These records are designed to illustrate the principal types of instrument in use in Europe before 1600. They have been carefully planned in conjunction with the book included in the box: both follow the same sequence so that book and records may be used together. Those wishing to listen to the records straight trough may like to simply follow the pictures from the book; alternatively the listener may prefer to read the section on any particular instrument first, followed by the relevant musical illustration.
The illustrations themselves have been chosen to demonstrate as far as possible the function, range and special characteristics of each instrument. In the Middle Ages the accent is on solo pieces, sometimes with a suitable accompaniment; in the Renaissance the emphasis is more on the development of the complete soprano-to-bass consorts. Although many early wind instruments have no specific repertoire of their own, some unusual examples of specific instrumentation have been included, for instance the pieces by the Monk of Salzburg evidently intended for primitive horns and trumpets (S.2, B.Ia, 2b and 2d), Johann Schein’s Padouana for four crumhorns (S.3, B.4) two of the chansons from Attaingnant’s 1533 collection which are marked as suitable for flutes or recorders (S3, B8 and 9) and Monteverdi’s famous Toccata for trumpet band for Orfeo (S.4, B.I). Whilst some of the leading composers of the day have been included (Landini, Machaut, Dufay, Byrd, Dowland, Fiescobaldi, Monteverdi, Practorius) these records seemed an excellent opportunity to feature some of the lesser known composers as well. As far as possible the illustrations consist of complete pieces of music; in one or two cases, however, extracts or abridged versions have been used.
In order to keep within the time limits imposed by two gramophone records, a few of the more obscure instruments described in the book have regretfully had to be omitted. Others are included in ensembles rather than being given a solo to themselves (e.g. the courtaut, S.3, B.10, and the chitarrone, S.4, B.5). This is the case with all the non-melodic percussion instruments, since their main purpose is to provide some kind of rhythmic accompaniment the listener will find the relevant illustrations to chapter 5 spread over all four sides of these records. A list of the percussion instruments illustrated is included in the side analysis.
In the details of the instruments and their makers given below, dates are provided only for original instruments. Where no such information is given, the instrument concerned is a modern replica or reconstruction. On the first two sides a number of folk instruments have been employed, as being the nearest equivalent to their mediaeval ancestors. Instruments which have been in continuous use since the Middle Ages such as the shawm, hurdy-gurdy and straight trumpet provide an invaluable link with the live sounds of the past which is missing even in the case of surviving original instruments.
In ten years of giving concerts of early music there is one question which I have been asked with predictable regularity: please will you explain the instruments? This book is a response to the hundreds of people who have asked me that question and to my own gradual awareness that I was certain of very few of the answers. For me, writing the book has been the same sort of process of discovery that I hope it will be for those who read it. For the general reader I have tried to provide a balanced introduction to early instruments by summarizing, and in some cases no doubt over-simplifying, the vast amount of research which has been done in recent years. For the specialist who wishes to follow up certain instruments in greater detail the extensive footnotes should provide fruitful sources of further reading. Wherever possible references have been given to the works which have been consulted, including books and periodicals (in English only) as well as modern editions and facsimiles. I have endeavoured to give as much information as possible about the social and historical background, since without it an understanding of the function of early instruments must remain incomplete. The division of the book into two parts (before and after c. 1400) is intended to show which instru¬ments properly belong to the Middle Ages and which to the Renaissance, a fundamental point that, through the enthusiasm of early music performers (including myself), has sometimes been overlooked. Chapter 5 deals with both medieval and renaissance percussion instruments and acts as a bridge between the two parts. It should be noted that Part Two describes the instruments which developed after 1400, and where a medieval instrument continued in use more or less unaltered during renaissance times, it is fully dealt within Part One. Thus, details of the following are to be found in Part One only: pipe and tabor, gemshorn, portative organ, clavichord, psaltery, dulcimer, and tromba marina. In order not to cram the book with information which would be superfluous for many readers, I have assumed a working knowledge of modern orchestral instruments and some acquaintance with the history of music before 1600. Readers who do require guidance on the latter point are referred to Gustave Reese’s two books, Music in the Middle Ages (Norton, New York 1940), and Music in the Renaissance (Norton, New York 1954), or to the earlier chapters by Alec Harman in Man and his Music (Barrie and Rocklift, London 1962). Inevitably, since new discoveries are still being made and new evidence is still coming to light, this book will be out of date in some respects before it is published. Even as I write, the appearance of Sybil Marcuse’s A Survey of Musical Instruments (David and Charles, London 1975) makes available much fascinating new information too late to be included here. Readers who are eager to keep abreast of all the latest developments are strongly advised to subscribe to the periodicals regularly mentioned in the footnotes. They will find especially valuable the journal Early Music (published quarterly by the Oxford University Press) which contains the most up-to-date information available about makers of early instruments and details of where replicas may be obtained.
Any fresh attempt to contribute to the study of musical instruments must inevitably draw on the work of other writers in this field. My debts are too numerous to acknowledge in detail here: a full account of the sources of information I have used is given in the foot¬notes, whilst the authors to whom I am most indebted are mentioned in the text itself. Special tribute must be paid to the work of the Galpin Society: through its annual journal and the individual publications of its members a vast amount of important research has appeared in print. I would particularly like to acknow¬ledge the influence of the writings of Anthony Baines. It was the publication of his Woodwind Instruments and their History (Faber, London 1957) which first stimulated my interest in early instruments; in writing this book I have found myself constantly referring to his European and American Musical Instruments (Batsford, London 1966) for information about instrument con¬struction and the clarification of distinctions between different instrumental types. His lucid, concise, and informative style has been my model.
In writing this book I have benefited from the practical help and co-operation of a number of people. To James Blades, John Caldwcll, Christopher Hogwood, Edgar Hunt, Christopher Monk, Mary Remnant, and James Tyler my thanks are due for reading various chapters and giving me their advice and comments. Between them they spotted an alarming number of errors and inconsistencies, though for any that may remain I of course take full responsibility. I am also grateful for the assistance I have received from Clifford Bartlett, Donald Gill, Ian Harwood, Robert Spencer, and John Thomson. To the Librarian of the University of Leicester my thanks are due for allowing me to borrow, for an extended period, a large number of books greatly exceeding my allotted quota. Over the years I have learnt a great deal from my friends and colleagues in the Early Music Consort of London, many of whom appear in the illustrations of this book. It is from their study and skills that much of my practical knowledge has been derived. To James Tyler I owe a special debt of gratitude. In endless conversations over the last few years he has constantly stimulated my imagination and regularly challenged preconceived ideas and woolly thinking. He has also placed all the fruits of his own research at my disposal, and, with equal generosity, allowed me to borrow freely from his extensive collection of books and articles. Many museums, libraries, and publishers have kindly given permission to reproduce illustrations; full acknowledgements will be found in the captions.
