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Klarinet Archive - Posting 000663.txt from 1997/12

From: Grant Green <>
Subj: Contra arranging...
Date: Fri, 12 Dec 1997 16:07:09 -0500

On Fri, 12 Dec 1997, Roger Shilcock said:
>In fact, there has been (perhaps still is) a "tenoroon". I think it was a
>fourth higher than the bassoon.
>Roger SHilcock

I think the tenoroon is essentially extinct as a serious instrument. You
*can* still buy a beginner's instrument pitched a fourth higher (like a
tenoroon), with simplified keywork for small children. The bassoon's
ancestor, the dulcian (aka curtal), came in a whole range of sizes from
soprano to great bass (with bass corresponding to today's bassoon). I have
a soprano curtal: its about 10" tall. BTW, it sounds nothing like an oboe.

>On Thu, 11 Dec 1997, Bill Hausmann wrote:
>> At 06:29 PM 12/11/97 PST, you wrote:
>> > I suppose that Stravinsky was being silly when he wrote the opening
>> > solo in the Rite of Spring for very high bassoon instead of, say,
>> > oboe.
>> > Jeff Chan

There is a story (possibly apocryphal) that Stravinsky heard a number of
bassoon players practicing or warming up on the RoS solo while touring a
music college, and remarked to his guide that he would have written the
solo up a fifth if he had known it would be that easy to play.

>> > on 12/11/97 at 6:31 PM, Bill Hausmann wrote:
>> > Actually, yes, but what is the point of playing altissimo on
>> > contrabass when you could use clarion on bass, or possibly even
>> > chalumeau on soprano to play the same note, most likely with better
>> > tone and intonation? Yes, you can do it, and it is done. But isn't
>> > it sort of silly?
>> Oboe and bassoon differ enough from each other to negate your argument,
>> although I frequently harass oboists by referring to their instrument as
>> the soprano "oon". (Why is there no tenor in the oon family?) In some
>> cases, especially in recent music, a particular effect is desired requiring
>> a particular timbre achievable only by stretching the range of an
>> instrument. But, in the main, it is still silly.

Bassoons and oboes are distinct families of instruments, having different
bore profiles. Even apart from the obviously different keywork, scaling
the oboe up by a factor of 4 (to reach bassoon size) would result in a
contrabass oboe, not a bassoon. They would sound distinctly different,
just as the great bass shawm does not sound like a bassoon (or bass

Hmmmmm, contrabass oboe....

With regard to arranging, there's nothing inherently wrong with writing
some of the lower horns above the higher horns. Used sparingly, it can be
a good effect. I just played a flute choir piece in which the alto flute
ends with a high Eb (above the staff), which is the highest note in the
final chord. Clearly, a C flute could play the note more easily, but on
alto the note sang out like a high harmonic - to good effect. Also, it was
the natural culmination of a rising line.

Altissimo G on an Eb contra *does* sound a bit extreme (and causes one to
wonder if the arranger *really* knew what he was doing), but in general I
would assume it was done purposely, for effect.

Grant Green

Grant D. Green Just filling in on sarrusophone
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