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launeddas Punt'e Organu
Sardinia 19th century
inv. n. 55
Nino Cabitza (voice) and Pasquale Errio (launeddas). Ethnomusicology archives, Collection 14, 28 March 1950
Launeddas are archaic folk instruments typical of Sardinia. According to some sources the name may come from the Latin ligulella (small tongue). Their existence in Sardinia as early as the first millennium before Christ is proven by a small Nuragic bronze found at Ittiri (Oristano). Launeddas are part of vast set of multi-pipe "clarinets" that have been widespread in the Mediterranean area since the ancient Sumerian and Egyptian civilizations, three-thousand years before Christ, but these also represent a unique type since they have three pipes instead of the more common double pipes.

In contrast with what usually happens in Italian folk music, Launeddas players are traditionally considered professionals.
By ancient custom, Launeddas players were also shoemakers, so students were trained in both professions ("a bottega", i.e. right in the shop) according to a well codified system of apprenticeship.

Launeddas are still played today in the traditional style, especially in the Campidano, Trexenta, Sarrabus and Cabras areas of Sardinia, but they have also entered into modern musical genres like jazz.

Typical repertoire includes dance and processional music and accompaniment to songs. In the past, the Launeddas were closely linked with ball'e missa, a Sunday dance which took place in the church square and provided young people with a chance to get together. These are, in any case, particularly complex pieces in that they require continuous improvisations and variations on thematic phrases (nodas) played in sequence.

The sound produced is continuous and unbroken as Launeddas are played with the circular breathing technique: the musician inhales through his nose and stores part of the air in his mouth as a reserve supply.
A small tube with a simple reed is inserted into all three of the slim pipes, each one a different length; this produces sound like it happens in the clarinet. The player holds all three reeds in his mouth at the same time, which allows him to produce a polyphonic sound. The longest pipe, tumbu, has no holes and produces a single drone note, the second pipe, and the third and smallest one (called mankosa and mankosedda) are melodic pipes, each with four finger-holes at regular distances and a fifth hole for intonation. The group of pipes is called gogu de launeddas or kuntsertu de launeddas.

A Kunsertu can be classified into different types, according to the musical scale it produces, each one having its own tonality (puntus). The instrument shown here is a Punt'e organu which became part of the collection in 1898. Its exceptional workmanship is particularly typical of the Sarrabus school which boasted (and still does) the finest masters, artisans who uphold the traditional instrument-making techniques as well as the rich repertoire and oral traditions related to them. This particular exemplar is one of the oldest that has survived intact.
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