Vol. 1, No. 50


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|   Contrabass-L: a list for discussion of contrabass *anything*|

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Vol. 1, No. 50

25 October 1996

EDITOR'S NOTE: Another welcome aboard! to Tom McCraig <ferrets@exis.net>.

Date: Tue, 22 Oct 1996 07:58 +0100
From: TOMMIE =?iso-8859-1?q?N=C4SLUND?= <ERAC.ERATEN@mesmtpse.ericsson.se>

--- Inkommet från ERAC.ERATEN +46 8 40 45549 96-10-22 08:58

Hello Grant!

We have had some problems receiving and sending e-mails from our internal Memo-system so I guess that is why I have missed #47 and #48 of the list. Would you mind sending them again?

I finally got to listen to "Nuclear Whales" for the first time, found their "Thar They Blow"-CD at CD Now. I really liked the bass sax on that one, not the contrabass though. I think it requires lots of more air pressure. I came to wonder, is it actually possible for ANY human to play that monster-instrument properly? It must be the biggest real wind instrument ever built, requiring the biggest lungs I suppose... The bass sax is enough for me, but if I ever got the chance to honk a contrabass I would give it my very best try.

Do you or anyone else on the digest know of any large tip opening bass sax mouthpieces? At least one that gives the right power to my sax (an old Buescher). I have experimented with some baritone mouthpieces. They give me the power, but I always lose the tuning and control. Suppose it has to do with the chamber and reed size. Can anyone help me?

Tommie Naslund.
Stockholm, Sweden.
E-mail: erac.eraten@memo.ericsson.se


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From: Francis Firth <Francis.Firth@uce.ac.uk>
To: 'Martina Sichelschmid' <100641.10@compuserve.com>, gdgreen <gdgreen@crl.com>, 'Martina Sichelschmidt' <sichelschmidt@bates.de>
Subject: Octobass
Date: Tue, 22 Oct 96 09:09:00 BST

Dear Martina,

You have probably seen the replies on the Contrabass-l by now but here is some clarification.

The octobasse is, as peter Koval says, a huge double bass so big that the bow used a sort of oar lock to hold it in place. It succeeded, and was the epitome of, a series of huge double basses starting in the 17th century. Despite its size it does only descend to the bottom C of the piano and a major third below the standard double bass (or contrabass if you are American, Kontrabass if you are German, contrebasse if you are French) although many modern double basses are fitted with an extension to allow them to reach this note anyway. Perhaps the octobasse was strung only with gut? and that is why it could not go any lower? There are 2 such instruments surviving in Paris and in Moscow(?).

Experiments in huge basses are still going on. Someone called Brian Smith plays a "triple contrabass viol" and has been recorded with Roscoe Mitchell but unfortunately I have no further information on this instrument. Perhaps the electric bass or the double bass lists could help you with this.

The instrument I have been writing about is the octoCONTRAbass clarinet of which a unique specimen was made by Leblanc. This descends to the Bb nearly one octave BELOW the bottom note of the piano, making it the deepest instrument in existence bar the very rare 64 foot organ pipes (most organs offering notes at this pitch get them by creating DIFFERENCE TONES between two similarly-pitched pipes - the difference in pitch creating the new note, a well-known acoustical phenomenon) and any electronic instruments. The confusion is that in some works, starting with Oskar Kroll's book on the clarinet (only in its English translation?) this instrument is referred to as the octobass clarinet, including by the revered host of this list. This is clearly WRONG.

Leblanc also made 3 instruments pitched an octave below the contralto clarinet in Eb (these descend to their low C sounding the Eb below the bottom of the piano making it the second lowest acoustical instrument ever) and called them octocontralto. So by logic, if nothing else, the one an octave below the contrabass should be an octocontrabass and in the publicity leaflet I have it is referred to as Octo-C/basse (or was it Octo/C-basse?)- clearly an abbreviation for the French octocontrebasse. Perhaps that is the source of the confusion although several works get the name right (Montagu, McGillivray, Baines, Rendall).

There was also an instrument called the Subkontrafagott invented by Czerveny in the 19th century an once though to be an octave below the Contrabassoon. However, although no copies of the instrument survive, it is now thought that it was called this by Czerveny because it descended to Bb in the subcontrabass register (the bottom 3 notes of the piano) instead of just to contrabass C (bottom C of the piano).

However, there seems a general confusion over the nomenclature of instruments below the bass. We have the Contrabass Saxophone which, being a 5th below the bass, is really a subbass (except that the bass is misnamed as is the baritone). There are 2 names for the Double Bassoon or Contrabassoon. Flutes pitched an octave below the alto are often called contrabass where they should be contralto, while Kotato call their instrument an octave below the contrabass a Double contrabass and Michael Heupel calls his instrument pitched 2 octaves below the alto a subkontrabass which is correct although octocontralto might be more informative. Vuillaume's (sp.?) own name octobasse would really be better as octocontrebasse except that the Double Bass (or Contrabass in American) is also often referred to as just the 'Bass'.

The nomenclature, especially in different languages, for the subbass recorders is even more of a nightmare. Bass, Quart Bass, Quint Bass, Contrabass, Subcontrabass. Recently I bought a CD in which the English version said they used a bass recorder in C (actually therefore a subbass), the French said it was a Contrebasse en Fa (one octave below the bass in F) and the German said that it was a Kontrabass in Ut (a subcontrabass one octave an a fourth below the bass). As it turns out it would appear that the first (the English) version is correct but the Early Music Shop in Bradford, England, famous dealers in historical facsimile instruments, was fooled and mentioned the recording having a subcontrabass recorder in C in their advertisement for it. I even posted that information to the list before buying the CD - I should have know better (apologies to everyone, this was the Vivaldi Seasons arranged for 5 recorders played by Marion Verbruggen and the Flanders? Recorder Quartet on Harmonia Mundi released this year).