To the Oxford University Press my thanks are due for the patience and courtesy by which I was allowed to over-run a whole series of deadlines. Without the help and encouragement of Anthony Mulgan and Sally Wright I doubt if this book would ever have been completed. I am most grateful to Sally Wright for all the assistance she has given me, particularly with the time-consuming task of organizing the illustrations. Without the support of my wife, Gill, however, this book would never have been started, let alone finished. Gill has managed to discreetly remind me of my promise to write it at the moments when I was most inclined to forget, encouraged me to carry on at the moments when I was most liable to give up, and always been ready to discuss things when I got stuck or sit down at any hour of the day or night and type out a new section as soon as it was written. I think she is now the only person left who can actually read my handwriting. From the first draft to the final proof-reading her help has been invaluable.
The story of musical instruments is almost as old as that of mankind: the beginnings lie shrouded in pre-history and the process of evolution has been a gradual one, amazingly slow in the early stages. Music itself was a slow developer amongst the other arts: the introduction to Europe of many medieval instruments coincided with the first attempts at writing measured part-music, a fundamental process of composition which might be compared to learning to paint in colour, to write in verse, or to construct a stone archway. Yet when Leonin and Perotin produced the earliest monuments of polyphony it was in the shadow of the great . cathedral of Notre Dame (started in the year 1163) when Europe had finally emerged from the Dark Ages and men were looking back for inspiration to the art, architecture, and literature of the Greek and Roman civilizations. The so-called ‘Renaissance of the twelfth century’ which witnessed such important musical develop¬ments also saw the establishment of universities at Paris, Montpellier, Oxford, Bologna, and Salerno, a new learning and literature in Latin, and the flowering of troubadour poetry and the drama of the medieval church. Amongst these other arts music was something of a beginner, and the instruments of music were still at an early stage in their development. However, classical ideas and ideals, as interpreted by the medieval theorists, were to exercise a profound effect on their use, representation, and subsequent evolution.
Evolution is perhaps a dangerous word to use, since it is a mistake to view the history of musical instruments in terms of the survival of the fittest. The extinction of a particular species has generally been the result of changing taste or fashion rather than inherent weakness; the musicians of the Middle Ages and Renaissance overcame any shortcomings or limitations which might seem apparent from a twentieth-century viewpoint. Their instruments perfectly fulfilled the musical requirements of the society to which they belonged and few of them can be dismissed as primitive or regarded merely as prototypes. The majority of them played a vital role in musical life, their natural habitat was the highly civilized milieu of the European courts, and their repertoire included some of the most sophisticated art-music of the times. Nor should the skill and artistry of the performers be under¬estimated; whilst we shall never know precisely how Dufay sang or Dowland played we may be sure that in both technique and interpretation they were amongst the supreme masters of any age. The professional musicians then combined versatility with virtuosity just as modern folk musicians still do now in countries such as Greece, Turkey, the Balkans, and the Middle East.
Compared to the instruments of the modern symphony orchestra (the product of man’s conscious selection) those in use before 1600 are clearly limited in many respects. The wind instruments especially demonstrate severe restrictions of compass, tonal range, and volume which, although compatible with their original function, prevented their continued use in later ages. Yet to some extent all modern orchestral instruments represent a compromise in terms of sound in order to facilitate greater technical control and dexterity. Whilst the brass and woodwind departments provide a vivid example of man’s scientific ingenuity, there is a debit side to all the mechanical improvements and innovations of the nineteenth century. There is no orchestral instrument as strident as the shawm, as sweet as the gemshorn, or as hollow as the panpipes, nothing to compare with the nasal edginess of the rebec or the biting rattle of the tromba marina, nothing to match the vocal timbre of the cornett or the rich buzz of the crumhorn and regal. And with plucked instru¬ments the renewal of interest in music before 1600 has brought back into being a bewildering panoply of subtle and exotic sounds previously lost to European musical life outside folk music. The people of the Middle Ages and Renaissance liked gorgeous colours in their clothes, sharp contrasts in their paintings, and highly spiced dishes at their table. The characteristics of their musical instruments were equally individual and uncompromising.
The revival of interest in early instruments began during the last century with the work of (amongst others) François Joseph Fétis (1784-1871) whose collection of seventy-eight instru¬ments provided the nucleus for that of the Brussels Conservatoire (now known as the Brussels Museum of Musical Instruments). Through the enthusiastic direction of Victor Mahillon (1841-1924) the collection swelled to over 1,500 items including a number of renais¬sance replicas which Mahillon commissioned. The best-known pioneers were both English and, curiously enough, born in the same year: Arnold Dolmetsch (I858-I94O)1 and Francis W. Galpin (1858-1945).- Since their day detailed research has multiplied, amassing an enormous body of material about the history, con¬struction, and use of early instruments. The nature of the evidence is so varied that it may be helpful to summarize the main sources of information, bearing in mind that evidence is often conflicting or misleading and not always to be accepted at face value.
I. ORIGINAL INSTRUMENTS
Instruments from before c.i6oo which have been preserved in good (and unaltered) condition are relatively rare. Many museums confidently exhibit instruments which have been drastically ‘improved’ in later centuries and surviving instruments usually require restoration or at least the replacement of strings, reeds, crooks, keys, or mouthpieces. Whilst stringed instru¬ments, like good wine, mature with age, wind instruments can eventually fall into a decline since wooden bores warp easily and metal tends to become brittle with age. Informed opinion now favours the principle of preserving intact what original instruments remain, avoiding any radical form of renovation. Otherwise future generations will be left without any true originals to study or copy.
Medieval survivals in any state of preservation are naturally scarce and dispersed in collections all over the world. For a survey of them readers are referred to Frederick Crane’s Extant Medieval Musical Instruments (University of Iowa Press, Iowa City 1972). With renaissance instruments, many more examples still exist and three Euro¬pean collections are especially valuable – those of the Brussels Museum of Musical Instruments, the Staatliches Institut fur Musikforschung, West Berlin, and the Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna. Some of the finest specimens from these, and other important collections, are included in Anthony Baines’ European and American Musical Instruments (Batsford, London 1966).
2. FOLK INSTRUMENTS
The dearth of original medieval instruments is more than compensated for by the existence of countless folk-music survivals. In many countries folk music has preserved medieval traditions of making and playing and quite a number of instrumental types have lived on, virtually unchanged, since the Middle Ages. They provide a fascinating link with the live sounds of the past, missing in all other forms of evidence. Our knowledge of medieval music-making is immeasurably richer through the continued existence of the Arab lute, the fiddles of the Balkans, the shawms of Turkey and the Middle East, and the many other survivals mentioned or illustrated in this book.
