The Rich Layered Sound of a 13-String Italian Lirone

Musician Emilia Benjamin of The Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment (previously) demonstrated the rich, layered sound of a traditional 13-string Lirone. Benjamin also explained that where and how the instrument was invented, its history of accompanying vocalists, the string variations of different models, and the many names given to the instrument.

Many thanks to Emilia Benjamin for introducing us to ‘heaven’s hoover’ (or the lirone, or lira da gamba). This beautiful instrument was popular in the late 16th and early 17th centuries, and it was often used in Italian operas to accompany singing. This lirone has 13 gut strings, but some have as many as 16!

Vocalist Jessica Cale later joined Benjamin for a beautiful duet of “Uccidimi Dolore”.

Although usually, the lirone provides the cushion of harmony against which the singer gets to be the dissonant one. Here is the start of Jacopo Peri’s lament Uccidimi, Dolore, Kill Me Grief and I should point out here that the lirone has never played just on its own it’s strictly an accompanying instrument.

Lori Dorn
Lori Dorn

Lori is a Laughing Squid Contributing Editor based in New York City who has been writing blog posts for over a decade. She also enjoys making jewelry, playing guitar, taking photos and mixing craft cocktails.