1902 Encyclopedia > Oboe


OBOE, or HAUTBOY. The oboe is an instrument con-taining a conical column of air, which is set in vibration by means of a double-tongued reed. A series of holes pierced in the side of the pipe permits the instrumentalist to progressively shorten the column by the successive opening of the lateral holes, and thus produce a series of fundamental sounds, the scale of which, in the primitive instruments without keys, does not exceed the extent of an octave. All wind instruments with a conical column of air, whatever may be the mode by which that is set in motion, are subject to the laws of vibration of open pipes, according to which, by a stronger pressure in blowing, the oboe reproduces each of its fundamental sounds in the octave higher, and thus acquires a scale of two octaves, which, partially chromatic in the old instruments, has become completely chromatic by the adoption of keys. This extension of compass is further augmented in modern in-struments, in the grave sounds by keys permitting lengthen-ings of the primitive column of air, and in the acute by the employment of other partial sounds than the first of the harmonic series. In the present day the mean chro-matic extent of the oboe is comprised between the notes
W I j and w==z E

The double reed is the most simple, as it is probably the oldest, of all reed contrivances. It is sufficient to flatten the end of a wheat straw to constitute an apparatus cap-able of setting in vibration by the breath the column of air contained in the rudimentary tube; the invention of this reed is certainly due to chance. An apparatus for sonorous disturbance thus found, it was easy to improve it: for the wheat stalk a reed stalk was substituted, and in the extremity of its pipe another reed stalk much shorter in length was inserted, pared and flattened at the end; and then came the lateral holes, probably another discovery of the great inventor chance. For the reed tube a wooden one was substituted, still preserving the reed tongue, and it is in this form, after having played an im-portant part amongst the sonorous contrivances of antiquity, that we find the ancestor of the oboe playing a part no less important in the 16th century, in which it formed the interesting families of the cormornes, the corthols, and the cervelas. All these families have disappeared in the instru-mental combinations of Europe, but they are still to be found in Eastern wind instruments, such as the Caucasian salamouri, the Chinese hivantze, and the hitshiriki of Japan. It is important to remark that the column of air in a cylin-drical pipe, disturbed by any reed, submits to the laws of vibration of stopped pipes; accordingly, to produce a sound of a given pitch, the pipe must be theoretically half as short as an open pipe would be to obtain a note of the same pitch. Moreover, open pipes under an increasing pressure of blowing, produce, in subdividing the air column, the harmonics according to the arithmetical progression 2, 3, 4, 5, &c, while the stopped pipes can only produce the odd harmonics in the series. In other words, the conical pipe reproduces its fundamental sounds in the interval of the octave, the cylindrical in that of the twelfth. A double reed associated with a cylindrical pipe can only be used for columns of air of small diameter. Practice has demonstrated that the reed stalk of which the tongue reed is made should not be of narrower internal diameter than the pipe containing the column of air it is to act upon. By the flattening necessary to form the tongues of a double reed, it must be tolerably large, from which it hapjiens that its proper sound is relatively grave, and will only agree with instruments not above the region of the male voice. It must be remembered that the reproduction of funda-mental sounds in the twelfth is only possible by an artifice of modern invention. But it is evident that chance has again intervened to show that a very small double reed can set in vibration columns of air of considerable diameter, provided that the column becomes gradually narrower towards its superior extremity where it receives the reed, so as to terminate in a diameter equivalent to that of the reed itself. It is impossible to say when it was that man first employed the phenomena of double reeds and conical pipes, but the knowledge of them must at least have been later than that of the cylindrical pipe, which we may regard as directly furnished by nature. That antiquity made use of them, however, has been proved by M. Gevaert in his admirable Histoire de la musique dans l'antiquité; but this learned author shows that the double-reed pipes held but an insignificant place in the instrumental music of ancient Greece and Rome.

