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Date: Wed, 30 Jun 1999 16:21:05 -0700
From: Grant Green <>
Subject: Re: Basso Gastrico

>How come belches are so low-pitched?  I'm not talking about the discreet
>little "urp" behind the politely-raised hand.  I'm talking about the
>resounding, professional-quality BRRRRAAAAAAP, produced with open mouth and
>rounded embouchure, the kind of belch that measures about 4 on the Richter
>scale and inspires applause from 12-year-old boys.

Actually, it has little or nothing to do with the length of the digestive
tract (which is closed by sphincters at several points most of the time
anyway).  Referring to the chapter on Voice as a Musical Instrument in A.
Benade's "Fundamentals of Musical Acoustics", one learns that the pitch of
the voice is due to the length, mass, and tension of the vocal cords, all
other factors affecting only the timbre and resonance.  The subsection on
Belches* further notes that the gas passing through the vocal cords also
affects their vibration frequency.  Thus, while helium puts one into the
piccolo registers of Mickey Mouse, the denser-than-air carbon dioxide
liberated by Dr. Pepper consumption sends one looking for Ol' Man River...
There was a discussion on klarinet some months ago, regarding the effects
of belching on clarinet pitch, and which gasses one could breathe in order
to transpose up or down.  Has anyone tried playing clarinet (or
contrabassoon) while breathing helium?

>Now, the low pitch of the *other* built-in human wind instrument makes sense,
>because if I understand this aspect of human anatomy correctly, the human
>large intestine is something like 36 feet long, longer than the longest pipe

Here again, the pitch is determined by the mass and tension on the
surrounding ... er, we'll just say "tissue"...

>lot shorter than the nether pipework, is it not?  And a string bass seems
>unlikely as well, since vocal chords of the length to produce a contralto
>can't magically, temporarily twang at bass pitch, can they?

Well, with a little training and practice they can.  OK, with a lot of
training and practice, but it does work for Tibetan monks and Tuvan throat
singers.  I don't know if there are any female throat singers, but don't
see why the same principles and practices wouldn't apply.  Perhaps one of
our resident MDs would care to elaborate?


* Just made up the subsection ;-)  AFAIK, Benade never mentioned belches or
other, less musical eructations.  GDG

Grant Green  

Date: Wed, 30 Jun 1999 21:02:43 +0100
From: Jim Katz <>
Subject: Re: Basso Gastrico

I can't talk the science of this phenomenon, but there is certainly a hint
in the low pitches you can get from blowing across the mouth of a jug (as
in jug-band.) The volume of abottle doesn't have to be very large to
produce quite a low note.

Jim Katz,DSB
(Distant Second Bassoon)
I Medici di McGill
Physician Orchestra
Montreal, Quebec, Canada


From: Michael Cogswell <>
Subject: RE: [Contra digest]
Date: Thu, 1 Jul 1999 10:42:25 -0400


I'm starting to wonder about you . . .

. . . did you forget to get your prescription refilled?



Date: Wed, 30 Jun 1999 09:56:21 -0700
From: Grant Green <>
Subject: Classical sarrusophones

The Paderewski Symphony in B minor (Polonia) is out on CD now (1998,
Hyperion Records, CDA67056), BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra under Jerzy
Maksymiuk.  I think Francis first alerted us to the fact that this work
calls for (and was recorded with) three sarrusophones.  The liner notes
unfortunately don't say *which* three, but having listened to the CD now,
I'd guess that they include at least a bass and a contrabass.  There are
several passages where the sarrusophones are obvious, in most cases simply
playing a low chord.  I'll need to either put on headphones, or really
crank it up at home to see if they show up throughout.  Oh, and the
symphony as a whole is rather good :-)


Grant Green  

Date: Wed, 30 Jun 1999 12:43:23 -0700
From: Grant Green <>
Subject: Sarrusophone update

Along with a minor update on the sarrusophone page
(, I've added a RealAudio clip
from the recent SJWS concert that includes sarrusophone.  The clip is from
"Russian Sailor's Dance" (,
and includes the opening statement of the theme (low brass and winds in
unison and octaves), and a small part of the next strain (tuba, string
bass, and bass sarrusophone on the off beats).  I played the bass sax part
on bass sarrusophone: at sufficient volume, you can distinctly hear the
sarrusophone through the low brass.



Grant Green  

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