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The Can of Norms: Expanding the Modern Lute Plucking Technique

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Name: Talitha Cumi Witmer Main Subject: Lute/Theorbo Research Supervisor: Bart van Oort Title of Research: The Can of Norms: Expanding the Modern Lute Plucking Technique Research Question: Can “Thumb-out,” a historical lute technique in common use following the late Renaissance period, become favored by lutenists today? Summary of Results: After its revival in the 20th century, much has been discovered about the lute and its technique. One issue that is recently placed on the agenda of lutenists is the plucking technique applied on lutes. It is a known fact that Thumb-out was the technique applied most commonly for lute playing. Yet, very few lutenists adopt this Thumb-out technique today. Modern lute tutors tend to advise to avoid Thumb-out. If not, they advise to pluck around the rossete, and position their thumb close to the index finger. In paintings and treatises, however, we see Thumb-out hand with thumb positioned away from the index while the hand is placed around the bridge, and Thumb-out hand placed around the rosette, the former more often. I delved into this technique for 3 years and have come to understand that this “forgotten Thumb-out” is as matter of fact a technique that can be very beneficial for lute players, opening new, colorful, historical and healthy possibilities. Biography: The American-Korean lutenist, Talitha Cumi Witmer, started her musical studies at age 4 with church choir and piano. When she was 9 she heard a lute on a CD and immediately fell in love with its sound. Her dream to study the lute was then realized at the age of 13, when she began her formal studies on the instrument in Tokyo. Since 2011 she studies the lute under Joachim Held, and the theorbo under Mike Fentross since 2012. She performs both as a continuo player and a soloist, in Austria, Belgium, Germany, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Netherlands, and Portugal.

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