Friday, February 13, 2009

Early Instruments

If you've found the posts so far absolutely riveting, and you are beginning to have the overwhelming feeling that you simply must have a historically correct sackbut, natural trumpet, natural horn, or baroque trombone, then you're in luck. Early MusiChicago happens to have a Sackbut Businesses sight which lists several makers of historical early brass instruments.

Renaissance Slide Trumpet

In searching for some Renaissance ensemble videos I came across a clip played on the slide trumpet. I had never heard of the slide trumpet before, so I did some digging and found a really interesting article which analyzes how early brass instruments would have been played from their depiction in artwork of the time. The author, Patrick Tröster, focuses specifically on the various origins of the slide trumpet.

His Majesty's Sagbutts and Cornetts

I found this really cool video of His Majesty's Sagbutts and Cornetts. This is an excerpt from a live concert in Greenwich, London.


This ensemble was founded in 1980 and late Medieval and Renaissance music on early wind instruments. While the group does have a lot of early woodwind instruments, it also makes use of the early brass like the serpent and sackbut as well. Piffaro has several recordings and is actively touring Europe. Their website has all kinds of cool history on the ensemble and upcoming performances.

What is a sackbut anyway?

It is not a sack, and it has nothing to do with a butt either, so where did the name come from? Apparently sackbut means "push-pull" literally translated, which is a fitting name given the fact that the instrument was the early predecessor to the modern trombone. Other names for this early instrument included saqueboute, sackbusshes, seykebuds, sakbuds, shakebuttes, shagbutts, and shagbolts. Regardless of the funny names, the instrument was considered an instrument of a virtuoso player by the 17th century. So there - just because it has a funny name, doesn't mean it isn't awesome.

English Cornett and Sackbut Ensemble

This is a link to the website of one of the groups we listened to in class. The English Cornett and Sackbut Ensemble is a 15 year old group based in London and devoted to the performance of early brass instruments. So far the group boasts 6 CDs of early Renaissance music.