Happy Birthday to “Trumpet Journey!”

(apologies to the great Louis Armstrong!)

(apologies to the great Louis Armstrong!)

Trumpet Journey is now one year old!!!!

Both it, and I, have done some growing in that year. On August 2, I made a commitment to post an article everyday until this birthday. I almost made it (but there are a few days missing).

I have reached out to thousands more since that article. In total this past year, nearly 16,000 unique visitors have come to my blog to find out something new about the trumpet. Here’s a map and a top-twenty list of the visitors, by country.

Screen Shot 2013-09-27 at 6.06.24 AMGlobal Map of visitors to Trumpet Journey



Screen Shot 2013-09-27 at 6.05.13 AMAll Visitors to Trumpet Journey by country, top twenty

By far, the most popular article has been by satirical take on How not to get a trumpet job, which was written at about 1:00 am on September 1 and viewed by around 12,000 visitors. I didn’t have a good image to go with the article, so I just drew the donkey playing the trumpet myself. Also popular were a report I did with trumpet job numbers and trumpet degrees and statistics on studying the trumpet at institutions of higher learning. I was really proud to be able to report these statistics, because it now means that trumpeters wanting to get a performing job have just a little better idea how difficult it is to get one. This hopefully will lead to better job preparation and/or creative entrepreneurship as a trumpeter.

Also popular were my top ten list of jazz players today and my plea for baroque trumpet playing without the use of fingerholes. There were two posts updating the research done on a 1995 ITG Journal article about early cornopean literature which lead to my theory that one of the pieces looked at may have been actually composed by Wagner. I will probably work to get this new research published in the ITG Journal soon.

Of course I am thrilled at the people who come to read my Trumpet Building Blocks PDFs to get practice ideas. Also popular is my Trumpet History Timeline.

Two big projects that I hope to get going in the next year. One is an enlargement of my “This Day in Trumpet History”. This is a little widget that you will sometimes see on my sidebar if there is an entry for that calendar day. It has little tidbits of trumpet history, especially birthdays and death anniversaries. I hope to add more dates to this for a little better sense of our trumpet heritage.

The other really big news is that I have been working with some college students on a new trumpet literature database that will eventually go online. It may not be able to go on the Trumpet Journey site (compatibility with WordPress may be an issue), but it will be a trumpet literature tool that is accessible and “contributable” by anyone with an internet connection. More on this later.

I am looking forward to many new interviews with interesting trumpeters. In November, I will publish a fantastic interview with Latin jazz specialist Brant Tilds, an American who now lives in Great Britain. I hope that reading about his unique career path will inspire many.

I will continue my serialization of my dissertation on Monteverdi’s Symbolic Use of the Cornett, which I think will take me well into October. I just love that any interested scholars will be able to access this in the future.

Thanks for reading. Here’s to another year. Keep journeying.



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Trumpet Journey Celebrates Herbert L. Clarke’s Birthday!

Happy Birthday, Herbert L. Clarke!

Happy Birthday, Herbert L. Clarke!

Today, I had a enough free time to go down to the Congressional Cemetery in the District of Columbia to pay my respects to Herbert L. Clarke, perhaps the greatest cornet virtuoso to ever live. For me, the connection is personal, because he is my musical grandfather: one of my teachers, Charles Gorham, was a student of Mr. Clarke for a short while back in the 1940s, I believe.

I took my Conn New York Wonder cornet and played a few Clarke pieces: From the Shores of the Mighty Pacific, The Debutante and his Carnival of Venice. “Our” audience was the fifteen or so dog walkers who pass through the cemetery every morning. One of the administrators came out and took some photos of me playing by the grave.

IMG_3981You will want to know that he is buried a mere 20 feet away from the tomb of the great band leader, John Philip Sousa.

As I was walking back to my car, I was thinking that this could become a very nice tradition for future years!

