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EDITOR'S NOTE (low Ab): Sorry there was no digest yesterday: I was tied up in Los Angeles all day, picking up a few sarrusophones! See below....
Date: Tue, 25 Jun 1996 23:29:43 -0400
Subject: More Big 'Uns
As a bass saxophonist I liked your Big Instruments site quite a lot. Perhaps you may find the following info and slim leads useful.
Not to be picky, but that's the correct spelling above--the inventor, M. Sarrus, was a French bandleader. (Gautrot was the firm who made the horns.)
That's definitely a contrabass on the Bechet record. How do I know?
Check out the recording of the Duet for Two Contrabassoons by the avant-garde composer Donald Erb. I forget the record label, but this thing woke me out of a sound sleep one night when I went to sleep with public radio on. It is an experience--like hearing the Hoover Dam arguing with Mount Rushmore.
Have you looked up the instrument with the lowest note in the Guinness Book of Records? I seem to remember them mentioning a sub contrabassoon. The mere thought curdles the blood.
Re great-big-ass saxophones:
I know of two attempts to build a saxophone bigger than the contrabass. Musically, both were inconclusive.
By the way, if you know of anyone with a workable bass sax stand, you might let me know. I've posted to alt.music.saxophone but all they tell me to do is put telephone books under the horn!
Keep on vibratin'...
From: "Paul S. Johnson" <email@example.com>
Subject: Contrabass discography
Date: Wed, 26 Jun 1996 00:17:29
>What I have in mind is that we could list, for as many as possible of the
>following, at least a few representative recordings, with at least title
>and publisher, optionally with all available detail, so that people will
>have a resource to consult if they want to hear a recording of, say, a
A discograhy is a great idea. An ANNOTATED discograhy is even better. A concise description of the character of work, the role of the contrabass instrument, and the quality of playing would more quickly direct a reader to works of potential interest. Also, information like if the work is a transcription (something that contra players are all TOO familiar with) would be useful.
Also, someone should write an orchestration book for contra instruments. Composers are much more likely to write works for your contrabass instrument if this information is readily available. Which brings up another interesting question. Do most contra players play transcriptions of works written originally for other instruments? What kind of pieces are people on CB-L playing currently?
Paul S. Johnson
I haven't had occassion to play any transcriptions yet: so far I mainly play my own compositions (and those are frequently all improvisation). There are a number of works for contrabassoon, I know.
Comments: Authenticated sender is <firstname.lastname@example.org>
From: "Hans Mons" <hansm@IAEhv.nl>
Date: Wed, 26 Jun 1996 08:36:47 +0000
Subj: Contrabass Discography
Here is my try to add a few renaissance instruments to the list.
The additions are marked with *.
Quart Bass recorder
Quint Bass Recorder
Great Bass Recorder ! This is the generic term for the Quart Bass and the Quint Bass.
Extended Great Bass Recorder
Sub Contrabass Recorder
Bass Flute in C
Contralto Flute in G
Bass (Contrabass) Flute in F
"Octobass"/Contrabass Flute in C
Double contralto Flute in GG
Double Contrabass Flute in CC
Contrabass Clarinet in GG
Contrabasset Horn in FF
Contralto Clarinet in EEb
Contrabass Clarinet in BBb
Octo-Contralto Clarinet in EEEb
Octo-Contrabass Clarinet in BBBb
Bass Saxophone in BBb
Contrabass Saxophone in EEb
Octocontrabass Saxophone (?)
Contrabass Oboe in FF
Contrabass Oboe in CC
* Bass Shawm
* Great Bass Shawm
Heckelphone in C
* Bass Dulcian
* Quart Bass Dulcian
* Quint Bass Dulcian
* Bass Sordune
* Great Bass Sordune
* Bass Racket
* Great Bass Racket
* Bass Crumhorn
* Extended Bass Crumhorn
* Great Bass Crumhorn
* Extended Great Bass Crumhorn
* Bass Kortholt ! I used the Dutch name, Grant is it Corthol or what?
* Great Bass Kortholt
Bass Sarrusophone in Bb
Contrabass Sarrusophone in EEb
Contrabass Sarrusophone in CC
Contrabass Sarrusophone in BBb
Bass Rothophone in Bb
Contrabass ad Ancia
Bass Horn in CC
Bass Trumpet in B Flat
Contrabass Trumpet in F
Anaconda (Contrabass Serpent)
Bass Saxhorn in Bb
Contrabass Saxhorn in EEb
Contrabass Saxhorn in BBb
Subcontrabass Saxhorn in EEEb
Subcontrabass Saxhorn in BBBb
Bass Flugelhorn in B Flat
Subcontrabass Tuba in BBB Flat
Can't imagine how I forgot the shawms and sordunes! All good suggestions, and will be incorporated.
