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from its resemblance to the modern instrument of the same name. This is believed to be the only illustration of the ancient double chalumeau yet found in Egypt, with the single exception of a hieroglyph occurring also once only, i.e. the sign read As-it, consisting of a cylindrical pipe with a beak mouthpiece bound round with a cord tied in a bow. The bow is taken to indicate the double parallel pipes bound together; the same sign without the bow occurs frequently and is read Ma-it,[1] and is considered to be the generic name for reed wind instruments. The beating-reed was probably introduced into classic Greece from Egypt or Asia Minor. A few ancient Greek instruments are extant, five of which are in the British Museum. They are as nearly cylindrical as would be the natural growing reed itself. The probability is that both single and double reeds were at times used with the Greek aulos and the Roman tibia. V. Mahillon and A. A. Howard of Harvard have both obtained facsimiles of actual instruments, some found at Pompeii and now deposited in the museum at Naples, and others in the British Museum. Experiments made with these instruments, whose original mouthpieces have perished, show that with pipes of such narrow diameter the fundamental scale and pitch are the same whether sounded by means of a single or of a double reed, but the modern combination of single reed and cylindrical tube alone gives the full pure tone quality. The subject is more fully discussed in the article Aulos.[2] The Roman tibia, if monuments can be trusted, sometimes had a beak-shaped mouthpiece, as for instance that attached to a pipe discovered at Pompeii, or that shown in a scene on Trajan’s column.[3] It is probable that when, at the decline of the Roman empire, instrumental music was placed by the church under a ban—and the tibia more especially from its association with every form of licence and moral depravity—this instrument, sharing the common fate, survived chiefly among itinerant musicians who carried it into western Europe, where it was preserved from complete extinction. An instrument of difficult technique requiring an advanced knowledge of acoustics was not, however, likely to flourish or even to be understood among nations whose culture was as yet in its infancy.

The tide of culture from the Byzantine empire filtered through to the south and west, leaving many traces; a fresh impetus was received from the east through the Arabs; and later, as a result of the Crusades, the prototype of the clarinet, together with the practical knowledge necessary for making the instrument and playing upon it, may have been re-introduced through any one or all of these sources. However this may be, the instrument was during the Carolingian period identified with the tibia of the Romans until such time as the new western civilization ceased to be content to go back to classical Rome for its models, and began to express itself, at first naively and awkwardly, as the 11th century dawned. The name then changed to the derivatives of the Greek kalamos, assuming an almost bewildering variety of forms, of which the commonest are chalemie, chalumeau, schalmey, scalmeye, shawm, calemel, kalemele.[4] The derivation of the name seems to point to a Byzantine rather than an Arab source for the revival of the instruments which formed the prototype of both oboe and clarinet, but it must not be forgotten that the instruments with a conical bore—more especially those played by a reed—are primarily of Asiatic origin. At the beginning of the 13th century in France, where the instrument remained a special favourite until it was displaced by the clarinet, the chalumeau is mentioned in some of the early romances:—“Tabars et chalemiaux et estrumens sonner” (Aye d’ Avignon, v. 4137); “Grelles et chelimiaus et buisines bruians” (Gui de Bourgogne, v. 1374), &c. By the end of the 13th century, the German equivalent Schalmey appears in the literature of that country,—“Pusunen und Schalmeyen schal moht niemen da gehoeren wal” (Frauendienst, 492, fol. 5, Ulrich von Lichtenstein). The schalmey or shawm is frequently represented in miniatures from the 13th century, but it must have been known long before, since it was at that period in use as the chaunter of the bag-pipe (q.v.), a fully-developed complex instrument which presupposes a separate previous existence for its component parts.