The instrument we call oboe appears for the first time in Sebastian Virdung's Musica getutscht unci auszgezogen (1511). It there bears the name of schalmey, and is already combined with an instrument of similar construction called bombardt. This beginning of the oboe family suggests the possibility of Virdung's schalmey having existed in the Middle Ages. Where, when, and how it was introduced into western Europe is at present unknown, but the zamr-cd-kebir still used in Moslem countries is practically identical with it, a circumstance which suggests the possibility of its having been brought into Europe by the crusaders.

The manufacture of musical instruments could not remain unaffected by the great artistic movement known as the Renaissance ; accordingly, we find them not only improved and purified in form in the 16th century, but also ranged in complete families from the soprano to the bass. Erte-torius, in his Syntagma Musicum (1615-20), gives us the full nomenclature of the family with which we are con-cerned, composed of the following individuals.

(1) The little schalmey, he says, rarely employed ; it measured about 17 inches in length, and had six lateral holes. Its deepest note was ^ AE==:. (2)
inches, and its deepest note Hz H_
The alto pommer (fig. 2), 30J inches long, with its deepest note
tenor pommer (fig. 3), measuring about 4 feet 4 inches; besides the six lateral holes of the preced-ing numbers there were four keys which gave the grave
(5) The bass pommer, hav-ing a length of nearly 6 feet, and six lateral holes and four keys which gave
» it
The great pommer, measuring
quint about
9 feet 8 inches in length ; the four keys permitted the production of the notes
The discant schalmey (fig. 1), the primitive type of the modern oboe; its length was about 26

instruments, and especially numbers (2), (3), (4), and (5), occupied an important place on the Continent in the in-strumental combinations of the last three centuries. The following illustration (fig. 4). borrowed from a picture, painted in 1610 by Van Alsloot, represents six musi- gchàilnCey cians playing the following instruments indicated in the order of their position in the picture : a bass oboe, bent over and become the bassoon, an alto pommer, a cornet (German "zinke"), a discant schalmey, a second alto pommer, and a trombone.

The 17th century brought no great changes in the con-struction of the four smaller instruments of the family.
words " gros bois." Haultbois became hautbois in French, and oboe in English, German, and Italian; and this word is now used to distinguish the present smaller instrument of the family.
The little schalmey and tenor pommer seem to have dis-appeared in the 17th century; it is the discant schalmey and the alto pommer which by improvement have become two important elements in modern instrumentation. The oboe, as such, was employed for the first time in 1671, in the orchestra of the Paris opera in Pomone by Cam-
date from the end
The first two keys, of the 17th century. In 1727 Gerhard Hoffmann of Ras-
allows nine1
tenberg added the keys Hidl*E?î=£l. A Parisian maker, Delusse, furnished, at the end of the 18th century, much appreciated improvements in the boring of the instrument. The Méthode of Sellner, published at Vienna in 1825,
one which, when opened, established a loop or ventral seg-ment of vibration in the column of air, facilitating the production of sounds in the octave higher. Triebert of Paris owes his great reputation to the numerous improve-ments he introduced in the construction of the oboe.
The alto pommer became but slowly transformed : it was Oboe di called in French " hautbois de chasse," in Italian " oboe caccia. di caccia." In the 18th century we find it more elegant in form, but with all the defects of the primitive instru-ment. The idea of bending the instrument into a half circular form to facilitate the handling is attributed to an oboist of Bergamo, one Jean Perlendis, who was estab-lished at Strasburg about 1760. The fact of the instru-ment's resembling a kind of hunting-horn used at that time in England probably gained for it the name of " corno inglese,"- which it still retains ("cor anglais" in French). Cor The first employment of it in the orchestra is referred to anglais. Gluck, who had two " cors anglais " in his Alceste, as played at Vienna in 1767. But it was not until 1808 that the cor anglais was first heard in the Paris opera; it was played by the oboist Vogt in Alexandre chez Apelle by Catel. The improvements in manufacture of this instrument closely followed those introduced in the oboe. The 18th century produced an intermediate oboe between (2) and (3), which was called "hautbois d'amour,"and was frequently employed by J. S. Bach. It was a third lower than the ordinary oboe, and fell into disuse after the death of the great German composer. It has been resuscitated by the firm of C.

