Brief history of Cymbals from around the World, by Steve Benedetto



The cymbals are musical instruments belonging to the family of percussion instruments, from the order of the idiophone instruments. Its execution consists of colliding both metallic disks, which are concave in the center, flattened on the edge and held by leather straps that are on the back of these.

They have a resounding and brilliant sound; the performer never percusses one against the other, instead he performs a diagonal movement trying to make both sides collide to avoid a dry and dull sound.

Their use in military music and marching bands is very common, they also exist in different types of drums, and some composers include them as accompaniment in the orchestra. The origins of cymbals are imprecise because many authors attribute this instrument to several cultures, but they seem to coincide in the insertion of it in Europe from the eighteenth century.

Curt Sachs, a German musicologist is the one who makes a closer approach to the origins of the cymbals, locating them in western Asia and then introduced in the ancient Greece where they were used for the various rites of oriental gods such as Cybele (hence its name), in this region they were considered as instruments of feminine use, later they become part of the liturgical service of Dionysius and for theatrical matters.

In Rome, it had a different meaning from the Greeks, in addition to being constructed in different ways, they were used to make acoustic signals for drivers before entering streets or roads that were difficult to circulate, this was done by building the cymbals with a hole in the center and passing a rope through them.

The Louvre Museum in Paris currently holds one of the oldest records about cymbals, it was found in Assyria in a relief of the mural of the palace of Kujundschik (Ruins of Nineveh) dating from the years 668 BC.

In the Asian continent they also had a religious attribute, in India their use is attributed to deities such as Ravana (chief of the spirits and the night), and Vishnu himself, who plays them while Izvara (the only God) and Kali (The Goddess of death) dance. In China, they are known by the name of "puopo" and their use was limited to the theater and the orchestration of the militia. Other use cymbals had in regions such as the Tibet was to carry out spells, announce sacrifices, cast away the spirits of burials and help the sun and the moon in eclipses.
There’s also a reference about the cymbals in the bible, they’re known by the names of "selsetim" and "mesiltayim", in Hebrew culture this instrument was well known and used quite frequently. These references can be found in the books of Ezra, Psalms and Corinthians.


From the second half of the fifteenth century the Western European armies were in direct contact with the Turks and their music in which triangles, drums and cymbals were predominant. Once the eighteenth century began, cymbals began to appear in the cultured music, along with the drum, the bass drum and the triangle in works by illustrious composers such as Gluck, Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Wagner and others.
When arriving in America, cymbals are widely extended and adapted to different formats (sizes) to be included in different types of groups. In North America they became part of the Jazz bands, and in Ibero-America these got included within the groups of popular music and orchestras of cantabile and danceable music.
Brief history of Cymbals from around the World, by Steve Benedetto Brief history of Cymbals from around the World, by Steve Benedetto Reviewed by Respectful Beats™ on Saturday, February 10, 2018 Rating: 5

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