3. ICONOGRAPHICAL EVIDENCE
Medieval and renaissance artists have preserved a wealth of information about musicians and their instruments in countless carvings, statues, paintings, manuscript illuminations, and woodcuts. Such evidence must be treated with great care. The stylization of medieval art often obscures playing techniques and details of size and construction, whilst throughout the Middle Ages and Renaissance conventions of classical and religious symbolism governed the work of all artists to a considerable degree. The most obvious instance is the dazzling variety of musical instruments shown in the hands of angels by religious painters of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. Such angel concerts belong not to this world but to paradise and they bear little relation to contemporary church-music practice, where the emphasis was on a cappella singing. For an illuminating study of this subject the reader is referred to Emanuel Winternitz’s Musical Instruments and their Symbolism in Western Art (Faber, London 1967).
4. LITERARY EVIDENCE
Whilst literary references to musical instruments are numerous, writers, like artists, were affected by prevailing conventions. In French pastoral poems of the Middle Ages, for example, the classical association between shepherds and their pipes leads to an extraordinary emphasis on wind instruments, quite at variance with the dominance of stringed instruments in the real musical life of the time. In one study of 184 poems,3 only three out-of 104 instrumental references are to stringed instruments.
5. ACCOUNTS OF PERFORMERS AND PERFORMANCES
Eye-witness accounts of music-making are regrettably rare before the sixteenth century: if only there had been a medieval equivalent of Dr Burney how enlightened our knowledge of performance practice would be! A fascinating amount of information has been assembled by Werner Bachmann in chapter IV of The Origins ofBoii’ing (Oxford University Press, London 1969) and it reveals that versatility was taken for granted. The medieval minstrel of Les deux Bordéors ribaus says: ‘I shall tell you what I can do: I am a fiddler, I play the bagpipe and flute, harp, chifonie and giga, psaltery and rote, and I can sing a song as well.’4 The ability to sing and double on instruments of such different types may surprise us today but it is echoed by William Kemp’s praise of the Norwich Waits in 1600: ‘Who, besides their excellency in wind instru¬ments, their cunning on the viol, and violin: their voices be admirable, every one of them able to serve in any cathedral church in all Christendom for quiristers.’ Although concerts of early music today tend to feature fairly small combinations of performers, special occasions evidently demanded forces of orchestral proportions. At the cele¬brations at Westminster in 1306 over sixty instrumentalists are listed as taking part8 and the magnificent banquet known as the Feast of the Pheasant7 held at Lille in 1454 featured a wide variety of colourful ensembles including twenty-eight musicians inside a huge pastry castle. During the Renaissance such court extravaganzas became more common and are regularly chronicled.
6. THEORETICAL WORKS AND TUTORS
Medieval theorists, following Greek practice, were more concerned with the academic and philosophical aspects of music than with practical details, and references to instruments and their use are tantalizingly scarce. The first substantial account comes in the treatise De Inventions et Usu Musicae written in about 1487 by Johannes Tinctoris (1445-1511). Even he includes only those contemporary fifteenth-century instruments which he could confidently derive from classical antiquity. Information is more plentiful when we reach the sixteenth century. Mnsica gcttttscht (Basel 1511) by Sebastian Virdung is the first known instrumental tutor, dealing especially with keyboard instruments, the lute, and the recorder. Martin Aericola re-worked Virdune’s material in his Musica instrumentalis deutsch (Wittenberg 1528) and more specialized tutors followed, such as those by Sylvestro Ganassi for recorder and viol. The most informative and practical of renaissance writers on instruments is the German composer Michael Praetorius (1571-1621). The second volume of his treatise Syntagma Musician (Wolfenbüttel 1618-19) is entitled dc Orgatiographia and deals in fascinating detail with all the instruments of the day. The third volume of Syntagma Musician contains a mine of information about contemporary instrumental practice. Finally, Marin Mersenne (1588-1648) devotes a substantial part of his Hannonie Universelle (Paris 1636) to instruments, and although he clearly lacked much of Praetorius’ practical knowledge, his treatment is encyclopedic.
7. PAYMENTS AND INVENTORIES
Besides giving precise information as to who played what, where, and when, accounts of payments to musicians make absorbing reading, underlying the menial status of much of the profession and its inherent insecurity. Even musicians on a municipal or royal pay-roll often found their wages in arrears, whilst freelance itinerants were regularly classed with rogues and vagabonds. For a study in depth of one particular period, the reader is referred to Walter L. Woodfill’s Musicians in English Society from ElizaheA to Charles I (Princeton University Press, 1953; reprinted Da Capo, New York 1969), and for lists of musicians employed in the English royal household to Henry Cart de Lafontaine’s The King’s Mustek (Novello, London 1909; reprinted Da Capo, New York
I973)- A number of important inventories exist from the sixteenth century onwards, listing instruments belonging to various courts and households. Amongst the most valuable are the Henry VIII Inventory8 and the Cassel Inventories.”