Maliillon of Brussels, and reconstructed with the improve-ments of modern manufacture.
After the 16th century we find the instruments which were designated by the name of "gros bois," the (5) and (6) of Prae-torius, transformed into shorter instruments, the fagott and contra-
Fagott. fagott; so called because the column of air, the same as in the pommer, was formed of two conical tubes which communicated with the lower part of the instrument, and were pierced in a single piece of wood. It is probably owing to the aspect of this double pipe that the satirical name of fagot was given, preserved in Italian as fagotto, and in German as fagott. A canon of Ferrara named Afranio has been cited as the author of the transformation, about 1539, of the bass pommer, but Count Valdrighi, the curator of the Fstense library, and Wasielewski, who has reproduced the draw-ing of Afranio's invention, deprive him of the merit of the innova-tion. The fagottino is transformed in the same fashion.
We cannot tell
Bassoon. Sigismund Scheitzer of Nuremberg acquired a great reputation in the 16th century for making the "basson," a French word sub-stituted for the old fagot, and adopted in England as bassoon. His
instrument had only two keys,
wdien the bassoon gained its present form, but it was probably at the end of the 17th century. It was made in exactly the same style as the fagottino represented in fig. 5. It appeared for the first time
FIG. 5.
-The Fagottino, at the beginning 17th century.
in the orchestra with the oboe in Pomone (1671). It had three keys
then, | — • The Bb key rendering a lengthening
Us-ai the instrument necessary, we may suppose it took its modern
We now turn to another kind of reed and its association with clarinet, two kinds of cylindrical and conical pipes,—the beating reed, which is formed of a single tongue, and engenders vibrations in the column of air to which it is applied by the contact of the tongue with the frame of a groove to which it is adapted. The beating reed, though not having the extreme antiquity of the double reed, was used at a very early period, for we find it applied to the chalumeaus of ancient Egypt, still in use under the name of arghoul, to the Greek auloi, and the Roman tibiee? The beating reed is a piece of reed growth, closed at the upper end by the natural knot, beneath which a tongue is partly detached by a longitudinal slit. We do not see the probable operation of chance so clearly here as in the double reed. It may have been the inconvenience resulting from the employment of double-tongued reeds of large dimensions to make cylindrical pipes of a certain diameter speak that urged the invention of a more commodious substitute. With double auloi it would have been almost im-possible to blow two double reeds at one time, while, on the contrary, it is easy to sound two pipes furnished with beating-reeds introduced simultaneously into, the player's mouth. Such as these are the actual Egyptian arghoul and zummdrah. It is in the beating reed aud cylindrical tube, a combination bequeathed to us by remote antiquity, that we find the principle of one of the leading instruments of the modern orchestra, the clarinet or clarionet.
The European chalumeau of the Middle Ages, in English " shawm," differed but little from the ancient Egyptian chalumeau : its tube was of wood, and the upper part of the tube communicated with the bore by an opening made laterally and longitudinally, on the edges of which the reed-tongue was bound by repeated turns of string. Neither in the Middle Ages nor in the 16th century do we find the chalumeau much employed. Prœtorius, who in his Theatrum instrumcntoruin has given exact drawings of the instru-ments he knew, does not cite the chalumeau. But there exists in the fine collection of the Liceo Musicale at Bologna a double chalu-meau of wood covered with leather, the make of which takes it back to the 16th century. Drawings of this instrument occur in the Encyclopédie of Diderot aud D'Alembert, and in the Muzykaal Kunstiooordenboek of J. Verschure-Reynvaan (Amsterdam, 1795). The chalumeau was pierced with eight holes and with two keys, and produced the following series of fundamental sounds—
About the middle of last century the clarinet was lengthened and a key was added,
3, which filled the vacant space
between the two registers. Two new keys were also added,