We have no reason to suppose that any distinction was drawn between the single and double reed instruments during the early middle ages—if indeed the single reed was then known at all—for the derivatives of kalamos were applied to a variety of pipes. The first clear and unmistakable drawing yet found of the single reed occurs in Mersenne’s Harmonie universelle (p. 282), where the primitive reed pipe is shown with the beating-reed detached from the tube of the instrument itself, by making a lateral slit and then splitting back a little tongue of reed towards a knot. Mersenne calls this the simplest form of chalumeau or wheat-stalk (tuyau de blé). It is evident that no significance was then attached to the form of the vibrating reed, whether single or double, for Mersenne and other writers of his time call the chaunters of the musette and cornemuse chalumeaux whether they are of cylindrical or of conical bore. The difference in timbre produced by the two kinds of reeds was, however, understood, for Mersenne states that a special kind of cornemuse was used in concert with the hautbois de Poitou (an oboe whose double reed was enclosed in an air chamber) and was distinguished from the shepherd’s cornemuse by having double reeds throughout, whereas the drones of the latter instrument were furnished with beating reeds. It is therefore evident that as late as 1636 (the date at which Mersenne wrote) in France the word “chalumeau” was not applied to the instrument transformed some sixty years later into the clarinet, nor was it applied exclusively to any one kind of pipe except when acting as the chaunter of the bagpipe, and that independently of any structural characteristics. The chaunter was still called chalumeau in 1737.[5] Of the instrument which has been looked upon as the chalumeau, there is but little trace in Germany or in France at the beginning of the 17th century. A chalumeau with beak mouthpiece and characteristic short cylindrical tube pierced with six holes figures among the musical instruments used for the triumphal procession of the emperor Maximilian I., commemorated by a fine series of plates,[6] engraved on wood by Hans Burgkmair, the friend and colleague of A. Dürer. On the same plate (No. 79) are five schalmeys with double reeds and five chalumeaux with single-reed beak mouthpieces; the latter instruments were in all probability made in the Netherlands, which excelled from the 12th century in the manufacture of all musical instruments. No single-reed instrument, with the exception of the regal (q.v.), is figured by S. Virdung,[7] M. Agricola[8] or M. Praetorius.[9]

Britannica Clarinet Chalumeau.jpg
(From Diderot
and d’Alembert’s
Fig. 3.
(a) Front,
(b) Back view.

A good idea of the primitive chalumeau may be gained from a reproduction of one of the few specimens from the 16th or 17th century still extant, which belonged to Césare Snoeck and was exhibited at the Royal Military Exhibition in London in 1890.[10] The tube is stopped at the mouthpiece end by a natural joint of

  1. See Victor Loret, “Les flûtes égyptiennes antiques,” Journal asiatique (Paris, 1889), [8], xiv. pp. 129, 130, 132.
  2. See also A. A. Howard, “Study on the Aulos or Tibia,” Harvard Studies, vol. iv. (Boston, 1893); F. C. Gevaert, Musique de l’antiquité; Carl von Jan, article “Floete” in August Baumeister’s Denkmäler des klassischen Alterthums (Leipzig, 1884–1888), vol. i.; Dr Hugo Riemann, Handbuch der Musikgesch. vol. i. p. 90, &c. (Leipzig, 1904); all of whom have not come to the same conclusions.
  3. Wilhelm Froehner, La Colonne trajane (Paris, 1872), t. ii. pl. 76.
  4. “Aveuc aus ert vestus Guis
    Ki leur cante et Kalemele,
    En la muse au grant bourdon.”
    J. A. U. Scheler’s Trouvères belges.
  5. See Ernest Thoinan, Les Hotteterre et les Chédeville, célèbres facteurs de flûtes, hautbois, bassons et musettes (Paris, 1894), p. 15 et seq., and Méthode pour la musette, &c., par Hotteterre le Romain (Paris, 1737).
  6. The whole series of 135 plates has been reproduced in Jahrb. d. Samml. des Allerh. Kaiserhauses (Vienna, 1883–1884).
  7. Musica getutscht und auszgezogen (Basel, 1511).
  8. Musica Instrumentalis Deudsch (Nuremberg, 1528 and 1545).
  9. Syntagma Musicum (Wolfenbüttel, 1618). This work and those mentioned in the two previous notes have been reprinted by the Ges. f. Musikforschung in vols. xi., xx. and xiii. of Publikationen (Berlin).
  10. See Descriptive Catalogue, by Capt. C. R. Day (London, 1891), pl. iv. A and p. 110, No. 221.