8. THE MUSIC ITSELF
In the days when composers wrote for the present rather than posterity and musicians performed what was, stylistically speaking, a very narrow range of music, it was unnecessary to write down everything relating to perform¬ance. Consequently, pieces with specific instrumentation are rare before 1600, though some unusual examples will be quoted during the course of the book. The only instruments which acquired an extensive repertoire of their own were the keyboard and lute families, and to a lesser extent the viol. This was the result of the use of tablature, a type of notation specifically designed for the instrument concerned. Apart from the earliest keyboard tablatures, virtually the only purely instrumental music to have been preserved from the Middle Ages is monophonic dance music: the surviving estampies and saltarelli must represent a tiny part of a vigorous but largely unwritten tradition, governed by memory and improvisation. The principal role of instruments in art music was an accompanying one: to support the human voice in the song forms of the day – the ballade, virelai, and rondeau – though instrumental arrangements of these forms must surely have been made too. The restricted compass of medieval music made many different sizes of the same instrumental type unnecessary, and most instruments seem to have existed as a single basic size, with many variants. The independent lines of medieval polyphony suggest the use of contrasting instrumental types in an ensemble, rather than a uniform sonority, and much of the evidence already cited supports this. With the Renaissance came the development of instrumental polyphony and the ‘consort’ principle. To cope with the demands of a new musical style, makers produced instruments in soprano-to-bass sets following the different categories of the human voice which composers began to distinguish clearly during the fifteenth century. But whilst the typical ‘consort’ of the Renaissance was a family unit, heterogeneous ensembles were popular too. The development of instrumental music greatly benefited from the start of music printing, pioneered by Petrucci in 1501 and followed by Attaingnant, Susato, Ballard and Lc Roy, and many others. The quantity of instrumental music published during the first century of music printing is staggering: readers are referred here to Howard Mayer Brown’s exhaustive survey Instrumental Music printed before 1600 (Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Mass. 1965). A comparison of its contents with those of the inventories mentioned above reveals an apparent anomaly. The vast majority of music published is for strings (mostly lute) and keyboard, yet in the inventories it is the wind instruments which predominate. The explanation is a social one. Wind players were mainly professionals whilst for commercial success music publishing needed to appeal to the amateur market. And amateurs, both courtly and middle class, generally preferred strings. Playing the lute or virginals was an infinitely more decorous pastime than blowing a crumhorn or rackett and the gentle sounds of renaissance stringed instruments were ideally suited to domestic music-making. It might be argued that this book omits what was the most important instrument of all in medieval and renaissance times: the human voice. Amongst theorists, composers, performers, and listeners its supremacy was unquestioned, and its influence on the development of man-made musical instruments was profound. Whether they were accompanying singers, doubling voice parts, or even replacing them entirely, instruments were measured against the human voice. Wide though it is, the spectrum of sound provided by early instruments can be seen as being made up of different facets of vocal timbre. And there was no doubt that the instrumentalist’s job was to imitate the human voice as best he could. In the preface to the first recorder tutor, the Fontegara published in 1535, Sylvestro Ganassi shows clearly where his priorities lie. His opening remarks may be quoted by way of a caveat to this whole book:
‘Be it known that all musical instruments, in comparison to the human voice, are inferior to it. For this reason, we should endeavour to learn from it and to imitate it. . .just as a gifted painter can reproduce all the creations of nature by varying his colours, you can imitate the expression of the human voice on a wind or stringed instrument… I have heard that it is possible with some players to perceive, as it were, words to their music; thus one may truly say that. . . only the form of the human body is absent, just as in a fine picture, only the breath is lacking.’10
1. For an account of Dolnictsch sec Margaret Campbell, Dolmetsch: the Man and his Work (Hamish Hamilton, London 1975).
2. Galpin’s principal writings arc: .-1 Textbook of European Musical Instruments (London 1937) and Old English Instruments of Music, fourth edition revised by Thurston Dart (Methuen, London 1965).
3. See Gerald Hayes, ‘Musical Instruments’, New Oxford History of Music, III (Oxford University Press, London 1960) p.479.
4. Werner Bachmann, The Origins of Bowing, translated by Norma Deane (Oxford University Press, London19(19) P-H9-
5. Walter L. Woodfill, Musicians in English Society, (Princeton University Press, 1953 ; reprinted Da Capo, New York 1969) pp.86-7.
6. Bachmann, op. cit., pp. 128-9.
7. For an account of this event see Edmund A. Bowles, ‘Instruments at the Court of Burgundy’, Galpin Society Journal, VI (1953) pp.41-3.
8. Printed in Francis W. Galpin, Old English Instruments of Music, fourth edition revised by Thurston Dart (Methuen, London 1965) pp.215-22.
9. See Anthony Baines, ‘Two Cassel Inventories’, Galpin Society Journal, IV (1951) pp. 30-8.
10. Sylvestro Ganassi, Opera Intitnlata Fontegara (Venice 1535; ed. Hildemarie Peter, Robert Lienau, Berlin 1956; English translation by Dorothy Swainson) p.9
Music and Her Attendants. Fourteenth-century Italian miniature illustrating the DE arithmetica of Bocthius. Paying homage to the central figure of Music, who is playing a portative organ, are musicians with examples of all the principal instrumental types of the Middle Ages: above her, fiddle, psaltery, and lute; beside her, tambourine and clappers; below her, bagpipes, shawm, nakers, and trumpets. The choice and arrangement of instruments has evidently been made with great care. Loud and soft instruments are separated from one another, and the selection features the most respected instruments of each type. The only surprising omission is the harp. (Biblioteca Nazionale, Naples: MS
Medieval woodwind instruments offer a clear example of the ‘soft’ and ‘loud’ categories of music which Europe inherited from the East. Most of the reed instruments were loud and used mainly out of doors, whilst the intimate sound of the flute types was more appropriate indoors. The rules were not hard and fast, however. We know shawms were occasionally used in church, bagpipes found their way into soft ensembles, and the pipe and tabor and the military fife were regularly used in the open air.
Over details of pitch and range, it is impos¬sible to be precise and in any case there was no standard type of each instrument but rather a whole series of regional variations. But it seems fairly safe to assume that most of the woodwind instruments on which overblowing was possible (all except panpipes, bladder pipes, and some bagpipes) had a range of roughly a diatonic octave and a half. Some chromatic notes, though certainly not all, could be obtained by cross fingering, but the bagpipes, bladder pipes, double pipes, and tabor pipes must have been very limited in this respect.
It is surprising just how different medieval instruments can be from any of their modern descendants. The shawm, derived from the Latin word calamus meaning a reed (hence also the French chalemie and chalemele and the Spanish chirimia), was the chief double-reed instrument until the seventeenth century. Yet who would suspect, listening to the intimate and seductive tone of the orchestral oboe today, that it was the offspring of such an aggressive outdoor parent? Of all medieval instruments the shawm is the wildest and most extrovert. Judging by survivals as far apart as Morocco and China, its tone was brilliant, piercing, often deafening. In folk music it is still used with other loud outdoor instruments such as trumpets and drums, and this was the case in the Middle Ages too. Even today in countries such as Turkey it is still possible to earn your living as an itinerant shawm player. In Istanbul it is a regular occurrence to hear a shawm and drum playing in the streets. The shawm player walks slowly in front, cheeks puffed out, blowing incessantly without pausing for breath. He is using the same tech¬nique as that employed by glass-blowers: the pressure from his cheeks helps him to blow out through his mouth whilst breathing in through his nose at the same time. Behind him comes the drummer playing on a davul, which is rather like a small bass drum. The player uses two sticks: a big spoon-shaped one for the basic
beat and a thin double-ended stick for elaborate cross-rhythms. And at the same time he manages to pick up the money which people throw as they pass by.
