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History of Technology of Music

This file updated 14 October 2014

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The C16th

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Circa 1500: Appearance in Europe of the crumhorn. This allowed the development of consorts of reed instruments, useful for indoor music. The crumhorn was derived from German or Central European folk instruments related to the bagpipe. It had the feel of a recorder, used a large double reed, was cylindrically-bored, could be capped over the reed. Its tone was rather nasal, but could provide bass notes, hence the bass crumhorn (to bottom f, and about three feet long). Along with the crumhorn came the early cornetts and flutes.

1500: G. Pannain, Le origini e lo sviluppo dell'arte pianistica in Italia dal 1500 al 1830. Naples, 1917.

new1.gif - 3972 Bytes1511: Sebastian Virdung, Musica Getuscht. Basel, 1511. Reprint, Kassel, 1931. Virdung's work of 1511 is the earliest-known tutor on instruments by a European, dealing mostly with the the keyboard, the lute and recorders.

1521: The first harpsichords begin to appear in use. Eg, in 1521 by Jerome of Bologna, who was then in Rome. It had about four octaves.

1528: Agricola follows up Virdung's work on tutors for using instruments.

1529: Martin Agricola, Musica instrumentalis deudsch. Wittenberg, 1529.

1534: Perhaps the earliest date for a surviving clavichord (Dated by Domenico Pisaurensis from Karl-Marx Universitat, Leipzig).

1535: Ganassi produces a music tutor for users of the recorder.

1536: Luis Milan produces his El Maestro for guitarists of Spain, or, rather, players of the vihuela.

1542: Ganassi produces a music tutor for players of viols.

1550 circa: A larger form of lute is invented, with a bassier sound - the theorbo or the Roman chitarrone - which used single strings, not courses of two strings. A version of this modified instrument arose in Padua. Sometimes these were called "archlutes". They had wider-spaced frets, which slowed down the typical fast fingering for lute music. There also arose a double-strung lute which required a new tuning method.

1550: In Europe the use of the recorder is refined, with the appearance of larger and deeper models allowing notes to deepen to c and f; now used with consorts of mixed instruments. Also in the Sixteenth Century came other reed instruments resembling the crumhorn and used for consorts, using a wooden or ivory cylinder. The sordoni or courtaut (Sordunen in German.) The bassanelli. The curtal (fagotto or dulcian) was invented in mid-Sixteenth Century and became the prototype of the bassoon. These instruments mostly failed to survive changes in fashion.

1560: More to come

1571: The flourishing of the lute song began perhaps with the work of Adrien Le Roy, his Livre d'airs de cour, and ended at its peak with the English school of John Dowland, the greatest lutenist of his time. (Though Baines remarks, "An old lute in original condition is now a rarity".)

1581: Musical colonisation: A double virginal of 1581 by Hans Ruckers is long later discovered in Peru, possibly taken there at the time of the Spanish conquest. It is now in the Metropolitan Museum of New York.

new1.gif - 3972 Bytes1588: Karl Luyton in Prague constructs a variant of the harpsichord, "the universal clavicymbalum".

new1.gif - 3972 Bytes1590: In France, a canon named Edme Guillaume tries to improve an unsatisfactory large cornet. He ends in inventing the Serpent, which was made of wood, to accompany plainsong in church. By about 1750 it was adopted in Germany for use in wind ensembles, and later it became part of military bands everywhere in Europe. It was used in England by about 1700.

1590-1630: "Golden age" of the lute as an instrument in Europe.


For this website's growing Glossary of Musical Terms and definitions, &c, and other items of interest, see: The HoTM Glossary



1600: French lutenist Francisque publishes his Tresor d'Orphee.


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