J3_— h it is said, by Barthold Fritz of Brunswick (ob.
0 t*
conical than that of the fagottino properly so called. The double reed was replaced in it by a beating reed attached to a mouthpiece like that of the clarinet but smaller. This instrument seems not to have had success. But the most important combination of beating reed and conical tube was accomplished in 1846 by Adolphe Sax, a Belgian established in Paris, who invented the family of saxophones. This instrument is a brass tube pierced to produce the following

FIG. 7.—The Clarinet,
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 In virtue of the principle previously explained, the saxophone "octaves," and, setting out from the fourth fundamental, each note can be reproduced in the next upper octave by the help of two keys successively employed, which, by opening, form a loop. Four more keys disposed at the upper end permit the production of
1766). The sixth key,
, is attributed to the clarinetist

Lefebvre, Paris, about 1791. In 1810 Ivan Muller carried the num-ber of keys up to thirteen, in which state the instrument has come to us, and is the system most employed. It has been improved by the Belgian makers, Bachmann, the elder Sax, C. Mahillon, and Albert, who have collectively established the reputation of Belgian clarinets. Iti Paris, Lefebvre, Buffet-Crampon, and his successor Goumas—in London, Rudall, Rose, and Carte, justly own a high position among famous clarinet-makers. The firm of C. Mahillon, Brussels, have in-vented the mechanism with double effect known by the name of C$ key. Invented in 1862, it is now universally adopted. In 1842 the Parisian maker Buffet, advised by a professor named Klose, adopted from Boehm's flute the invention of movable rings. His clarinet has consequently been ranked as of Boehm's system, although the lateral division of the tube does not follow that which that clever maker applied to his flute. The clarinet was first employed in a theatre in 1751, in the pastoral by Rameau entitled Acante et Cephise. The imperfections of the instrument at that time obliged them to be made in nearly every key. To avoid the burden of this the 18th-century players varied the key of their instruments by added joints. About the middle of the 18th century the clarinet was introduced in military music and by degrees sup-planted the oboe. The instruments used at first were in C and F. About 1815 they were replaced by the Bb and Eb clarinets.
Besides the high clarinets, the basset horn (Italian, corno di bas-setto) was soon known in Germany ; a clarinet in F with the grave
fifth of the one in C, it was made to descend easily to

with the help of supplementary keys, and to diminish the length of the tube it was bent back upon itself in the part nearest to the bell,—the curve being enclosed in a kind of box which concealed the artifice. The invention of the basset horn is attributed to a Bavarian maker at Passau, who was living about 1770, but whose name is now unknown. Obtaining the improvements given to it by Theodore Lotz of Pressburg in 1782, and Ivan Muller in 1812, and those of contemporary makers, the basset horn has become the beautiful alto clarinet which is generally used in the key of Eb.
It would appear that the first idea of the bass clarinet emanated from Henri Greuser of Dresden, who made the first one in 1793. It was not used in the orchestra until 1836, when Meyerbeer made magnificent employment of it in the Huguenots. Clarinet The almost forgotten clarinet d'amour was made in G and F, ('amour, the fourth and fifth below the clarinet in C. It differed from other clarinets in the bell, which, retracted in the lower part, affected the pear-shaped contour that distinguishes the modern cor anglais:.
Saxo-. A few words remain to be said about the combination of the phone, beating reed with a conical tube, which goes no farther back than the beginning of this century. A fagottino in F, called " dolciuo," was at that time used, the air-column of which was more decidedly
Inch completes the compass of the saxo-
phone. Four instruments of the saxophone family are now used,
viz., the soprano in Bb, a major second below the note written ;
the alto in Eb, à fifth below the soprano ; the tenor in Bb, an octave
below the soprano ; and the baritone in EP, an octave below the
alto. These instruments fill an important place in the military music
of France and Belgium. The brilliant success which Ambroise
Thomas has achieved by using the beautiful tone of the alto saxo-
phone in the ghost scene in Hamlet is well known. (V. M.)

The above article was written by: Victor Mahillon.

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