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Date: Sun, 19 Sep 1999 19:46:36 -0500
From: John Howell <>
Subject: Movie scores

Adam Kent-Isaac wrote:
>    Horror movies make frequent use of the contrabass clarinet and
> contrabassoon. I wonder who they get to play these contrabass parts?
Stuart replied:
>Most of the time, the music director hires a professional orchestra to play
>their scores. Then, the bass clarinetist probably plays the contra, and the
>resident contrabassoonist or second bassoonist would play the contrabassoon.
>I'm pretty sure they wouldn't just hire people off the street; that would
>take too long and the quality wouldn't be as uniform as hiring a reputable

Not necessarily true in the US.  The most expensive music cost in movie
making is time--studio time, production time, and ever-present deadlines.
The music supervisor for a movie hires a union contractor, who hires the
actual union musicians according to the specifications given.  That means
that they are hired on an individual basis.  BUT, if the sessions go into
overtime that contractor will never be hired again, so s/he hires the
absolute best musicians in town, people who sightread perfectly and correct
the copyist's errors on the first readthrough, people who simply don't make
mistakes.  And because the same people are often hired because of their
skill, they end up working together a lot even if they aren't in an
organized orchestra together.

As to who plays the contrabass parts, I'm sure the union contractors have
in their little black books (or laptops!) the best union players for any
and every instrument there is, including ethnic, folk, and really weird
ones.  A real professional woodwind doubler can literally play ANY woodwind
instrument at a professional level, and probably either owns most of them
or knows exactly where s/he can get them.  At a school like Indiana you can
get a degree in "Woodwinds" that starts you on that road.  (I still crack
up at the line in the Mancini orchestration book where he's talking about
the bass flute:  "A very beautiful instrument, but very rare.  Here's an
example where I used four of them."

The London Symphony seems to be very popular among different
>films. They have done all the Jurassic Parks, the Indiana Jones', Jaws,
>Schindler's List, and basically every Speilburg/Williams production (also
>Michael Kamen's work, such as Mr. Holland's Opus).

The London symphony became very popular with not just movie composers but
pop composers and arrangers back in the 70s, maybe even in the late 60s,
for one very important reason.  Their union scale is (or was) considerably
less that union recording scales in the US.  Of course they were also
excellent musicians.  (The Eastern European orchestras are now starting to
fill that ecological niche.)  There was a time in the 70s when a record
producer would travel all over carrying 2-inch reels of tape, recording the
rhythm section in Muscle Shoals or Detroit, the horn section in L.A., the
guitars in Nashville, hop over to London to record the strings or full
orchestra, and then back to NY to put on the soloist's tracks.


John & Susie Howell
Virginia Tech Department of Music
Blacksburg, Virginia, U.S.A. 24061-0240
Vox (540) 231-8411   Fax (540) 231-5034


Date: Sun, 19 Sep 1999 20:05:48 -0500
From: John Howell <>
Subject: Pommer, Bombarde, Schalmei??

>From: "Gregg Bailey" <>
> What is a pommer?

Greg, these are all early instruments, 15th through 17th centuries, and the
dictionary definitions you'll find are going to contradict one another
because the terms weren't even necessarily used consistently in their own
century!  Your best source for any information of this kind is the New
Grove, which should be available in any decent university library.

According to my Norton/Grove Concise Encyclopedia of Music, "Pommer" was
the German term for the alto, tenor and bass shawm.

>How does a bombarde differ from a sarrusophone?

They're both instruments played with a double reed using a conical,
expanding bore.  Other than that, one is a 15th century term for the larger
shawms and the other a 19th century term for a metal, Boehm-system bassoon.
The larger shawms had keys for the lowest notes, and since they were made
of rather bendable brass they were protected by carved wooden covers called
fontanelles.  These (removable) covers were, themselves, protected from
damage with brass strips reinforcing the top and bottom.  That apparently
reminded 15th century folk of the look of a certain kind of military cannon
called a bombarde, and thus the name.  The smaller treble and high treble
shawms didn't have keys.

>Somewhere I learned that the actual bombarde
>instrument is basically a metal bassoon.

Nope, that's the Sarusaphone.

>What is a schalmei?

Another German term used for a shawm, in my experience the treble or high
treble size.

What I don't understand is that, apparently, Schalmei
>is derived from Chalumeau--Chalumeau, Shalemoy, Schalmei.

