Alternate Name(s): Nay,Nai
Geographic Region: West Asia
Climatic type: Mediterranean.
Time period: 3rd millennium bce - present
Definition: Oblique rim-blown flute of Arab countries, Iran and Central Asia.
SvH No.: 421.111.12
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The ney is an oblique, rim-blown flute found around much of Western and Central Asia. There are numerous variations on the instrument, which may be made from reed, metal, or wood of an assortment of lengths. The Turkish ney is distinguished physically from the Arab nay by a wooden cap that makes it easier to play. The ney pictured above is from Iran and features intricate engraving and a metal band around its rim. It has five finger holes and a thumb hole. The ney played by Deborah Justice in the video above is an Arab nay with six finger holes and a thumb hole.
Iranian ney players put their teeth around the rim of the instrument, possibly inspired by Turkmen tüydük players, who place the rim of their flute around one of their canine teeth. Iranian players seem to have adopted this more difficult technique in the 19th century for the warmer tone and greater power that results. Arab players place their lips against a bevel at the mouth of the instrument.
History and context
Iconographic evidence suggests that the ney has been around in the Near East for five millenia, or more. The sundry manifestations of the reed flute appear in diverse contexts depending on location. In Turkey, the ney appears in art music and in music of the Mevlevi Sufi order. In Arab countries flutes called nay are used in both folk and classical contexts. In Iran, the instrument is played mostly in classical music.
Scheherazade Qassim Hassan and Jean During. “Ney.” In Grove Music Online. Oxford Music Online, http://www.oxfordmusiconline.com/subscriber/article/grove/music/19644 (accessed May 17, 2010).
Last Modified: 03-Jun-2010TOP