1902 Encyclopedia > Zincken


ZINCKEN, or ZINKEN, the German name of a family of wind instruments now obsolete, known in Italy as cornetti, in France as cornets d bouquin, and in England as " cornets," but differing entirely from the modern cornets dpistons; these last will also be noticed here, as bearing the same name.
The old cornets were of two kinds,—the straight and the curved. The straight (Germ, gerade Zincken, stille. Zincken; Ital. cornetti diritti, cornetti muti) were usually made with the mouthpiece (a cupped mouthpiece analogous to that of the trumpet) forming part of the tube. The curved (Germ, krumme Zincken ; Ital. cornetti curvi) are formed of two pieces of wood of different lengths, each having half the channel in which the column of air is to vibrate hol-lowed out, the diameter increasing from the mouthpiece towards the lower end. The two pieces of wood, when thus prepared, are joined together with glue; they are then finished off so as to form a pipe with eight sides, and are finally covered with leather. The mouthpieces are made of wood, horn, or ivory, and are fixed by a tenon to the upper extremity of the pipe. The primitive instru-ment was an animal's horn. Pipes of such small length give only, besides the first or fundamental, the second and sometimes the third note of the harmonic series. Thus, a pipe that has for its fundamental note A will, if the
pressure of the lips be steadily in- -9- | R_ —
creased, give the octave A and the _=^f—2SZ= E11^
twelfth E. To connect diatonically the 2 3
first and second, the length of the pipe was progressively shortened, by making holes in its substance for the fingers to cover. The opening of these holes successively furnished the instrumentalist with the different intervals of the scale, six holes sufficing : for this purpose : The fundamental was thus connected with its octave by all the degrees of a diatonic scale which could become chromatic by the help of cross fingerings and greater or less pressure of
the lips within the mouthpiece. The fingering _A .—
was completed by a seventh hole, which had fc=«=
for its object the production of the octave without the necessity of closing all the.holes in order to produce the second note of the harmonic series. The first complete octave, thus obtained by a succession of funda-mental notes, is easily octaved by a stronger pressure of the lips against the mouthpiece, and thus the ordinary limits of the compass of a zincke or cornet extend to a fifteenth. Whether straight or curved, it is pierced laterally with seven holes, six through the front and the seventh, that nearest to the mouthpiece, through the back. The first three holes were usually covered with the third, second, and first fingers of the right hand, the next four with the third, second, and first fingers and the thumb of the left hand. But some instrumentalists inverted the position of the hands. Virdung shows a kind of zincke made of an animal's hornVith only four holes, three at the back of the pipe and one in front. Such an instrument as this had naturally a very limited compass, since with the help of these four holes only the intermediate notes between the second and third proper tones of the harmonic scale could be produced, the lower octave comprised between the first and second remaining incomplete. At the be-ginning of the 17th century Prastorius represents the zincken as a complete family arranged thus :—(1) the little zincke, of which the lowest note was that shown in (i.);
(2) the ordinary zincke, -0 -— -g ^ J—
with lowest note (ii.); and Jffi=sEEE ~
(3) the cornon, corno torto, (i.) (ii.)"*" (Hi.)

