M. von Hornbostel classification) involved a kind «trail» of concomitant melodic percussion instruments: primarily sets of sounding bowls (ceramic and bronze), filled with water, later — sets of gongs of a certain order. The functions and scope of these instruments largely coincided. Information dispersed in various sources allowed to make a comparison (synchronously where possible) of similar ancient instruments from different countries and regions of Asia, despite various study degree and their remoteness in time. Thus, the Fangxiang xylophonemetallophone which is given special attention (contrary to the generally accepted opinion in European instrumentation that xylophones did not play a big role in the East Asia music), existed in China for over a millennium; it has its own iconography and covering literature, while late and often scant information is known about similar instruments of India and Persia (Iran). But after many hundreds of years, the history of Fangxiang was «reborn» in another cultural context. A comparative description of the modern xylophone ancestors made it possible to present an overview of various civilizational mutual influences in Asia starting from ancient times, to discover the continuity of traditions, although «delayed», postponed in time, and to identify the ways of forming a certain common instrumental phonic cultural area covering East, South-East, Central and West Asia.