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MSUC: Chapter 1, part 5 (conclusion of Chapter 1)

(This is the sixth part of my dissertation series. Previous: Monteverdi’s Symbolic Use of the Cornett, Chapter 1, part 4)


Screen Shot 2013-09-08 at 2.42.50 PMTo analyze these general trends, the material for this study was gathered from more than 2,500 sources into a database. Table 1 shows data on the types of sources, their dates, and associated geographic regions. Roughly 2,100 (85%) of sources are musical, but there are more than 200 literary sources and nearly as many artistic sources.[1] Although roughly three-quarters of the sources are from the seventeenth century, they range in date from 1500 B.C. to 1801 A. D. The top three geographic regions in numbers of sources are Germany, Italy, and Eastern Europe, respectively, 38%, 26%, and 21%.

Table 2 shows the geographical distribution separately for the musical, artistic, and literary sources. Since are by far the greatest number of sources, the same top three geographic regions in sources (Gemany, Italy, and Eastern Europe) understandably have the highest numbers of , accounting for 43%, 27%, and 25% of the subtotal. However, the picture is different for artistic sources, for which Italy, Germany, and Western Europe provide, respectively, 38%, 29%, and 22% of the subtotal. For literary sources, the picture is even more different, with England providing 84% of the subtotal, followed by Italy (5%), other Western Europe (3.7%) and ancient sources (4.6%).

Table 2 also shows the chronological distribution of the three separate sources. The seventeenth century contributes about three-quarters of the musical and literary sources, but fewer than half of the artistic ones. Roughly one-third of artistic sources come from the sixteenth century, and nearly one-fifth from before 1500. Artistic sources are thus the largest group of earlier sources.


[1]. In musical sources, for statistical purposes, the individual piece and not the entire collection was counted as a single record in my database. Equal weight was given to manuscripts, non-extant pieces known only from contemporaneous inventories, and printed pieces. Only pieces which specified cornett in writing were included.

16th-century map of Europe

16th-century map of Europe



Table 1. Research Sources by Type, Date, and Geographic Region[2]

Screen Shot 2013-09-08 at 12.39.36 PM


[2]. “Eastern European” refers to Austro-Hungarian, Polish, Bohemian, and Croatian nationalities; “Other Western European” refers to Danish, Dutch, Flemish, French, Portuguese, or Swiss.






Table 2. Research Sources Shown by Type, Broken Down by Geographic Region and Date

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Because most of the sources (93%) come from the three-hundred year period from 1500-1799, with 75% alone from the seventeenth century, it makes some sense to single out that period for separate analysis. Figure 1 shows the remarkable growth in the number of sources from 1600 to 1699 during the period 1500-1799. But this overall picture obscures the fact that literary and artistic sources occur relatively early in these years; by 1680 there remain only musical sources (figure 2). Further limiting our scope to Europe, divided into “South” (Italy and Spain) versus “North” (all remaining) yields a picture similar to that of Collver and Dickey (figure 3), in which the southern sources show a peak in growth that is slightly earlier than the northern peak.

The database includes five other fields of secondary interest. First, each record includes bibliographic material.[3] Second, a field indicating whether or not the cornett was being played is included.[4] Third, each record shows instrumentation as stipulated by the source.[5]  In some musical examples, either the cornett or another instrument could play the same part; therefore, a fourth field exists to show the instrument for which the cornett substitutes.[6] Finally, when possible, each record notes the type of cornett represented.[7]



[3]. Drawing from 66 secondary sources, my database shows 2,425 primary sources authored by more than 700 writers, artists and composers.

[4]. In the 408 artistic and literary references recorded in my database, the cornett is played about 75% of the time. It is, of course, assumed that the cornett is played in all musical sources.

[5]. There were more than 800 distinctly different instrumentations. Most notable were cornett and trombone ensembles of various combinations: 2 cornetts and 3 trombones, with or without basso continuo, occured 34 times; one cornett and 3 trombones, with or without a basso continuo occured 29 times; 2 cornetts and 4 trombones occured 16 times; and there were 17 instances of unknown types of cornett and trombone ensembles.