I doubt it.  Chalumeau is French, Schalmei is German, and the instruments
have virtually nothing in common.

All the shawms were considered "loud" (haute) outdoor instruments.  They
had a greater expansion in the bore and a wider bell than their later
descendents, the oboe family, and were pretty loud.  In the 15th and 16th
centuries they are shown with a pirouette, a wooden piece against which the
player could rest his lips.  There's a woodcut in the series called The
Triumph of Maximillian from 1505 (available in a Dover reprint) showing a
whole rank or two of shawm players mounted on horses.  I can just see the
instructions now:  "First, you find a lot of deaf horses ..."


John & Susie Howell
Virginia Tech Department of Music
Blacksburg, Virginia, U.S.A. 24061-0240
Vox (540) 231-8411   Fax (540) 231-5034


Date: Mon, 20 Sep 1999 04:48:03 +0200
From: Hans Mons <>
Subject: Re: Pommer, Bombarde, Schalmei??

>From: "Gregg Bailey" <>
>         What is a pommer?

Pommer is the German name for the lower instruments from the shawm
family.  The name Pommer is used for the alto, tenor, bass and greatbass

>         How does a bombarde differ from a sarrusophone?

Except that both are conical double reed instruments there is no relation
between these two.

Bombard or Bomhard is the French name for the instruments called Pommer in
The modern bombarde, is used in France together with bagpipes.  This
bombarde is a short conical double reed instrument with a big taper of the
bore, a very loud instrument.

>         What is a schalmei?

Schalmei is the German (and Dutch) name for the soprano shawm, what is the
medieval and renaissance predecessor of the oboe.  The Schalmei is a loud
conical double reed instrument.

>   What I don't understand is that, apparently, Schalmei
>is derived from Chalumeau--Chalumeau, Shalemoy, Schalmei.

True, it is basically the same word.  What not means that these instruments
are the same.

>From: Adam Kent-Isaac <>
>Subject: Re: Pommer, Bombarde, Schalmei??
>         A pommer is defined as any member of the shawm family lower in pitch
>than the tenor. The bass, contra and lower shawms are all "pommers."

The alto, also is a Pommer.  Have you ever seen 'contra or lower'
shamws?  The largest I know off are the quart and quint basses, with a
length of about 3 meters.

>         The Schalmei is totally different and not closely related to the
>chalumeaux. It is a Baroque German double reed instrument, and it's
>also called the Deutch Schalmei.

The Deutsche Schalmei is not the same as the Schalmei.  The Deutsche
Schalmei is a 17th century conical double reed instrument.  The sound is
more quiet compared with the renaissance Schalmei, also the instrument
looks quite different.  The Deutsche Schalmei has been used a lot in German
military bands of that time.

Hans Mons
Dulcians, Shawms


Date: Mon, 20 Sep 1999 10:05:56 EDT
Subject: Re: The Stir of Echoes

In a message dated 99-09-19 18:38:23 EDT, Stuart suggests:
<< My advice: join a  well-known orchestra, like the Atlanta Symphony or New
York Philharmonic, and you might get a job.>>

I certainly second the recommendation. The three clarinetists who I do low
clarinet studio work in Los Angeles are Steve Roberts, Gary Bovyer, and Alan
Savedoff.  Steve plays with the Pacific Symphony and Hollywood Bowl
Orchestras, Gary plays with the Long Beach Symphony, and Alan plays with
Opera Pacific and Pacific Symphony (when they need a contrabassonist).  Their
low horns themselves are also absolutely to die for.

Don Gross
La Canada, California

p.s.  Studio work is definitely NOT for the faint of heart or anyone whose
playing and instruments isn't virtually PERFECT.  Studio time is VERY

Date: Mon, 20 Sep 1999 11:51:45 -0400
From: Gerald Corey <>
Subject: Re: [Sarrusophone] Heckelphone Trio

Dear Grant (et al) I believe Hindemith himself suggested that an
alternate instrument for the Trio (if not the Heckelphone ..which I have
performed in that work on two occasions) could be a TENOR saxophone.
Hmm? I imagine the C melody would sound great, but I like to follow the
stiptulations of the creative artist whenever possible, just as
mentioned. Do you have another read on this? Thanks very much,
Sincerely, Gerald Corey, Ottawa, Canada

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