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Pass the Ratchet, Please.
I took a trip out to what is now called an agriturismo. This one is a restaurant converted from a winery. The family name is Mustilli, well-known producers of wine, located in the town of Sant'Agata dei Goti near Caserta, about 50 km/30 miles up from Naples off the main highway, the A1, to Rome. The interior is beautifully arrayed with dark wooden tables, historic photographs and antique farming tools and kitchen implements decorating the walls—and also some traditional musical instruments, including the one shown here (right) among the flutes. It is not a pepper mill!
macinillo--->raganella or tric trac
It's a ratchet (also known as a noisemaker or cog rattle), so named from the mechanical device that works on the same principle; that is, a gear wheel that allows motion in only one direction. In the simple folk noisemaker (image, left), a gearwheel and a stiff board are mounted on a handle that rotates freely; the player holds the handle and swings the whole mechanism around. The momentum makes the board strike the gearwheel repeatedly in quick succession, producing a clicking noise. These simple devices have been used for many centuries, and some have a place in religious ceremonies (more, below). More elaborate versions have a stationary case (such as the one on the right): the gear mechanism is in a wooden case and is turned against flexible wooden boards by a hand crank. The noise volume is greater than with the hand swung simpler device because the wooden case vibrates just as a violin body does, thus becoming a resonating chamber. The precise term for this instrument is an "indirectly struck idiophone"; that is, it creates sound by the instrument vibrating as a whole—without the use of strings or membranes, but the sound is not produced by a player striking the flexible wooden board directly, but rather indirectly by turning a ratchet. In the modern Hornbostel–Sachs classification of musical instruments, it is number 112.24. Even this kind of elaborate encased ratchet noisemaker has been used for centuries; the instrument shown below (right) is from the 14th century and is from France. (Note that the instrument is in the form of the façade of a Gothic cathedral; ingeniously, the top of the arch is the "flexible wooden board" that comes into contact with the gear mechanism to produce the clicking sounds.) There are also simpler folk versions of the encased instrument (below, left).
both of these are examples of a macinillo
English can call both the mechanical device and the musical instrument a “ratchet,” though, as noted, the instrument might also be called a “noisemaker” or "cog rattle".* Italian distinguishes between the mechanical device, called “cricco” and the musical ratchets: the simple hand-held noisemaker (left, top of page) is a raganella or tric trac; the other three images (top of page, right, and in this paragraph, left and right), that is, the encased ratchets, are examples of a macinillo, from the Italian verb macinare—to grind. Hmmmm, maybe this really is a pepper mill and they put it in with the flutes just to confuse me. Speaking of confusion, the idiophone—musical instrument—should not be confused with ideophone—a word that sounds like what it represents (also called onomatopeia, such as tick-tock for the sound a clock makes. Fortunately for you, the Italian raganella is also called a tric trac, clearly meant to represent the clicking sound of the instrument; thus (....wait for it...ratchet roll, please...) the instrument is an ideophonic idiophone! Thank you.
[For other examples of traditional musical instruments from southern Italy, click here.]
[My thanks to Mr. Alan Futterman, Music Director, Bremerton Symphony Orchestra, for his help.]