History of the Serpent and Ophicleide

Topics: Brass instrument, Euphonium, Tuba Pages: 2 (510 words) Published: December 13, 2012
History of the Serpent and Ophicleide

The Serpent
Canon Edme Guillaume invented this instrument in 1590 in Auxerre, France. The purpose for such an instrument was to strengthen the choir’s sound when a choir was singing plainchant. Serpent music was rarely written higher than an octave, and the cantus firmus gave the player time to stabilize each note before moving to the next one. Though some believe it to be a member of the cornet family, this is untrue. The serpent has too many qualities uncharacteristic of a cornet: a more conical bore, thinner walls, and absence of a thumbhole. The instrument was used in military bands and orchestras around the middle of the 18th century, but was soon replaced with the ophicleide, and later by euphoniums and tubas. The serpent has six holes in two groups of three. Originally held with the hands palm-down, the serpent was played vertically. The fingerings were reversed when players began to hold the instrument horizontally. The player needs to override most of the pitches, whether or not he is using keyholes.

Musical scores including serpent
Six Field Marches for Military Band, Three English Military Marches, The Creation, Divertimento St. Antoni – Haydn Water Music, Music for Royal Fieworks – Handel
Numerous Operas – Rossini
Das Leben ein Traum – Klose
Messe Solennelle, Grande Messe des Morts, Symphonie Fantastique, Grand Symphonie Funebre et Triomphale – Berlioz Meerestille, St. Paul, Midsummer Night’s Dream – Mendelssohn 9th Symphony – Louis/Ludwig Sphor

Masaniello – Carafu
Les Vepres Siciliennes – Verdi
Military March – Beethoven
Opera Rienzi, Das Liebensmahl der Apostel – Wagner

The ophicleide
The ophicleide was invented in 1817 and patented in 1821 by Jean Hilaire Aste. It served as an extension to the keyed bugle family. It was a cornerstone of the brass section and often replaced the serpent. The tubing folds back on itself and is played with a mouthpiece similar to a trombone or...
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