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Shawm, Curtal and Rauschpfeife

The shawm is the predecessor of today's modern oboe. The shawm can be dated to the 13th century and was popular as an outdoor instrument during the mediaeval and rennaissance periods. The instrument is usually turned from a single piece of wood with a conical bore ending in a flared bell. From the 16th century the shawm was made in several sizes from sopranino to great bass, the latter of which was extremely unwieldy. Four and five part music could be played by a shawm consort. The reed, as with the modern day oboe, was a double reed but wider than the more slimline oboe reed. This would be inserted onto a staple and was able to be rotated on piece of wood, the pirouette, to align the reed with the fingerholes. The instrument has a piercing, trumpet like sound making it well suited to out door performances and was favoured by the town waits. The rauschpfeife is related to the shawm and has a similar sound. It too has a double reed but instead of having direct contact with the player's lips the rauschpfeife's reed is housed in a windcap; the player blows through a slit in the top of the cap thus enabling the reed to vibrate. As with the shawm, the instrument was made in various sizes to enable consort music to be played. The name comes from the German rausch meaning noise and pfeife meaning pipe. Five rauschpfeife players and five shawm players are shown in the well known woodcut The Triumph of Maximillian I . Mike's shawm is made by Eric Moulder of England and his rauschpfeife is made by the late Gunter Korber of Germany.

Rauschpfeife by Gunter Korber (Germany) left and shawm by Eric Moulder (England) right.

Bass Curtal

The curtal is a Renaissance woodwind instrument, with a double reed and a folded conical bore. Equivalent terms include "curtal" in English, "dulzian" in German, "bajˇn" in Spanish, "doušaine"' in French, "dulciaan" in Dutch, and "dulciana" in Italian.

The predecessor of the modern bassoon, it flourished between 1550 and 1700, but was probably invented earlier. Towards the end of this period it co-existed with, and was then superseded by the baroque bassoon, although it continued to be used in Spain until early in the twentieth century. It was played in both secular and sacred contexts, throughout northern and western Europe, as well as in the New World.

The curtal is generally made from a single piece of maple, with the bores being drilled and reamed first, and then the outside planed to shape. The reed is attached to the end of a brass crook, inserted into the top of the small bore. Unlike the bassoon it normally has a flared bell, sometimes made from a separate piece of timber. Although the bass in F is the most common size, the curtal comes in many other sizes: tenor (in C), alto (in F or G) and soprano (in C). There are also examples of a "quart bass" dulcian in C and contrabass in F. The range of each instrument is two and a half octaves, centred around the range of the corresponding singing voice: for example, the bass ranges from C two octaves below middle C, to the G above middle C.

Mike's bass curtal was made in 2013/14 by Eric Moulder.
Eric plays in the Early Music group Piva and can be contacted via their website at..... www.piva.org.uk