[6].  I counted 37 unique instrument substitutes. The top three were as follows: violin was a possible substitute 494 times; trumpet substituted 55 times; flute substituted 28 times.

[7].  I recorded twenty-five distinct types of cornett in my database. The treble cornett—a term I used to denote a cornett which plays in the soprano range—is represented the most, with 1,971 records. The cornettino occured in 207 records. The mute cornett occured in 118 records, the tenor in thirty-two, the straight cornett in twenty-nine, and the alto cornett in twenty-five. The oliphant, an ancient precursor to the cornett, is represented seventeen times. Eleven records  mentioned a “storto” (not a reference to crumhorn). The bass cornett occurs in nine sources, while the shofar—in the database because of its clear linkage to the cornett—occurs ten times. There are four examples of the fingerhole horn, another ancient precursor. In addition, there are infrequent examples of fantastical cornetts, animal-headed cornetts, and unknown types.



Fig. 1. Total Number of Sources by Decade

Fig. 1. Total Number of Sources by Decade









Fig. 2. Number of Sources by Decade and Type

Fig. 2. Number of Sources by Decade and Type









Fig. 3. Northern and Sourthern Sources Contrasted by Number of Sources by Decade

Fig. 3. Northern and Sourthern Sources Contrasted by Number of Sources by Decade









Screen Shot 2013-09-08 at 2.47.41 PMThe symbolic association field is the most important part of the cornett symbolism database, albeit the most difficult to categorize and quantify. One sees, many times in the course of this research, source examples that point to multiple symbols. That is the nature of most emblematic research. For instance, in Stephen Harrison’s engraving “The Garden of Plenty” from The Arches of Triumph (London), King James I is greeted by a cornettist in satyr costume.[8] In this example, the cornett has two symbolic associations: it is not only an instrument to announce royalty but also an instrument symbolic of a sylvan mythological creature. My database, therefore, allows for any one record to have multiple symbolic associations, and, since each association can have more than one record, the relationship between records and symbols is a many-to-many relationship. This makes it difficult to make meaningful statistical comparisons between the records and the associations, but it still allows for overall counting of the associations and statistical comparisons between different associations.

Over 4,000 associations were assigned to the 2,500-plus records, making a average of nearly 2 associations per record. There were 372 records with no clear association to be determined. In addition, there are associations that, because of their obvious defining rather than metaphorical natures, are devoid of symbolic meaning and could have been left out of the database.[9] Leaving these out, the top thirty associations are listed in table 3.


[8]. Reproduced in Leslie Thomson and Folger Shakespeare Library, Fortune “All is but Fortune” (Washington, D.C. and Seattle: Folger Shakespeare Library Distributed by University of Washington Press, 2000), 71, fig. 2.

[9]. These were often the most frequently assigned associations: for example, the cornett as a symbol of religious music (1,498 occurrences); the cornett as a symbol of multiple choir performances (308 occurrences); the cornett as an instrument (104 occurrences); as an accoustic phenomenon (60 occurrences); as a symbol for musicians (45); and as a symbol for a group of musicians (36).

Screen Shot 2013-09-08 at 2.48.49 PM

Table 3. Top Thirty Cornett Associations

Screen Shot 2013-09-08 at 2.32.30 PM














Screen Shot 2013-09-08 at 2.51.25 PM


Five thematic categories emerged from this tapestry of cornett symbols: (1) “alta” instrument—the cornett as a symbol for the large, or open-spaced venues where loud music is required; (2) sexuality and the senses; (3) learning; (4) death and rebirth; and, (5) social status. The fourth category, death and rebirth, is the focus of the next chapter in dealing with the cornett in Orfeo. The fifth category, social status, is the focal point of the third chapter, which examines the symbolic role of the cornett in the Vespers of 1610. Table 4 provides some statistical observations about all five thematic categories, the uncategorized associations, and the unspecific records.


