Sunday, February 15, 2009

The Display

The raison d'etre of the group is a display in the pavilion covering a range of topics - textiles, music, medicine, games, trade and travel, stuff like that. Each of the topic areas comprises of notes in 16-18 point font (Goudy Medieval on marmor chamois paper), diagrams, photos of manuscript illustrations or archaeological finds, and handmade replicas of whatever it is we're talking about.

So far I'm covering about a dozen topics and have written about 23 000 words - the last couple of topics are graphics- and model-heavy and will probably bring the entire thing up to 25 000 words. It sounds a lot, but it's a big pavilion and each topic has an average of 3-4 A4 pages devopted to it.

Having broken the back of the writing side of things, I've been starting to work on the models. This weekend I made a hnaefatafl board, and peices, and rules, and commentary... and also a naker, which is a forerunner to the kettle drum and smaller.

The Hnaefatafl set has a 13 x 13 board and is based on the examples from Jorvik and descriptions in the sagas - it's interesting to note that in the sagas the defending side (with the King, or 'Hnefi') are brown or red while the attacking side is white; later the colours reversed some of the time. I wonder if this has anything to do with the religious/political situation in Scandinavia then, with the opposing sides representing Red Thor and White Christ? Anyway, my pieces are made of wood (traditionally they seem to be made of a range of materials: marine mammal ivory, horn, bone, stone, pottery, wood) and the board is of leather, rather than wood, so it can be rolled up and carried, with the pieces, in a pouch (bit pointless, come to think of it, when I'm going to glue it to a plywood display board and hang it on the wall...). The lines on both the pieces and the board are done with a hot iron (pokerwork, if you like, or pyrographics) and some of the squares on the board have been stained with dye. I tried playing Hnaefatafl a couple of times and suck at it more than I suck at chess, which is really saying something!

The other project for this weekend was to build a naker, a kind of drum that was introduced to Europe through the Crusades, and although it's been with us for 800-odd years has managed to cause a small bit of controvery involving the BBC's David Munrow. First, let us understand that the instrument is frequently played in pairs, slung around the waist or neck and hanging at groin level, and that it's name comes from the Arabic naqqara, through the French nacaires, and for years the English pronunciation has been 'nackers' - doubtless the source of the expression 'to be hit in the...'. With the resurgence of medieval music in the 1960s, Mr Munrow's correct pronunciation elicited a string of complaints from outraged (if ignorant) listeners, prompting an edict from the BBC Pronunciation Department that the word was henceforth to be pronounced 'NAY-kers' when said on-air.

Anyhoo, mine (one at the moment) is made from a salad bowl, a piece of parchment, and about 4000 miles of plaited homemade cord (well, it felt like that!) and a leather band to keep it all neat and tidy around the edge. Basically, you punch holes in the hide, soak it, put it on a towel and sit the upturned bowl on top if it, then start lacing the cord from one side to the other, aiming for an even tension.

The hide's still a bit damp but it already makes quite a good noise. I'd put up an mp3 of it but Blogger'll only do images and videos...

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