Dutch Traditional Music and Musical Instruments

There is a long history of church organs and the mechanical street organ called the draaiorgel. The draairogel is a musical instrument that is played by moving musical patterns.  There is a turning pinned barrel or disc, or a cardboard or paper strip with holes in it.

The accordion, violin, recorder and harmonica also are used to play traditional folk music.

Traditional Dutch music is known as “Levenslied” meaning life song or song about life. These types of songs have catchy, simple rhythms and melodies.  They are sung with couplets (2 lines that rhyme) and a refrain (repeating a section over). The themes of the songs are often sentimental. They include love and happiness, death and loneliness.

Traditional Dutch musical instruments such as the accordion and the barrel organ are used in levenslied. However, recently many of these musicians also use synthesizers and guitars.

A barrel organ (or roller organ) is a mechanical musical instrument consisting of bellows and one or more ranks of pipes.  The pipes are in a decorated, wooden case. The basic principle is the same as a traditional pipe organ. Rather than being played by an organist, the barrel organ’s music is made from a person turning a crank.  It can also be made by clockwork moved by weights or springs. The pieces of music are encoded onto the wooden barrels or cylinders. This is similar to the keyboard of the traditional pipe organ.

Dutch street organs unlike the simple street organ are large organs that play book music. They have many rows of pipes and also percussion.  At first, the organ grinder turned a large handle to make the music.  Today, most of the organ grinders have been changed to a small battery operated motor.  This leaves the street performer free to collect money from anyone passing by as the music is played on the street corners.

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