Table 4. Thematic Categories with Statistical Analysis[10]

Screen Shot 2013-09-08 at 2.33.49 PM

[10]. In column two, the number is followed by the percentage relative to the total number in this column. In column three, each theme may have one or more records. This total number of records is followed by the percentage relative to total number in this column.


(next: Chapter 2, The Cornett as a Symbol of the Underworld in Orfeo: Cornett and Trombone Ensemble Underscores Scene Changes)



MSUC: Chapter 1, part 4

(This is the fifth part of my dissertation series. Previous: Monteverdi’s Symbolic Use of the Cornett, Chapter 1, part 3)


Letter by Monteverdi of 1627 to his patron, Marchese Enzo Bentivoglio, discussing music appropriate for a presentation of Tasso's "Aminta." In a different letter about a proposed maritime opera, Monteverdi indicates that cornetts and trombones would be appropriate but not elegant.

Letter by Monteverdi of 1627 to his patron, Marchese Enzo Bentivoglio, discussing music appropriate for a presentation of Tasso’s “Aminta.” In a different letter about a proposed maritime opera, Monteverdi indicates that cornetts and trombones would be appropriate but not elegant.

A general symbolism for the cornett can be extrapolated from contemporary iconography, literary references, the construction of the instrument, and . Although this paper does not intend to exhaustively explore the general European-wide, fifteenth- to seventeenth-century symbolic use of the cornett, this line of research contributes important insight toward an understanding of Monteverdi’s symbolic use of the cornett, especially considering J. A. Westrup’s argument that “Monteverdi’s orchestra is quite normal in structure for the period. He does not ask for unusual instruments. He employs recognized groups [of instruments] and recognized continuo instruments, and uses them in a way that would have occasioned no surprise among his contemporaries.”[1]


In contrast to this general associative use of the cornett, Monteverdi’s personal symbolism may be deduced from dramatic contexts, textual relationships, what he reveals in his letters, and other evidence derived from his life and philosophy.  No research literature to date adequately addresses Monteverdi’s symbolic use of the cornett, although a wide variety of unsynthesized information on this subject is available.

Since this type of symbolism has so many different levels of meaning, some clarification may be necessary before continuing. In this paper, when the cornett has a strong association with something else, be it an concept, a mythological figure, a person, a thing or even another musical instrument, the cornett will be said to be symbolic of this. This association might be a historic tradition long established before Monteverdi’s day, or a novel idea used only once. Although my research has indicated nearly 500 different symbols associated with the cornett, these symbols reduce down to only a handful of broad themes. While there is a certain flexibility and even inconsistency found among the sources (for example, the cornett is depicted both in heaven and in hell), the general thematic trends contribute to a symbolic niche unique to the cornett.

Next: Analysis

[1]. Westrup, “Monteverdi and the Orchestra,” 240.

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Monteverdi’s Symbolic Use of the Cornett: Chapter 1, part 3

((This is the fourth part of my dissertation series. Previous: Monteverdi’s Symbolic Use of the Cornett, Chapter 1, part 2)

General Characteristics of the Cornett

Cornett family: (l. to r.) curved descant, curved treble, lysard (tenor), bass. Unusual dragon-shaped bass cornett

Cornett family: (l. to r.) curved descant, curved treble, lysard (tenor), bass. Unusual dragon-shaped bass cornett. (from collection in Paris, musée de la musique)

A hybrid instrument according to instrument organology today, the cornett was lip-blown like a trumpet and fingered like a woodwind instrument. The cornett remains an intriguing instrument after (and perhaps in part because of) 250 years of disuse, and modern reconstructions of the instruments are now played in many early music ensembles around the world.

