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A History of the Bass Tuba and Its Use in the Symphony Orchestra

Description: This study has been prepared for the purpose of showing the development of the modern bass tuba through all stages, from its earliest ancestors to its present form. Also by the use of examples, it is hoped that the treatment of the instrument in selected orchestral works will show in some ways how it has and can be used.
Date: August 1950
Creator: Sealy, Byford Gayle
Partner: UNT Libraries

[Wire to the Axis]

Description: A serpent made of metal wears a helmet with a swastika on it. The serpent has long tail, sharp teeth, and a long snout. Smoke billows in background. Metal beams in a "V" formation appear to approach the serpent from the upper left area of the poster.
Date: unknown
Creator: Artzybasheff, Boris, 1899-1965.
Partner: UNT Libraries Government Documents Department

The Serpent and Ophicleide as Instruments of Romantic Color in Selected Works by Mendelssohn, Berlioz and Wagner

Description: Traditional scholarship has stated that the serpent and ophicleide (as well as their successor, the tuba) were developed and added to the standard orchestra to add a bass voice to the brass, allowing a tonal compass to match a similar downward expansion in the strings and woodwinds. A closer reading of the earliest scores calling for these instruments reveals a more coloristic purpose, related to timbre as much as to compass. Indeed, the fact that composers rarely wrote for serpent and ophicleide makes two points: it proves them to be inadequate choices as a brass bass, and when they were called for, they had an expressive, often descriptive purpose. Despite his conservative musical education supervised by Carl Friedrich Zelter, the seventeen-year-old Mendelssohn, under the influence of A. B. Marx, used the Corno inglese di basso, an upright version of the serpent, in his Overture to A Midsummer Night's Dream to give a more rustic flavor to Bottom's ass-braying. Even when the English bass horn functioned as a bass voice, it was playing in contexts that were descriptive, where it often demonstrated its musical inadequacy. Berlioz's descriptive writing for the serpent and ophicleide are well known. A remarkable feature which Symphonie fantastique shares with works by the other composers is the confidence Berlioz showed in the ophicleide's functional independence by occasionally giving it an arpeggiated figure while the rest of the orchestra sustains the chord. Wagner's writing for the serpent and ophicleide in Rienzi follows the less imaginative conventions of French grand opera. In Der fliegende Holländer the ophicleide, while not used as descriptively as Mendelssohn and Berlioz, nevertheless contributes significantly to Wagner's emerging focus on the inner lives of his characters and expressive commentary on the stage action. Tubists should consider the expressive implications and the unique timbre of these ...
Date: December 2006
Creator: Morgan, Richard Sanborn
Partner: UNT Libraries