The sixteenth-century basse de violon: fact or fiction? Identification of the bass violin (1535-1635). Page: 60
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fourth from one region to the next and by a minor third even within the same city.175 Yet the two
bass violin tunings discussed above remain constant in all organological treatises, coinciding
with the presence of two models of different size. By the end of the century, music theorists
such as Zacconi and Praetorius describe both tunings of the bass violin in the same treatises,
suggesting the clear existence of both sizes and tunings. Nomenclature for the larger model is
straightforward: the majority of the labels are direct translations of the term "bass violin" in
different languages. As for the higher pitched instrument, some authors designated it as "tenor"
for its higher register; nevertheless, most available evidence suggests that it should be regarded
as a small "bass violin."
Due to terminological discrepancies, the classification of the smaller sized instrument
proves to be complex. The identification of the larger sized bass violin is more straightforward
because of its more consistent labeling with the term "bass violin," and its direct translations.
Undoubtedly, Marin Mersenne introduces the most unambiguous classification of the large bass
violin. It is for this reason that he always refers to the bass violin with the same term basse de
violon and also provides a picture of it. An image of the lower tuned bass violin from 1635
represents the earliest illustration of the bass violin with four strings within an organological
treatise (Fig. 2.11).
175Bruce Haynes, A History ofPerforming Pitch (Oxford: Scarecrow Press, 2002), 17 and 386.
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Erodi, Gyongy Iren. The sixteenth-century basse de violon: fact or fiction? Identification of the bass violin (1535-1635)., thesis, August 2009; Denton, Texas. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc12121/m1/68/: accessed January 22, 2019), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; .