BTW, the only way I've ever seen it spelled was "kortholt". My guess is that they were never widespread enough to acquire the raft of names other instruments have (like recorder, flute a bec, bockflute, flauto dolce...).
From: Francis Firth <Francis.Firth@uce.ac.uk>
Subject: Discography for Contrabass-l
Date: Wed, 26 Jun 96 10:39:00 BST
Here is an initial contribution to the discography.
In places you will see that some details are missing.
I'll fill those in when I have the information to hand but I hope that this gets things rolling.
You probably have the information to check some of them (Braxton, Piacere, Tebackin, Winter,etc.)
Gordon Jacob: Variations on Annie Laurie for 2 piccolos, hurdy-gurdy, harmonium, 2 contrabassoons, 2 contrabass clarinets, subcontrabss tuba, contrabass serpent, heckelphone
Part of one of the Gerard Hoffnung Music Festivals. (LP probably re-issued on CD)
There is a solo by Phil Teal? on Lew Tebackin/Toshiko Akiyoshi: Tales of a Courtesan: Track: I ain't gonna ask no more. (LP)
Thanks again! With any luck (read "time"), I'll cobble up a first draft and post it on the web site, as a continuing work in progress.
As mentioned above, I spent all day yesterday in LA examining, playing, and ultimately buying three sarrusophones. At the moment, all are at the local repair shop being repadded and generally fixed up (the BBb contra lost a key post, and needs to have the bell straightened a bit). So, they had six sarrusophones: Eb alto, Eb baritone, Bb bass, two EEb contras and one BBb contra. The alto and baritone were interesting, but were priced as high as the BBb contra due to their relative scarcity, so I didn't spend much time (or anything else!) on them.
The Bb bass is a beautiful brass-lacquered instrument made by Triebert (Paris) in the 1920's. It was in generally excellent shape, and needs only a few pads replaced. In the case were a few reeds (which didn't appear to fit on the bocal) and two mouthpieces. The mpcs appeared to be the same size as an alto sax mpc. One in fact probably was an alto mpc, and had a cork stuffed in the bottom with a hole that fit the bocal. The other mpc was the same size, but instead of having an alto sax neck-sized hole in the bottom, had a little hole just big enough for the bocal. I tried it, with an alto sax reed, and it worked! With the single reed mpc, the horn sounds a lot like a bass sax. Actually, it sounds more like a bari sax timbre played an octave lower. With a double reed, it sounds much more "bassoony", but with saxophone parentage still evident.
One of the EEb contras was painted black, and was in generally crummy shape, so I didn't even bother trying it. The other EEb contra, however, is great. It's a Gautrot Marquet, and is in great shape (still needs a few pads replaced, though). It didn't have a case, so I brought it back wrapped in bubble wrap and cardboard (it survived unscathed). I'm looking into getting a contrabassoon gig bag for it. This horn has an old silver finish. There weren't any reeds for it, and the bocal is too wide to take the bass mpc, but I had fortunately brought some reeds with me (every size reed I could find). Amazingly, the great bass sordune reed worked perfectly, and I was able to play the entire range of the instrument easily. This horn definitely sounds more sax-like than bassoon-like, although I haven't heard it side by side with a contrabass sax ;-)
The BBb contra was made by Evette & Schaeffer, and stamped with the Buffett Crampon seal), and was a beautiful brass-gold colored horn. As I mentioned it had dropped a key post, so it was difficult to play. I finally taped the loose keys closed. The GB sordune reed didn't fit (the BBb bocal aperture is actually smaller than the EEb opening), but there were a few reeds in the case that worked after a fashion. The tone quality is between bassoon and contrabassoon. At least, it is at present. I haven't had much time to honk on them...yet.
Those of you who play bassoon may be pleased to hear that sarrusophones have a bunch of thumb keys. The bass-contra range all seemed to have 3-4 keys for the left thumb, and 1-0 for the right thumb. All of them had a key pad each for LH 123 and RH 123, with 3 keys for LH4 and 2 keys for RH 4. RH 1 also had 3 additional keys, which correspond to Bb and C alternate fingerings (as on a sax), and one altissimo key (which one, I haven't figured out yet). On all of the horns, one of the left thumb (LT) keys was for the lowest Bb, and the rest were octave keys (yep: three octave keys). Apart from the thumbs (and the lack of automatic octave keys), the rest of the fingering seems pretty sax-like. The low (written) C is LH123|RH1234, as on any sax. Eb uses the other RH4 key, and even has rollers just like the sax C-Eb key set.
I'll write more when I get them all back from the shop.
End Contrabass-L 1.9
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