The mysterious ‘Oud

Here’s a film of a guy playing an ‘Oud.

The ‘Oud was the main thing we thought about this session. But we started off by reviewing what we’d been thinking about, especially to do with Mary Bale and her punishment. We asked what the difference was between her being cruel to a cat, and fox hunting, or drowning rats or kittens, etc. We asked: do we have the right to do such a thing?; and we considered different cases in which we might or might not have the right to kill (by the way, the increasing number of urban foxes, we thought, might be in part because of the ban on fox hunting).

Then we tried to guess what the mysterious item was that Ben had brought in.


What wood is it made of?

What’s it strung with (cat gut?)

Was it expensive?

What’s it called (al ‘ud became the lute when the instrument was introduced to Europe)

Is it something to do with the Elizabethan era?

Is it Romany? Who plays it?

We pursued these questions: What type of people play it? COurt jesters? Spanish? When was it played? Today, in the Middle Ages?

Is it a primitive version of an instrument? – what does it mean to say that something is primitive? (This led us on to a discussion about different meanings of primitive – there is a sense in which it means not modern/not technological; but it seems there’s also another sense in which it means not as good/happy/clever; and it looks like we move from the one to the other quite unwittingly).

We discussed the history of the ‘Oud for a bit; and then we went on to its price, and whether Ben had had to haggle for it when he bought it. We wondered why we don’t haggle in Britain – we noted that it would feel shameful to say in a shop ‘I don’t have enough money’ for something. How long ago did bartering and haggling cease?

All these questions … we can hope to answer them one day … perhaps in another session


About B.B.

I'm based in York.
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