Vol. 1, No. 9

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Vol. 1, No. 9 27 June 1996

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

From: PaulWalto@aol.com

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.

Re sarrusophones:

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?

  1. Sidney goes down to low Eb concert (I have perfect pitch, so I know). That's out of the range of the bass sax or sarrus.
  2. He'd be more likely to have a contrabass, the only size ever made in this country. (Hhe might have picked up a bass in Europe in the early '20s--he toured there and bought his first soprano sax in London in 1920. But see my comment about the range.)

Re contrabassoons:

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.

  1. Rod Baltimore, my music dealer here in New York (you could probably guess I was from NY because of my penchant for esoterica), told me of a jury-rigged sax he and some other repairmen built for the TV show, "I've Got A Secret," in the 1960s. He even showed me a picture! It was about 15 feet tall and appeared to be held together with the proverbial chewing gum and spit. Rod said the thing didn't play anywhere near in tune and was just a stunt. Rod Baltimore Music Inc. can be reached at (212) 575-9794.
  2. The Conn Co. built a display sax in the late '20s called the "Octo-Contrabass." It had 36 feet of tubing and was supposed to be fully workable, outside of the fact that no one human being could have blown the thing. I have some pictures of it from company publicity which I would be glad to supply on request.
  3. Are you sure the Rascher Ensemble records are still available? I thought they'd gone out of press years ago.

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'...

Paul Lindemeyer

Irvington, NY


Return-Path: <john0058@gold.tc.umn.edu>

From: "Paul S. Johnson" <john0058@gold.tc.umn.edu>

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
>contrabasset horn.

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 <hansm@pop.iaehv.nl>

From: "Hans Mons" <hansm@IAEhv.nl>

Date: Wed, 26 Jun 1996 08:36:47 +0000

Subject: Contra

Subj: Contrabass Discography

Here is my try to add a few renaissance instruments to the list.

The additions are marked with *.

Bass Recorder

Quart Bass recorder

Quint Bass Recorder

Great Bass Recorder ! This is the generic term for the Quart Bass and the Quint Bass.

Contrabass Recorder

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 Chalumeau

Bass Saxophone in BBb

Contrabass Saxophone in EEb

Octocontrabass Saxophone (?)

Bass Oboe

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

Contrabass Trombone

Bass Ophicleide

Bass Cornett


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

Hans Mons

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)


  1. Subbass in C (Quart Bass): Luciani Concerto for recorders includes several solos for this instrument played by david Bellugi and the Chianti classical orchestra on FRAME CD
  2. Bass in F, Subbass in C and Contrabass in F Hans-Joachim Hespos: Ilomba played by Blockfloetenensemble gerhard Braun on Thorofon capella MTH 2054? (LP)
  3. Subbass in F: Used by David Bellugi on several tracks with other recorders on three Centruies of World Music for Recorders?including a recorder version of Leo Brouwer's Paisaje Cubana; on FRAME
  4. Low recorders are often used in the 8 foot consort by the Amsterdam Loeki Stardust Recorder Quartet on CDs such as A Concorde of Sweet Sounds (L'Oiseau Lyre - CD), Anthony Holborne: Image of melancholy (CD), etc.


  1. Hamiett Bluiett: Sankofa/Rear Garde: 2 tracks for contralto, 1 unaccompanied, Black Saint (CD)
  2. Julian Spear: Music for Low Clarinets William Schmidt: Sonata for Contrabass Clarinet & Piano played by Julian Spear and Sharon Davis - this is probably played on a Selmer straight contralto. (WIMR-10 - LP)


  1. Anthony Braxton & Richard Teitelbaum: Time Zones (Contrabass & synthesizer on 1 side) (LP)
  2. Donald Martino: Triple Concerto for Clarinet, Bass Clarinet and Contrabass Clarinet [Nonesuch (LP)]
  3. Rudolf Kelterborn: Duo for Contrabass Clarinet and Viola [Jecklin (CD)]
  4. Marc Monnet: Pieces Celibitaires: Cirques for unaccompanied contrabass clarinet. Disques Montaignes (CD)
  5. Anthony Braxton: Complete Anthony Braxton, 1972: 1 track for unaccompanied contrabass clarinet (2 LPs) + various other Anthony Braxton recordings.