It is fortunate that there are so many folk survivals of the shawm since they can teach us much about the instrument’s history. Ensembles of shawms, trumpets, and drums formed the typical Saracen military band during the time of the Crusades. The noise must have been shattering, particularly when it assailed the ears of the early crusaders to whom such instruments were something of a novelty. The shawm is probably a Mohammedan invention and is said to have been developed in Baghdad during the time of the Calif Harun-al-Rashid (763-809).1 Whilst the scholar Curt Sachs put the invention at least some 600 years earlier, in the second century AD,= it seems fairly certain that the shawm spread into Europe from the east, as a result of the Crusades, the trade through Constantinople, and the Moorish occupation of Spain. The typical oriental shawm is a keyless instrument a foot or so long with seven finger-holes and a thumb-hole. Its essential features are its double reed and expanding conical bore. Although the wide flared bell is the instrument’s most recognizable feature it makes compara¬tively little contribution to the tone or volume. Whilst the length and shape of the bore govern the pitch, it is the small reed and the way it is used which account for the shawm’s amazing carrying power, helped in performance by the way many folk players blow the instrument upwards in the manner of a jazz trumpeter. A cylindrical section of softish reed, such as maize, is flattened out and squeezed into a waisted shape. It is mounted on a metal staple and is not controlled by the lips at all, but just by breath pressure. The player presses his lips against a metal disc at the base of the staple,
Enlargement of oriental shawm reed mounted on its staple. The ‘waist’ of the reed is bound with taking the entire reed inside his mouth.
The earliest medieval shawms in Europe were presumably very similar to their Eastern counterparts. From the twelfth century onwards the shawm starts to appear regularly in illustra¬tions and carvings and we may assume that it continued to fulfil the same sorts of functions as it had done in the east: playing a principal part in military and ceremonial music, processions, and dance music. A typical literary reference comes in the fourteenth-century English romance Sir Degrevant, linking the shawm with trumpet and drum:
With the trompe and with nakere And the scalmuse clere.
By this time the European shawm had emerged in a rather different form from that of its oriental parent. The disc had been replaced by a pirouette and the nature of the reed and embouchure had changed (see chapter 6, page 40). Larger sizes were developing too. Whereas the earlier type of small shawm operated in the upper part of the treble stave descending to somewhere near F above middle C, the larger type of shawm went an octave or more lower. During the fourteenth century it acquired the separate name of bombard or bumbard (French bombarde, German Pumhart, and various other corruptions) from the Latin Iambus, meaning drone or buzz. The word was apparently taken over from an artillery piece of the same name, and first occurs in the sense of a musical instrument in 1342.” In i$j6 grosses bombardes were described as ‘new’, and in 1453 we find a chalemie appelée bombarde (a shawm called bombard).’1 In his Confessio Amantis (1393)
Gower actually distinguished the two types: ‘the soun.de of bumbarde and of clarionne with cornemuse and shalmele …5
In a manuscript of about the same date, containing music by Hermann, Monk of Salzburg,” there are simple polyphonic compositions in which the lowest „part is marked der pumhart, a rare medieval instance of specified instrumentation. At a time when there was rather a shortage of sustaining instruments of tenor pitch, the bombard must have been very useful for coping with the tenor parts in the chansons and motets of Machaut, Landini, and their contemporaries. Although opinion diverges on this point – the participation of the shawm in polyphonic music – both iconograplucal and literary evidence do suggest a wide and varied use of the instrument. It is particularly interesting that shawms were certainly used on occasions in church, not only ceremonially as when in 1235 the Abbot of St Albans was received ‘with the minstrelsy of shawms’, but also to double the voices of the choir.7
Reed pipes and hornpipes
Whether it was playing martial music, dances, church music, or chansons, the sound of the shawm must always have been an intoxicating one. It belongs to the orgiastic tradition of reed instruments which begins with the Greek aulos, used to accompany the dithyramb in the wild rites of Dionysus, and continues with the jazz saxophone and clarinet of our own day.8 The precursor of all these is the simple reed pipe in which reed, mouthpiece, and finger-holes are all fashioned out of the same
Primitive reed pipes: hornpipe from Finland, single reed pipe from Greece, double reed pipe from Ibiza. (Author’s collection) short length of cane. In most parts of the world where suitable cane is grown, these reed pipes are still common. Greek, Spanish, and Arab shepherds alike while away their time by making and playing these most primitive of reed instruments. A section of cane is cut leaving a knot at one end. Four or five evenly spaced finger-holes are burned out with a hot wire or nail, and the single reed is made by slicing out a small tongue, shaving it down but still leaving the base attached to the knot. And so it must have been throughout the Middle Ages and long before.
This straightforward instrument has developed many variants including double pipes and the more sophisticated hornpipe. As a single instrument, this survived in Wales until the eighteenth century as the pibcorn (literally ‘pipe horn’). The handsome example now preserved in the Welsh Folk Museum, St Pagans, near Cardiff, shows the three-sectional construction. The central section is of wood and two horns are attached to it, the larger one at the lower and acting as a bell, the other as a mouthpiece enclosing the detachable single reed which is inserted in the top of the pipe. Hornpipes of this kind thus qualify as the earliest type of reed-cap instrument, though the horn makes a much less satisfactory and less comfortable cap than that later devised for the crumliorn and its relatives. Hornpipes must have been fairly common in Europe in the early Middle Ages. A Saxon vocabulary of the eighth century mentions one made of bone – the swegelhorn.9 Double hornpipes were probably more common than the single variety, often minus one of the horns. All in all, single-reed instruments seem to have occupied a more important place in medieval music-making than they are generally given credit for. Nor was their use necessarily restricted to popular music if the Beauchamp window in St Mary’s Church, Warwick, is anything to go by. The beautiful stained glass panels (designed in 1447) show an angelic consort in which single and double hornpipes are mixed with instruments of serious music-making such as the cornett, harpsichord, organ, and clavichord.10
Welsh pibcorn (Welsh Folk Museum, St Pagans, Cardiff) and, bottom, Basque double hornpipe (Horninian Museum, London) claim such widespread and continuous use since the Middle Ages: Scotland, Ireland, France, Spain, Italy, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Poland, and Egypt are some of the countries in which distinctive varieties of bagpipe are still flourishing. Information about the instrument is voluminous and readers who would like more detail than the scope of this book permits should consult the authoritative works on the subject by Anthony Baines and Francis Collinson.11
Although the origins of the bagpipe are unknown, its history goes back long before the Middle Ages and it must have started life as a rustic instrument. What more natural than for a herdsman who tended sheep or goats and played a reed pipe to think of combining the two? Yet the earliest mention of the bagpipe is in the hand of an emperor. The Roman historian Suetonius relates how the Emperor Nero ‘towards the end of his life … had publicly vowed that if he retained power he would at the games in celebration of his victory give a performance on the water-organ, the choraulam, and utricularium-12 The tibia utricularis is mentioned elsewhere, and the Greek Dio Chrysostom is specific. He says that Nero ‘knew how to play the pipe with his mouth and the bag thrust under his arms’.12 This royal association should not altogether surprise us, even though Nero’s vow must have been in the nature of a penance. Throughout the Middle Ages the bagpipe was far from being a mere peasant instrument: it was heard and appreciated at all levels of society.
