Music to Our Ears: New Books in Yale’s Musical Instrument Series

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The Trumpet and The Bassoon are the latest editions to be published in the acclaimed Yale Musical Instrument series, a suite of books that trace the history and development of a particular instrument from its origins to the present day. Here we take a look at these two fascinating new titles, as well as the Yale Musical Instrument Series as a whole.

For those studying an orchestral instrument, there is certainly no shortage of textbooks and resources to help you hone your musical chops and excel at those dreaded Grade exams. However, for those that want to learn about the history of their instrument, its construction and development, how composers wrote for it, and perhaps most importantly, how it was played, there is a surprising scarcity of scholarly resources available.

The Yale Musical Instrument Series aims to correct this, offering detailed histories of a growing number of orchestral instruments, including the flute, trombone, oboe, clarinet and timpani. The books are written by both leading scholars and performers, and offer a unique and in-depth insight into the history of a particular instrument from its earliest uses to its present day repertoire. The books contain a wealth of musical examples, performer profiles and quirky facts and are excellent resources for both serious music students and curious amateurs. For those interested in composing for a particular instrument, these books also make valuable reading, helping to unpick those peculiar idiosyncrasies that make each musical instrument unique.

Take a look at a handful of recent books in this series:

The Trumpet – published this month

The Trumpet

The Trumpet

In the first major book devoted to the trumpet in more than two decades, John Wallace and Alexander McGrattan trace the surprising evolution and colourful performance history of one of the world’s oldest instruments. They chart the introduction of the trumpet and its family into art music, and its rise to prominence as a solo instrument, from the Baroque ‘golden age’, through the advent of valved brass instruments in the nineteenth century, and the trumpet’s renaissance in the jazz age. The authors offer abundant insights into the trumpet’s repertoire, with detailed analyses of works by Haydn, Handel, and Bach, and fresh material on the importance of jazz and influential jazz trumpeters for the reemergence of the trumpet as a solo instrument in classical music today.

Wallace and McGrattan draw on deep research, lifetimes of experience in performing and teaching the trumpet in its various forms, and numerous interviews to illuminate the trumpet’s history, music, and players. Copiously illustrated with photographs, facsimiles, and musical examples throughout, The Trumpet will enlighten and fascinate all performers and enthusiasts.

The Bassoon – published this Summer

The Bassoon

The Bassoon

This welcome volume encompasses the entire history of the bassoon, from its origins five centuries ago to its place in 21st-century music. James Kopp draws on new archival research and many years of experience playing the instrument to provide an up-to-date and lively portrait of today’s bassoon and its intriguing predecessors. He discusses the bassoon’s makers, its players, its repertory and its audiences, all in unprecedented detail.

The author examines the acoustical consequences of various design changes to the bassoon, from its invention in 16th-century Italy, through its redesign in 17th-century France as a four-piece instrument, to the dominance of the Heckel-system bassoon in the early 21st century. He also offers new coverage of the bassoon’s social history, including its roles in the military and the church and its global use during the European Colonial period. Separate historical chapters devoted to contrabassoons and smaller bassoons complete the volume.

The Clarinet – Out Now

The Clarinet

The Clarinet

The clarinet has a long and rich history as a solo, orchestral and chamber musical instrument. In this broad-ranging account Eric Hoeprich, a performer, teacher and expert on historical clarinets, explores its development, repertoire and performance history. Looking at the earliest antecedents of the clarinet, as well as related instruments such as the chalumeau, basset horn, alto clarinet and bass clarinet, Hoeprich explains the use and development of the instrument in the Baroque age.

The period from the late 1700s to Beethoven’s early years is shown to have fostered ever-wider distribution and use of the instrument, with the creation of a repertoire of increasing richness. The first half of the nineteenth century, seen as a golden age for the clarinet, brought innovation in construction and great virtuosity in performance, while the following century and a half produced a surge in new works for the instrument from many composers. The author also devotes a chapter to the role of the clarinet in bands, folk music and jazz. Throughout his authoritative treatment of the instrument, Eric Hoeprich brings to his book the fruits of his long experience as performer and teacher, and also as collector, maker and restorer of clarinets. This will be the definitive volume on the instrument.

The Trombone – Out Now

The Trombone

The Trombone

This is the first fully comprehensive study of the trombone in English. It covers the instrument, its repertoire, the way it has been played, and the social, cultural and aesthetic contexts within which it has developed. It explores the origins of the instrument, its invention in the fifteenth century, and its story up to modern times. And it reveals the hidden histories of the trombone and its players in different periods and different countries.

The book looks not only at the trombone within classical music, but at its place in jazz, popular music, popular religion and light music. Herbert examines the development of written repertoires in the sixteenth century, the ‘golden age’ of the instrument in the seventeenth century, its descent into obscurity in the eighteenth century and its re-emergence in the expanded symphony and opera orchestras and military bands of the Romantic era. The popular music explosion of the nineteenth-century brought amateur players and showmen soloists. The impact of jazz was fundamental to the trombone, providing an alternative to the conservatoire tradition. By the late twentieth century its techniques had filtered into the performance idioms of almost all styles of music and transformed ideas about virtuosity and lyricism in trombone playing.

The Timpani (and other percussion) – Out Now

Timpani and Percussion

Timpani and Percussion

A history of percussion instruments from the Old Stone Age to the present day. Jeremy Montagu, a performer, historian, and curator of musical instruments, discusses common and uncommon percussion instruments from all parts of the world, tracing their development and use through the ages and across cultures.

After exploring the origins and antiquity of percussion instruments, Montagu investigates their appearance in the Middle Ages, in particular the nakers, tabors, cymbals and triangles that are immediately ancestral to those we use today. He then describes instruments of the Renaissance and Early Baroque, High Baroque (from which we can trace surviving instruments and specific music), Classical, Romantic and Modern periods. Montagu follows the development of orchestral and band percussion from the late-18th century, moving from the introduction of the “Turkish music” to the modern pop bands, military, marching and concert bands, and concert and studio orchestras. The work concludes with a wide-ranging survey of world percussion, covering instruments commonly played in schools, colleges and orchestras. It incorporates appendices on playing techniques, technical matters, and the sociology of drummers, and features many illustrations.

Books in the Yale Musical Instrument Series are available from Yale University Press.

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