The Friday Fillip: Cymbal

Hi-hat, clash, crash, ride, sizzle—and a dozen more variations. These are cymbals, an instrument that dates back to the edge of antiquity but is as modern as a rock band drum kit. The best, I’m informed, are made in Turkey and likely by the venerable cymbal maker Zildjian, which has been making especially resonant cymbals ever since one Avedis, an Armenian alchemist in Constantinople, devised a particular mix of copper, tin, and traces of silver — a form of bronze — in the year 1618. The fame of his cymbals reached the Sultan, who took him into court to make these intstruments for his Jannissary bands. (You can see — and hear — one here.) That Sultan also gave Avedis the name Zildjian, zil being the Turkish word for cymbal.

You might think it no big deal to cut a round piece of metal that can be bashed by anyone with a stick. But if you look at the video below, filmed at 1,000 frames per second, you’ll see the sort of punishment a cymbal must endure and still put out good vibrations. The thing flaps around like a manta ray.

But the cymbal doesn’t just make a big splash. It can be subtle, in the right hands, as you’ll see in this video:

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