Klopotec

From Academic Kids

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Bird-scaring_rattle.jpg
Klopotec from Slovenske Gorice has four wings

A klopotec is a wooden mechanical device on a high wooden pole, similar to a windmill. It is used as a scarecrow and is an indispensable part of the idyllic wine-growing landscapes of Slovenia, Austria and Croatia. It is one of the symbols of Slovenia.

The device has many names. In Slovenian it is called klopotec and in some dialetcs klapoc. Both words derive from klopotati, that is to produce cut off, rhythmic sounds. In English it could be called a bird-scaring rattle or a wind-rattle. In German it is called Windradl or Windm�hle, ever increasing is the use of the word Klapotetz and also Klapotez.

The rattle has an axis with a sail that turns in the wind, therefore the axis rotates. Special little wooden hammers turn with the axis. As they knock on a wooden board, they produce rhythmic sounds. While the quality of the sound is dependent on the wood that the rattle is made of, the speed of production of these sounds is dependent on the number of hammers, but changes due to the wind that turns the sail. The device is constructed in such a way that it is always positioned perpendicular to the wind with its long axis.

The device is used primarily to scare starlings and other birds off the vineyards so that they do not peck grapes, but also as a folk instrument. A folk belief also states that the klopotec drives snakes from the vineyard and softens the grapes.

Contents

History

Although a local historian from Maribor claims that the device appeared in Haloze and in Zagorje already in the 16th century, nothing particular is known about its origin. An educated guess has been made that it developed during the period of the Enlightenment. According to the most plausible theory held by the majority of ethnologists, including the German ethnologist Leopold Kretzenbacher, bird-scaring rattle is of Slovenian origin. Another theory claims that it was first used in the 18th century in the fields by the French. The first written mention of the device can be found in the Kretzenbacher's book Windradl und Klapotetz, published in 1797. The oldest representations are dated in the first half of the 19th century. The Austrian Archduke John (1782-1859), the youngest brother of the Habsburg Emperor Francis I of Austria had it in his vineyard in 1836.

Tradition

The bird-scaring rattle is most frequently heard in Eastern Slovenia: Slovenske gorice, Haloze and Prlekija (of which it is a symbol), less frequently in Lower Carniola and White Carniola. It can also be found in Southwestern Slovenia, in the Littoral Region, but it's much rarer there. In Austria it can be found in Styria, while in Croatia in Zagorje. These areas traditionally produce white wines. Two famous Slovenian white blends that are produced here are called Ljutomerčan (in German: Luttenberger) named after the city of Ljutomer and Jeruzalemčan, named after the Slovenian town of Jeruzalem. The Ranfol white grape is most common here. In Lower Carniola, the main grapes are Rumeni plavec, Rdeca kraljevina and �ametna črnina (Plava kavčina) (as a curiosity: the oldest vine in the world - four hundred years old - is the �ametna črnina vine growing in Lent, Maribor).

Traditionally such rattles have been set up on 25 July (Feast of Saint James) or on 15 August (Assumption Day), but also on any day inbetween. They have usually been taken down after the vintage till 1st November (All Saints Day), but no later than on 11 November (The Feast of Saint Martin). If a husbandman forgets to take it down, the youth from the village can steal it and leave a message about the ransom that he must pay to get it back.

Construction

The Bird-scaring rattle consists of different parts, each of which should optimally be made of a specific wood to produce a fine melody. The wood of hammers and of the board is especially important, as only the right combination enables that the device produces the ultrasound that scaries the birds away. The parts are:

  • stolček (block) - holds the axle; made from a hardwood (e.g. chestnut, oak or ash).
  • kvaka (axle) - holes are drilled into it and hammers or macleki are attached onto it. The best wood is blackwood.
  • macleki (hammers) - should be set up in such a way that only one of them at a time strikes. The best wood is beechwood, but also some other types of wood can be used.
  • deska (board) - macleki strike against it; made from chestnut or cherry.
  • viličice (pl.;little forks) - hold macleki; made from oak or beech.
  • veri�ica (chainlet) - the board is hanged on it.
  • rep (tail) - enables the rattle to turn with the wind; made from the sprigs of the oak, pine or other tree, as by these species the leaves remain attached for the longest time. Also an old broom can be used as a tail.
  • vetrnica (sail) - rotates in the wind and transfers the rotation onto the axle; made from poplar or fir wood. Sail from Slovenske gorice has four wings, while the one from Haloze has six wings and the one from the Austrian Styria has eight wings.
  • zavora (brake) - part of especially large rattles; prevents them from stopping in a forceful wind.

Some rattles can be ornamented with small figurines carved out. The traditional bird-scarring rattles made solely from wood are becoming more and more rare, as they are getting replaced by metal devices.

Trivia

The Post of Slovenia issued a stamp worth 13 Slovenian tolars in 1997 featuring the bird-scaring rattle. The stamp was a part of the collection Slovenija - Evropa v malem (in English: Slovenia - Europe in miniature). Also one of the meetings of Slovenian folk musicians that happens annualy is called Veseli klopotec (Happy bird-scaring rattle). The society of composers, authors and publishers for the protection of copyrights of Slovenia (SAZAS) awards a prize called Zlati klopotec for the best popular song in the standard Slovenian language.

See also

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