The reason for the bagpipe’s development and enormous popularity is not hard to understand. The nature of any solo wind music, particularly medieval or folk dance music, makes a continuous sound desirable: yet this is impossible to achieve without the oriental breathing technique previously mentioned. The bag of the bagpipe solves the problem: the player can keep up the flow of air by squeezing the bag with his arm whilst he takes a breath to renew the air supply. The most common material still used for making the bag is the complete skin of some suitable animal such as a sheep or goat. Its neck and front leg-holes are useful for attaching the instrument’s various pipes, though tie joints are reinforced with stocks. These are wooden sockets fitted into the holes and secured by binding the skin tightly round them.
Besides the bag and stocks, the only other features common to all medieval bagpipes were the mouthpipe and the chanter. The mouthpipe contains a simple device which allows the player to breathe. A round piece of leather hinged on to the bag end of the mouthpipe acts like a non-return valve. When the player blows air in, it opens; when he stops blowing, the pressure in the bag forces the flap shut. The chanter usually has seven finger-holes and a thumb-hole giving a basic octave-and-a-note scale plus a tuning hole or two at the bottom end. The medieval bagpipe chanter existed in two different forms, either cylindrical bore plus single reed – adapting the reed-pipe idea – or conical bore plus double reed, following the principle of the shawm. Horns were sometimes added to the end of the cylindrical chanter after the manner of the hornpipe. Overblowing is only possible on pipes with conical chanters: modern Spanish players increase the pressure on the bag to extend the range two or three notes up into the second octave, but how far back this practice goes is uncertain.
It may seem surprising that the drone – to us the most characteristic feature of the bagpipe’s sound – was not ubiquitous in the Middle Ages. Although drones were certainly in common use from the thirteenth century onwards, they were by no means universal. It is likely that the earliest forms of the instrument were droneless, like the simple bagpipe to be heard in the nightclubs of Cairo to this day. The drone pipe is always cylindrical13 and sounded with a single reed. In order to permit accurate tuning with the chanter (normally two octaves below the chanter’s key note) the drone is made in two or more sections, so that the player can sharpen or flatten it by adjusting the length. The miniatures in the thirteenth-century Cantigas de Santa Alternative Bulgarian chanters (cylindrical bore) and Spanish chanter (conical bore). During the Middle Ages the conical chanter became the standard European form.
Maria14 manuscript include bagpipes with two drones but this seems to have been unusual until renaissance times.
The bagpipe made an ideal instrument for solo dances and monophonic music, but it seems to have taken part in polyphonic music too. Guillaume de Machaut (17.1300-77) includes bagpipes in a rare and rather baffling clue to the instrumentation of his own music. In Le Livre An Voir Dit he suggests that his three-part ballade Nès que an porroit15 may be played on the organ, bagpipes, or other instruments and that ‘this is its very nature’.16 If only Machaut had been more specific! Only the tenor part of the piece, with a range of a diatonic octave, seems at all negotiable on the bagpipe and even here the rests present a bit of a problem. With its limited compass the use of the bagpipe in polyphonic music remains quite a mystery. The existence of a drone removes the possibility of any change of keynote, and even without a drone there is the problem of articulation. You cannot tongue a note on the bagpipe because the air reservoir in the bag acts as a barrier between tongue and chanter. Instead the effect of articulation is achieved by some kind of ‘gracing’: at its simplest this means sounding another note with a quick flick of the fingers which has the effect of a very short acciaccatura. We simply do not know what sort of gracing medieval bagpipers used, but it may have sometimes been quite elaborate, as in Highland bagpipe music today, where gracing has become an art as subtle and varied as the ornamentation of the French clavecin composers such as Rameau and Couperin.
Although it is frequently pictured or listed in the company of other instruments (including an ensemble of twenty-eight at the Burgundian Feast of the Pheasant17) it is difficult to see how the bagpipe could have ever been a satisfactory instrument for polyphonic music. As so often the medieval theorists give us no practical help. The bagpipe is ‘above all other instruments’ says Jerome of Moravia (c.1250) echoing what John Cotton said a century before.18 Yet the existence of the bladder pipe from the thirteenth century onwards suggests that whatever the bagpipe’s status, players may have been trying to solve some of the problems just mentioned. In essence, the bladder pipe seems to have been an attempt to have it both ways: to combine the bagpipe’s continuous air flow with an instrument which could stop and start more easily, and on which some kind of tonguing and articulation may have been possible. Instead of a large animal skin which requires arm pressure to make it work, the bladder pipe employs an elastic animal bladder which will expel a certain amount of air down the pipe just by its own elasticity. The air reservoir is much smaller than on the bagpipe, so the player would have had to snatch a quick breath when necessary as opposed to the more leisurely breathing possible on the bagpipe. The bladder pipe continued in use up to the sixteenth century, even after the crumhorn had become popular. Virdung includes it in his Musica getutscht (1511) under the name Platerspil. The instrument had already taken various forms: the Cantigas de Santa Maria manuscript shows a curved single bladder pipe and a straight double one. Although the curved instrument, like Virdung’s, is apparently made out of a solid piece of wood in the manner of a crumhorn, the shape must have come in the first place from a horn bell added to a straight tube as on the hornpipe. This feature is preserved on a rare Polish shepherd’s instrument, apparently the only real modern survival of the bladder pipe.10 It is curious that whilst the bagpipe has gone from strength to strength, the bladder pipe has almost entirely died out.