  1. Anthony Braxton & Richard Muhal Abrams: Duets (LP probably reissues on CD)) 1 track for contrabass saxophone & piano
  2. Anthony Braxton & George Lewis: Donaueschingen. (73%? kelvin has an extended duo for contrabass saxophone and trombone). Hat Art (CD)
  3. Music for Saxophone played by Daniel Kientzy: Includes Francois Rosse: Sonate en arcs for unaccompanied contrabass saxophone played alternatingly with soprano and alto saxophone played simultaneously. (LP)
  4. Nuclear Whales Saxophone Orchestra: Thar They Blow & Gone Fission sax ensemble with some prominent contrabass sax. (CD)


  1. Hindemith : Trio for Heckelphone, Viola and Piano. (various recordings 1 on LP - Wergo, 3 on CD - 1 on MDG, 1 on Capriccio)
  2. Paul Winter uses Heckelphone and gives it an extended solo on his album?; Track? (CD)


  1. Donald Erb: Concertino for Contrabassoon and Orchestra played by Greg Heneggar.
  2. Donald Erb: 5 Red Hot Duets for 2 Contrabassoons played by Greg Heneggar and
  3. The Big Bassoon: Susan Nigro, Contrabassoon, Mark Lindeblad, piano.Crystal records CD346 Includes: Vazgan Muradian: Contrabassoon Concerto; Donald Draganski: Heart's Desire; Alan Palider: The Narwhal; Ralph Nicholson: Miniature Suite; Frank Warren: Music for Contrabassoon and Piano; Matt Doran: Four Movements
  4. Arthur Grossman includes Irwin Schulhof: Bass Nachtigall for unaccompanied Contrabassoon(LP)
  5. Music of Stefan Wolpe & Irwin Schulhof (includes Bass Nachtigall) (CD)


  1. Paul Winter: Track Blues Cathedral includes duet for E Flat and C Contrabass Sarrusophones. (CD)
  2. Performance tape from IDRS Frankfurt 1992 of Sextuor de Sarrusophones
  3. Sidney Bechet playing Bass? Sarrusophone solo on Mandy Make up your Mind with Clarence Williams Blue Five 1924 (CD)


  1. Piacere Flute Ensemble: Flute Choir includes Subbass in F, Contrabass in C and Double Contrabass Flute in CC. Tokyo City Sounds TSCD Includes J.S. Bach: Toccata and Fugue in D Minor; Bizet: Carmen Suite; Mussorgsky: Pictures from an Exhibition
  2. JFA (Japan Flute Association) Flute Choir includes 1 subbass in F and 3 contrabass flues in C Includes Ryohei Hirose: Blue Train, Vivaldi: The Seasons; Dvorak: Slavonic Dance No. ; Debussy: Suite; Hora Staccato
  3. Joueurs de Flute includes contrabass in C: Jecklin CD
  4. Viennea Flautists includes contrabass in C: Includes Vivaldi: The seasons
  5. Pierre-Yves Artaud: Contemporary Flute Neuma Includes Traits Suspendus by Paul Mefano for unaccompanied amplified contrabass (contralto) flute in G; John Cage Ryoanji in a version for Octobass (contrabass in C) flute, pre-recorded octobass flute and percussion Pierre-Yves Artaud: Contemporary French Flute Music (LP) Includes Paul Mefano: Traits Suspendus for Amplified unaccompanied Contrabass (Contralto) Flute in G; Paul Mefano Gravidas for the same instrument.
  6. Matthias Ziegler: Marsyas' Song On this he plays Contrabass Flute in C. It is on the Percords label CD 992-002 and is probably available from Top Wind in London, 2, Lower marsh, London. Tel.: (0)171 401 8787. European Flute Festival Frankfurt am Main '93. A 2-CD compilation including
  7. Michael Heupel playing skb (SubKontrabassFlote) slap on his Sub Contrabass Flute (in G, 2 octaves below the alto flute in G). I got this from All Flutes Plus also in London, 5, Dorset Street, London. Tel.: (0)171 935 3339. There are also other Cds featuring Michael Heupel playing this instrument:
  8. Uwe Kropinski (Guitars) and Michael Heupel (Flutes): Africa Notebook, AHO CD 1024 which I got from HMV shop (Jazz Section), 150, Oxford Street, London. Tel.: (0)171 631 3423.
  9. Michael Heupel also plays in Norbert Stein's Pata Music and their 2 latest CDs 9. & 10. PATA CD 9 and PATA CD 8 are Graffiti and Blue Slit. Norbert Stein's PATA Music has an internet home page at: http://www.nettuno.it/ejn/labels/pata.htm
    The snail mail address is:
    Norbert Stein
    Eiserweg 14 a
    D- 51503 Roesrath
    and his e-mail address is: 101352.27@compuserve.com


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.


Subj: Sarrusophones!

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.


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