or great zincke, with lowest note (iii.). In France the family was composed of the following instruments:—(1)
the dessus, with -ft
lowest note (a); W—-|—
(2) the haute- O) ^ ~ (6) ^ (<=) W
contre, with lowest note (6); (3) the taiWe, with lowest note (c); and (4) the basse, with lowest note (d). Numbers (2), (3), and (4) in this last series were sometimes furnished with an open key, which, when the closed tube was length-ened, augmented the compass downwards by a note.
During the Middle Ages these instruments were in such favour that an important part was given to them in all instrumental combinations. In Germany, in the 18th cen-tury, they were used with trombones in the churches to accompany the chorales. There are examples of this em-ployment in the sacred cantatas of J. S. Bach. Monte-verde made use of them in his opera Orfeo in 1608, as did Gluck in the opening chorus of his Orfeo, played at Vienna in 1762. The great vogue of the zincke is not to be accounted for by its musical qualities; for it has a hard, hoarse, piercing sound, and it failed utterly in truth of intonation; and these natural defects could only be modified with great difficulty. It is now hard to under-stand Mersenne's eulogium of the dessus, then more em-ployed than the other cornets, " because it was used in vocal concerts and to make the treble with the organ, which is ravishing when one knows how to play it to perfection, like the Sieur Quiclet," and, farther on, "as to the property of its tone, it resembles the brilliancy of a sunbeam piercing the darkness, when it is heard among the voices in churches, cathedrals, or chapels."
The serpent is another instrument of the cornet family, though not usually classed with it. Its construction and its acoustic principle are the same as those of the old cornet. It is, properly speaking, an enlarged cornet with one hole less, that which is stopped with the thumb. The mouth-piece is fixed to the instrument by means of a long brass crook. A detailed account of the serpent and its con-geners is given under OPHICLEIDE (vol. xvii. p. 778). The zincke or cornet has now entirely disappeared, and the rare specimens still met with are eagerly sought by collectors. The serpent has lasted longest, and even within the last twenty years has been used in many churches in the south of France.
At present the names of cornet, cornet a pistons, and cornopean are given to an instrument that has no analogy whatever to the medi-aeval cornet. It is a transformation of the old post-horn, with a shorter tube than that of the trumpet, and improved to such a de-gree that its quality of tone is intermediate between the brightness of the trumpet and the softness of the flugel-horn bugle with pus-tons. The extent of the modern
cornet without pistons is com- ^jt — q ^ ~ m *— I
prised within the second and —3 J \ E — -
eighth of the harmonic scale *^ 34568
The seventh, being too flat, owing to a well-known acoustic pheno-menon, is rarely used. Ttie cornet a pistons of the highest pitch is in B|j, and is used for a trumpet in that key. The notes written therefore sound a major second lower than the notation. It is furnished with three pistons, which lower the principal tube by a whole tone (1st pn'ston), a half tone (2d piston), and a tone and a half (3d piston) respectively. It has already been explained under TROMBONE how the different pistons are combined to produce the entire chromatic compass of the instrument from the lowest limit
^ At first the cornet a pistons was
to the -ft 1 "— supplied with a great many crooks, highest $5—-= There were crooks for A, Ab, G, F, ' E, Eb, and D; but it is easy to un-
derstand that, if the additional tubes put in communication wit! the principal column of air by means of the pistons are adjusted for the key of Bi, the same additional tubes are too short to fulfil the same office for an instrument lowered to the extent of a minor sixth, as it would be for the key of D. Hence nearly all these crooks have disappeared, only those for Bb, A, and At> being re-tained. The invention of the modern cornet, or more exactly the application of pistons to the post-horn, is German, and dates from the first quarter of the 19th century, almost immediately after the invention of pistons by Stblzel and Blumel. It was introduced into Great Britain and France about 1830. There were at first only two pistons,—that of the whole tone and that of the halftone,— from which there naturally resulted gaps in the chromatic scale of the instrument. The history of the cornet is that of the improvement brought about by pistons apart from their successive transformations, and it has remained to the present time what it was when first invented. The great favour the cornet meets with is due to the facility with which it speaks, to the little fatigue it causes, and to the simplicity of its mechanism. We may, however, regret, from the point of view of art, that its success has been so great, and that it has ended by usurping in brass bands the place of the bugles, the quality of their tone being infinitely preferable as a foundation for an ensemble composed exclusively of brass instruments. Even the symphonic orchestra has not been secure from its intrusion. In fact, the cornet is taking the place of the trumpet nearly everywhere, and, if care is not taken, the latter will in a few years have completely disappeared, to the great detriment of orchestral tone colour ; for the quality of tone of the cornet can never be an adequate substitute for the brilliant and majestic sonorousness so characteristic of the trumpet. (V. M.)


Musica getxdschl und auszgezogen, Basel, 1511.
Syntagmalis Musiei, vol. ii. : Be Organographia, Wolfenbutteh 161S.

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