Closeup of the reeds of a launeddas
A variety of launeddas
A Sardinian man in traditional clothing playing the launeddas

The launeddas (also called triple clarinet or triplepipe) is a typical Sardinian woodwind instrument made of three pipes. It is a polyphonic instrument, with one of the pipes functioning as a drone and the other two playing the melody in thirds and sixths.[1]

Predecessors of the launeddas can be traced back to approximately 2700 BCE in Egypt, where reed pipes were originally called ‘memet’.[1] During the Old Kingdom in Egypt (2778-2723 BCE), memets were depicted on the reliefs of seven tombs at Saqqarra, six tombs at Giza, and the pyramids of Queen Khentkaus.[2] The launeddas itself dates back to at least the eighth century BCE [3] and are still played today during religious ceremonies and dances (su ballu in Sardinian language).[4] Distinctively, they are played using extensive variations on a few melodic phrases, and a single song can last over an hour, producing some of the "most elemental and resonant (sounds) in European music".[4]


Launeddas are used to play a complex style of music by circular breathing that has achieved some international attention, especially Efisio Melis, Antonio Lara, Dionigi Burranca and Luigi Lai. Melis and Lara were the biggest stars of the 1930s golden age of launedda, and each taught their style to apprentices like Lara's Aureliu Porcu.[5]

Launeddas consist of three reed pipes, two five-holed chanters of different lengths and one drone. They are played using circular breathing.[5]

Since the late 20th century the launeddas has also been used in non-traditional contexts. In 1990, the American jazz saxophonist Dave Liebman released a CD called The Blessing of the Old. Long Sound, on which he collaborates with the launeddas players Alberto Mariani, Carlo Mariani, and Dionigi Burranca. The CD was recorded in Milan in November 1989. In 1996, the British free jazz saxophonist Evan Parker released a double-CD collaboration with Carlo Mariani and other world musicians entitled Synergetics--Phonomanie III, which was recorded in Ulrichsberg, Austria in September 1993.

See also


  1. 1 2 Kroll, O. (1968). The Clarinet. New York, NY: Taplinger Publishing Company.
  2. Rice, A.R. (1992). The Baroque Clarinet. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.
  3. Surian, Alesso. "Tenores and Tarantellas". 2000. In Broughton, Simon and Ellingham, Mark with McConnachie, James and Duane, Orla (Ed.), World Music, Vol. 1: Africa, Europe and the Middle East, pg. 189–201. Rough Guides Ltd, Penguin Books. ISBN 1-85828-636-0. Surian calls the launedda very ancient, appearing on votive statues from the 8th century BC.
  4. 1 2 Surian, pg. 190
  5. 1 2 "Franco Melis". Musical Traditions Internet Magazine. URL accessed on 26 August 2005.

Further reading


External links

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