The baroque bassoon: form, construction, acoustics and playing qualities

Dart, Mathew (2011) The baroque bassoon: form, construction, acoustics and playing qualities. Doctoral thesis, London Metropolitan University.


The bassoon was newly invented in the 1670s-1680s as one of several musical innovations that emerged from Paris, and spread rapidly across Europe. The essential elements of its structure - four wooden parts plus a brass crook, with three or four keys - remained stable for the next seventy years, but within those limits, appearance and internal design varied significantly.

This study examines approximately 80% of known surviving baroque bassoons. Detailed internal measurements of thirty-six bassoons were made and graphs are constructed to compare bore designs. Based on comparison of stylistic traits, a new typology of the external design of baroque bassoons is proposed. In a system to parallel that established for the early oboe, extant instruments and those represented in the visual arts are classified into two types and five subtypes. National and regional traditions and affinities are identified and discussed, and design influences, evident in both external and internal forms, are shown to have existed both within and across national boundaries.

Eighteenth-century woodwind construction processes and tooling are analysed in order to establish, from incomplete examples, the original design of a particular bassoon. That instrument is reconstructed as a working example, and its playing characteristics are assessed in comparison with those of a contrasting, earlier bassoon design.

Acoustic impedance analysis is used to demonstrate connections between the instrument's internal design and its playing characteristics. The two reconstructed bassoons are found to have differing characteristics, and impedance analysis is shown to be helpful in explaining some of those differences. Bore and tonehole dimensions of the bassoons studied are presented, along with photographs of each instrument, to provide a database for further research.

volume 1
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volume 2
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