Heteroglot Single Reeds
When did someone attach a slip of cane to the top of a tube, instead of an idioglot mouthpiece? We have no idea. There does not seem to be any evidence for such an arrangement until Denner ‘improved the chalumeau’. Indeed we have little evidence for chalumaux, other than written music for them.
There is a number of European folk instruments today, some of which have been mentioned in the relevant article in this series, and these presumably go back to earlier times; all are idioglot. There was one instrument from the Snoeck Collection, now lost to us, in the Royal Military Exhibition in London. C R Day described it as truly idioglot, dating it to the ‘16th or 17th century’, and stating that it was made of cane and was covered with red leather. Snoeck’s own catalogue has even less information about it. Mersenne describes, but does not illustrate, an instrument that he calls Chalumeau, and leaves us little the wiser. There is no evidence at all that I have ever found for a folk instrument with a heteroglot reed other than those that are known to have been back-formations from the clarinet, such as the Swedish Meråker clarinet.
So it does look as though this, the use of a heteroglot single reed, may have been one of the aspects of Denner’s improvement of the chalumeau. Thereafter the chalumeau appears in a number of early eighteenth-century scores by people like Vivaldi, Graupner, Telemann, and contemporaries, and then vanishes again because later, in the same first decade of the eighteenth century, Denner invented the clarinet, on which there is sufficient literature to require no more here.
© Jeremy Montagu, 2018