For all the reed instruments so far described there exist both folk music survivals to tell us what they sounded like, and medieval pictures or carvings to tell us what they looked like. No such help is forthcoming for the douçaine, the most mysterious of all medieval instruments. It is regularly mentioned in European literature of the thirteenth, fourteenth, and fifteenth centuries in various spellings including dulfcina (Spanish) and douchaine (Low German). Machaut mentions the douctinne in the Reincdc dc Fortune, and in the fourteenth-century poem Lcs Ecliccs iiinoiireiix, (landmines are described along with flutes as being very soft and very pleasant.20 Piecing together the scanty information available has led different scholars to varying conclusions:
‘…. the soft oboe’ (Sachs)21
‘….just a suspicion that it might have been a type of flute’ (Hayes)22
‘….we cannot altogether rule out another possible answer, namely that the instrument was a kind of shawm’ (Baines)23
The most specific information comes in the De inventions et usii initsicae (^1487), one of the theoretical works of Tinctoris, who classes the dttltina as a type of tibia (reed instrument). He distinguishes it from the shawm (celitncla) which is a perfect instrument on which any kind of composition can be played. ‘On the other hand that tibia called the dulcina, on account of the softness of its sound, has seven holes in front and one behind, like a. fistula (recorder). Since not every kind of piece can be played on it, it is considered to be imperfect.’24
In other words the douçaine has the restricted compass characteristic of cylindrical bore reed instruments. It was certainly soft – the adjective is several times applied to it – and it certainly had a reed according to Tinctoris. If its bore was cylindrical, the douçaine must very probably have operated at tenor rather than treble pitch. Pitch, compass, and volume would have thus made it ideal for medieval tenor parts which are often limited to an octave and a note in range. What is unclear is the nature of the reed (single or double) and the technique used for playing it (direct contact or some kind of reed cap), and unless more evidence comes to light, it seems extremely unlikely that the mystery will be satisfactorily solved.
Medieval instruments of the flute type employed two quite different methods of sound production:
1. blowing across a round mouth-hole, as on the panpipes or transverse flute,
2. blowing into a whistle mouthpiece, as on the recorder or flageolet.
It is clear that the word flute and its variants were used indiscriminately for both types: Machaut distinguishes the flaustes traversaines (transverse flutes) from the ftaustes dont droit joues quand tu flaustes (flutes that you hold straight when you play).25 Confusion over flute nomenclature persists to this day: there is still a surprising number of people, including conductors, who are not aware that during the baroque period flute or flauto specifically meant recorder and not transverse flute. But whereas baroque composers were precise about their terminology, medieval composers and writers were not. Machaut also mentions the Flauste brehaingne26 (literally ‘sterile flute’), the floiot de saus26 (osier flute), and the ele27 (perhaps a shortened form of frestel). Other literary sources mention the flajol, flajolet, floyle, frestel, fletsella, muse d’ausay, and estiva which different authorities have all identified as flutes of some kind.
It is doubtful if we shall ever succeed in sorting out all the various names into specific flute types nor is it likely that many of the names had a single specific meaning. In any case their number is slight compared to the number of flute types which existed in the Middle Ages, each subject to almost infinite regional variation.
Flutes were exceedingly popular and ranged from simple peasant instruments to those of highly sophisticated courtly society. Especially with the whistle types the same situation applies today: there is scarcely a country in the world which cannot boast its own whistle instrument of some kind.
Panpipes and transverse flutes
Although these two instruments are linked by their method of sound production, their history, appearance, and playing technique could scarcely be more different. The origin of both is a simple bamboo tube stopped at one end, open at the other. But whilst several pipes of different length were bound together and sounded vertically to make the panpipes, a single tube held horizontally became a transverse flute when finger-holes were added, together with a mouth-hole near the stopped end. The transverse flute may well be regarded as a rationalization of the panpipe principle, and therefore a later development. Both instruments have a history stretching back long before the Middle Ages. Panpipes are most familiar to us from illustrations and literary references in classical times: the name comes from the association of the instrument with the mytho¬logical god Pan. Greek and Roman artists show the orthodox form of the instrument as seven lengths of cane bound together. Similar representations were common in Europe throughout the Middle Ages, Renaissance, and Baroque, but this should not lead us to suppose that the panpipes played an equally significant part in music-making during all this time. Even in Greek times the panpipes were unimportant compared to the aulos or the kithara and for much of the post-classical period they existed as rustic or popular instruments only. When we find the panpipes played side by side with the real instruments of music in late medieval or renaissance art their presence is usually of purely allegorical or symbolic significance.28
As an instrument of practical music-making the heyday of the panpipes was the time of the troubadours and trouveres (eleventh to thirteenth centuries). During this period the instrument is represented in a variety of forms which differ considerably from the orthodox classical type, both in the number of pipes and the method of construction. A twelfth-century manuscript, now in St John’s College, Cambridge,29 illustrates the solid type of construction in which the pipes are drilled out of a flat piece of wood. Solid pottery construction was used too: all the surviving medieval panpipes are ceramic with the number of pipes varying from five to eleven.
Canon Galpin also mentions ‘trustworthy examples’ of the panpipes constructed in semicircular shape from medieval manuscripts and instances one of the early eleventh century.31 This curved shape encourages greater fluency 011 the instrument and is found on the most sophisticated modern survivals, such as the Romanian naiu with twenty-six pipes. Virtuosi such as Gheorghe Zamfir have achieved a technical and expressive mastery of the instrument which any woodwind player must envy. His repertoire of solos, often borrowed from the violin, includes brilliant display pieces demanding phenomenal agility, staggering breath control, and double and triple tonguing of great rapidity. Equally impressive are the slow mournful pieces in which the panpipes can produce every nuance of feeling by varied tone colours, vibrato control, and a characteristic ‘droop’ in pitch – sometimes by as much as a semitone – achieved by altering the angle of embouchure.
The style of medieval panpipe playing must have been simpler and less sophisticated, perhaps resembling that used by the South American Indians today. The number of pipes was more limited, giving a short diatonic range ideal for dance music or the more straightforward troubadour and trouvère melodies. This simple chanson a refrain could be played on a six-pipe instrument. But once the development of polyphonic music demanded the use of accidentals outside the basic mode, the panpipes’ usefulness was on the wane. The rise of the transverse flute seems more or less to correspond with the decline of the panpipes. To regard one as a direct replacement of the other in music-making would be an over-simplification, but it is true that, whilst maintaining some of the panpipes’ hollow tone-quality, the cylindrical six-holed flute can manage most of the important chromatic notes by cross fingering or occasionally halt-holing. Added to that, the flute must have been capable of a good two-octave range, though whether medieval players used it all we don’t know. The use of the keyless flute in the classical music of China and India testifies to the wide range and advanced technique which are possible on the instrument.
Besides a history in the Far East which extends to remote antiquity, the flute was also known to the Etruscans, the Egyptians, and the Greeks. It was through Byzantine influence that the flute finally made its way into central Europe in the twelfth century. Important evidence comes from the encyclopedia Hortus Deliciarum (late twelfth century) where the flute is given the German name steegeL3* The instrument became something of a German speciality and the expression German flute is found off and on for the next 800 years as a means of distinguishing the transverse flute from whistle types.