I hope that all this clarifies the matter for you.

Francis Firth

I stand corrected.

No reverence necessary.

Date: Wed, 23 Oct 1996 11:49:34 -0700 (PDT)
From: Philip Neuman <neuman@uofport.edu>
Subject: Re: Contrabass-L No. 49


Have you gotten your reed contrabass/a anche/ad ancia playing? Who made it? I've never had an opportunity to correspond with another player. The best comment I ever got about it from an audience member was "The sound of that is downright industrial".

I noticed that there is one pictured in the Stearns Collection, Univ. of Michigan catalog mislabled "contrabass sarrusophone".

Phil Neuman

Author: gdgreen@crl.com (Grant Green) at SMTP
Date: 10/23/96 3:55 PM
TO: Philip Neuman <neuman@uofport.edu> at SMTP
Subject: Re: Contrabass-L No. 49

>Have you gotten your reed contrabass/a anche/ad ancia playing? Who made
>it? I've
>never had an opportunity to correspond with another player. The best
>comment I ever got about it from an audience member was "The sound of
>that is downright industrial".
>I noticed that there is one pictured in the Stearns Collection, Univ. of
>Michigan catalog mislabled "contrabass sarrusophone".
>Phil Neuman

Nope, not playing yet. Unfortunately, Paul had a student take it out for shipping, and the student dropped it on the way. It has no case. The impact seems to have loosened a few of the (soldered) tone holes, dented in the RH hook, and jarred a number of keys out of alignment. I did try a honk or two, nonetheless, and got a sound (despite the fact that the spit valve was sans cork - covered that with my thumb). It is out for repair -still-, and probably will remain so for a few weeks yet. In the meantime, I've ordered a gig bag for it from Altieri (they made a great bag for my sarrusophone).

Should be interesting. The bocal looks like its been modified to take a bassoon or contrabassoon reed: its crimped around a smaller-diameter tube at the very end. May have to ream it out....

Maybe we can trade tips ;-)


From: Francis Firth <Francis.Firth@uce.ac.uk>
Subject: Gerald Oshita Sarrusophone
Date: Wed, 23 Oct 96 11:34:00 BST


I've finally received the two Thomas Buckner LPs from the Pauline Oliveros Foundation.

The first, New Music for Woodwinds and Voice I've already told you about.

The second contains only on c. 5 minute track at the end of side 1 for Soprano Sax, Voice and Sarrusophone (always the Eb Contrabass, I think). This LP is called An Interesting Breakfast Conversation.

I haven't had time to listen yet but should imagine that the Sarrusophone is quite clearly heard.


P.S. I posted the letter to Leblanc and await a reply.

P.P.S. There is another CD by the Austrian Saxophone Orchestra out now but I don't know if this time it includes contrabass sax. The title is something like Popular Classics or Popular Tunes or something like that.

Author: Carole McCraig <ferrets@exis.net>
Date: 10/24/96 12:37 AM
Subject: Subscribe Contra Bass-L

I'm a baritone horn player from way back and currently play bass harmonica with a harmonica quartet (fun, and some profit). My name and address are as follows: Tom McCraig 201 N. Lynnhaven Rd. Virginia Beach, Va. 23452. Thanks.

Author: Grant Green <gdgreen@crl.com> at SMTP
Date: 10/24/96 12:39 AM
TO: Carole McCraig <ferrets@exis.net> at SMTP
Subject: Re: Subscribe Contra Bass-L

Welcome aboard! I'll probably put out another digest on Friday: tied up tomorrow.

Bass harmonica?

BTW, as an old baritone player, you might be interested in Gravity, the CD recently released by Howard Johnson. Gravity is a jazz tuba ensemble (5-6 tubas plus rhythm section). Heavy! (excuse the pun)


At 02:47 AM 10/24/96 -0400, you wrote:

>I'm a baritone horn player from way back and currently play bass
>harmonica with a harmonica quartet (fun, and some profit). My name and
>address are as follows: Tom McCraig 201 N. Lynnhaven Rd. Virginia
>Beach, Va. 23452. Thanks.

Grant Green
Just filling in on sarrusophone.......

Very busy week this week, between selling the house (well, its in escrow now) and interviewing for a new job. Did manage to find a great CD, especially if you're a tuba lover:

Howard Johnson & Gravity, "Gravity!!!" [1996, Verve 314 531 021-2]

I remember seeing Howard Johnson on Saturday Night Live DECADES ago, and I've looked for recordings ever since. According to the liner notes, this is the first time they've managed to actually release one.

Gravity is:

(anyone notice a trend here?) with a variety of people (including Paul Shaffer on one track) for a rhythm section (piano, bass, drums, with guitar on a few tracks). Most of the tracks have 5-7 tubas and/or euphoniums. The selections are all jazz:

  1. Big Alice
  2. Stolen Moments
  3. 'Way' Cross Georgia
  4. Kelly Blue
  5. Be No Evil
  6. Yesterdays
  7. Here Comes Sonny Man
  8. Appointment In Ghana
  9. 'Round Midnight and
  10. And Then Again...

Great stuff!

End Contrabass-L No. 50

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