Friday, May 3, 2013

Instruments that disappeared

What influences the 'life cycle' of musical instruments?

This evening, I attended a concert of music for historical brass sextett entitled "instruments that disappeared", featuring instruments that were commonplace in Norway 100 years ago, but have since gone out of fashion.

Eb cornet with rotary valves is one of these. During the heyday of brass bands in the late 19th century, this instrument would lead the ensemble on melody while the other instruments would alternate on harmony and counter melody. However, improvements in Eb clarinets and boehm system flutes led many bands to abandon the Eb cornet (and 'pure' brass band sound) in favor of woodwinds on melody.

The valve-trombone is another dinosaur instrument. As master of ceremonies Roger Fjeldet mentioned, valve-trombones were popular with composers and band leaders 100 years ago, but not with trombonists. Because of intonation problems with valve-trombones, fewer and fewer musicians were willing to play them, preferring the older, more flexible slide trombone design. Trombonist Hans Andreas Kjølberg remarked that it was hard work to play on his instrument - almost like bicycling with a flat tire.

Are there possibilities for a renaissance in historic brass playing in Norway? Probably not. But I hope that groups such as this one can fill a niche in demonstrating both the material and immaterial culture of not so distant periods in the past.

1 comment:

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