Cornetts: (l. to r.) mute, straight, tenor, and curved treble

Cornetts: (l. to r.) mute, straight, tenor, and curved treble

The Treble Members of the Cornett Family

There were three distinct forms of cornett: the straight, the mute, and the curved. The straight cornetts were made only in the treble range and the mute cornetts generally were made in the alto range, and both were made of a single piece of wood, turned on a lathe into a straight form. The straight cornett had a detachable mouthpiece, and its tone was bright and strident. Some researchers have claimed that the straight cornett is the oldest of the true cornetts. Although similar in outer appearance, the mute cornett had a softer and more velvety tone due to a funnel-shaped mouthpiece, carved integrally into the instrument, and a more conical bore in the body of the instrument. The range for the mute cornett was equivalent to the treble or the alto curved cornett. Although the mute cornett was not frequently specified in sixteenth- and seventeenth-century scores, it was commonly used in actual performances, according to many first-hand accounts of important musical spectacles.[1]

curved wooden cornett halve being gouged with hand tools

curved wooden cornett halve being gouged with hand tools

The wooded curved cornett was the most common type of cornett. It was made from a single piece of curved wood and split lengthwise. The two halves were gouged out to form a conical-shaped bore. These halves were rejoined with glue and linen bindings. The cornett maker usually drilled six finger holes and one thumb hole, carved the outside of the instrument into an octagonal profile, and chipped a lozenge-shaped pattern into the neck of the instrument (between the mouthpiece and the thumb hole). The instrument was then covered tightly in leather or parchment to prevent air leakage.

Ivory cornetts, the most difficult cornetts to make, were carved by hand from elephant tusks with highly specialized tools.[2] These rare instruments were curved, often with the same octagonal profile and lozenge pattern as the wooden instrument.

Ivory cornett decorated with black pigment (from National Music Museum)

Ivory cornett decorated with black pigment (from National Music Museum)

The treble curved cornett had a range approximately from a to d2, about the same range as the violin or an extended soprano voice, which was significant, given the fact the cornett doubled the soprano voice or substituted for the violin in so many sources.  Although a whole curved cornett family existed in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, the treble member was by far the most common size.

The Less Frequently Encountered Curved Cornett Sizes

Descant cornett next to treble (?) and tenor

Descant cornett next to treble (?) and tenor

The descant cornett, or cornettino, was pitched in e1 or d1, or, in other words, it was a fourth or fifth higher than the treble cornett. The alto cornett’s range was from f or g to about c2. The larger tenor cornett often had an S shape, serpentine in form, and, indeed, was called the lysard in England. The tenor cornett was a fifth lower than the treble cornett, from c to f1. Finally, not to be confused with the more common serpent, there was the very rare bass cornett, which was pitched one octave below the treble cornett.

Because the lower instruments of the cornett family were so difficult to play, or perhaps because they were deemed “bullocky” in timbre, the trombone often assumed the role of alto, tenor, and bass in the Renaissance “brass” consort. The trombone family, for its part, could not rely upon an instrument half the size of the tenor (with twice as treacherous slide placement for intonation purposes) for the soprano member of its family. The happy mixture of secure intonation and smooth sound quality in the lower voices, provided by the trombones, together with the virtuosic technique and penetrating tone of the cornett in the soprano voice, proved a very successful ensemble combination for occasions which necessitated a projecting sound, such as processions, outdoor festivities, church music, and some of the larger theatrical productions.

The "brass" family from Praetorius' Syntagma Musicum. Notice the curved cornetts and trombones are placed in a kind of ensemble at the top.

The “brass” family from Praetorius’ Syntagma Musicum. Notice the curved cornetts and trombones are placed in a kind of ensemble at the top.

(Next: Sources for cornett symbolism)

[1]. The mute cornett is found in approximately 4% of all . For some contemporaneous descriptive accounts of mute cornetts, see Howard Mayer Brown, Sixteenth-Century Instrumentation: The Music of the Florentine Intermedii, Musicological Studies and Documents (Rome: American Institute of Musicology, 1973).

[2]. Eszter Fontana, “The Manufacture of Ivory Cornetti,” The Galpin Society Journal 36 (March 1983): 29–36.

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