The Germans developed two distinct uses for the flute: courtly and martial. It was evidently a popular instrument amongst the Minnesänger (the German equivalent of the troubadours) and we find the flute depicted alongside other courtly instruments such as the fiddle and harp. From the thirteenth century onwards it also becomes associated, with the drum as a military band instrument, although it was not until the following century that the flute, in either role, became common outside Germany.
More examples of whistle flutes have survived from the Middle Ages and earlier times than of any other kind of instrument. Frederick Crane33 lists no less than 140 of them in a great variety of forms as well as numerous simpler whistle types without finger-holes. Their method of sound production is familiar from the modern recorder and penny whistle, and their essential features are:
the lip cut near the top of the tube, the fipple (usually a block of wood) inserted in the mouthpiece,
the windway: a narrow channel above the fipple through which the breath is directed against the edge of the lip to produce the sound.
The whistle mouthpiece seems an ingenious idea compared to the other flute types. It is easy to see how primitive man could have stumbled on the principle of the panpipes by idly blowing across a stopped piece of cane, but it is more difficult to imagine how the whistle mouthpiece developed by chance. Yet the history of the whistle mouthpiece seems to go back almost as far as that of homo sapiens: the earliest whistle instrument so far discovered dates from the Upper Paleolithic period.34 The variety of whistle flutes in medieval times is matched by the many forms found today. The most common material is still cane or bamboo, used for rustic instruments, which are as easily fashioned as the reed pipes. It is presumably what Machaut meant by his floiot de saus (osier flute) and in a typical pastoral poem of the thirteenth century the trouvère
Colin Muset describes the making of the instrument.
L’autr’ier en mai, un matinet,
M’esveillerent li oiselet,
S’alai cuillir un saucelet,
Si en ai fait un flajolet.35
(The other day on a May morning I was woken
up by the little birds. I went out to cut a reed
and have it made into aflajolei.)
The number of finger-holes no doubt varied, but six holes (ie no thumb-hole or little-finger-hole) seems to be a common standard today.
Although Colin Muset and others used the word flajolet we should perhaps avoid translating it literally as flageolet, or using the word at all as an umbrella term for whistle-flutes. The special characteristic of the flageolet proper is two thumb-holes, and the instrument was not standardized until the end of the sixteenth century when the French flageolet was ‘invented’ by Le Sieur Juvigny.36 Besides four finger-holes and two thumb-holes, the later seventeenth-century design of the flageolet incorporated a mouthpiece cap containing a sponge to absorb the moisture from the player’s breath. This instrument remained popular, largely as an amateur instrument, until the nineteenth century. Unfortunately English makers such as Bainbridge and Potter then developed a new instrument, retaining the special mouthpiece and the name ‘flageolet’ but dropping the flageolet’s special feature, the two thumbholes. Since then, confusion has multiplied over what is, or is not, a flageolet and even some penny whistles are now sold under that name. If inflation has made the name ‘penny whistle’ obsolete, we should return to Mersenne’s definition la flute a six trous37 or the six-holed pipe.
Double pipes were popular too, presumably because a solo on them could make more impact than on a single pipe, though the classical tradition of double auloi may have encouraged an excessive number of representations in art and sculpture. Certainly double pipes do crop up in some rather unlikely playing positions. The Pied Piper figure in Simone Martini’s fresco L’investitura di San Martino looks in great difficulties: he seems to have more finger-holes than he can cope with and some balance problems too, since the right-hand little finger is being used to support the instrument. It would all be much easier if the pipes -were parallel and fastened together. Folk instruments confirm that this must have usually been the case, and help us to distinguish two basic types of double whistle-flute. In both the two pipes are to some extent unequal. On one type there is a melody pipe plus a drone pipe; it is easy to see how the bagpipe encouraged this sort of thing. The Yugoslav dvojnice is a more sophisticated instrument carved out of wood, elaborately decorated and designed so that the two pipes can play together mostly in thirds.38 Medieval double pipes of this kind were more likely to have been designed for playing in consecutive fourths or fifths. A wooden example excavated at Christ Church, Oxford,38 has a thumb-hole and four finger-holes in each pipe. The lowest note of the right-hand pipe is c”, that of the left g”. Such an arrangement makes possible the playing of simple part music.
Pipe and tabor
An even more common addition than a second pipe was some kind of percussion instrument: pipe and tabor, pipe and tambourin (stringed drum), even pipe and triangle were all used, though the pipe and tabor was by far the most popular. Whenjehan Erars wrote:
Guis dou tabor au flahutel
Leur fait ceste estampie40
(Guy with his tabor and pipe plays them this estampie)
he was describing a one-man-band which is ideal for dance music: the drum giving the beat and the pipe playing the melody. The technique required of the player is rather specialized, involving three distinct skills which must be co-ordinated, yet independent.
Modern folk players always lead with the drum, holding the stick loosely in the right hand and often allowing it to beat quite intricately decorated rhythms. The tabor itself (a kind of snare drum: for more details see chapter 5, page 32) is slung in various ways on the left-hand side of the body: it can be secured to the waist, slung over the left arm, or even, in the case of a very small tabor, suspended from the little finger. The left hand holds the tabor pipe: a long slender cylindrical pipe with holes for two fingers and thumb. The narrow bore is important because it enables the player to overblow easily and obtain not only the second harmonic (overblowing at the octave) but the third, fourth, and fifth harmonics (overblowing at the I2th, 15th, and iyth respectively). Whereas the basic scale of all the instruments so far described consists of their fundamental notes, the fundamentals of the tabor pipe are very weak and not used at all. Instead the basic scale starts with the second harmonics, enabling a mere three holes to produce a complete diatonic scale. The following chart makes clear how Compass and fingering chart of tabor pipe.
Woodcut from the title page of William Kemp’s Nine Dales Wonder (1600). Notice the large tabor pipe and the way the tabor is slung over the left arm by a strap fingering and breath pressure are combined. Thus the pipe and tabor combines single-stick percussion technique, woodwind fingering, and the employment of the harmonic series otherwise peculiar to brass instruments. It came into regular use during the time of the troubadours: a Polish tabor pipe survives from the second half of the eleventh century39 and pipe and tabor players are regularly illustrated from then onwards.
During the Renaissance the tabor pipe seems to have been quite a large and sturdy instrument like the Basque chistH or the ‘alto’ pipe supplied by the English Folk Dance and Song Society. Famous Elizabethan players included William Kemp and Richard Tarleton, two of the most famous comedians of the day. In 1599 Kemp danced a Morris dance all the way from London to Norwich, apparently accompanied by pipe and tabor as he went. By this time the pipe and tabor had fallen in social status from a court instrument to an instrument of the common people. Literary references link it with rustic merry-making and the maypole.