bout the Dulcian

The Dulcian is the predecessor of the modern bassoon. It differs from early bassoons in two key respects: the number of its constituent parts, and the shape of its bell. The dulcian is made of a single piece of wood, where as early bassoons are made from four pieces of wood. The end of the dulcian usually has a flare in its bell something like that of a clarinet, while the bassoon has almost no flare at all. Some dulcians have caps on their ends very much like cornamusen. Like bassoons, dulcians have a conical bore, and double reeds which attach to the instrument through a brass bocal. Dulcian

Like many early instruments, dulcians were known by several names. Praetorius identifies the instruments in his Syntagma musicum as fagotten and dolcianen. The term fagott was most commonly used, and was used throughout Europe. Presumably it refered to the instrument's appearance, as the definition of faggot is a bundle of sticks. Dulcian was used in Germany. It is derived from the Latin, Dulc, meaning sweet. This is most likely descriptive of the instrument's timbre, as other wind instruments of the time such as crumhorns had a harsher timbre. In England it was called the curtall. This term is derived from the Latin word curtus, meaning short. It may refer to the fact that the instrument is doubled back upon itself and is thus shorter than its sounding note.

The dulcian came into use in the latter part of the sixteenth century. It superceded related instruments of the time such as the bass shawm, which was known as the pommer or bomharten. As was common practice of the time, dulcians were produced in various sizes from bass through discant. The highest instrument, whose lowest note was g, was called the discant fagott. The next lowest instrument was called the fagott piccolo. It played an octave lower than the discant. The next largest instrument was the chorist fagott, whose lowest note was C. This was the most common type of dulcian. Larger dulcians were produced. The first was known as the quart fagott, as its lowest note was a fourth below the chorist fagott. The second was known as the quint fagott, as its lowest note was a fifth below the chorist fagott. Dulcian were usually made from maple or fruit wood. Dulcian

French instrument makers of the seventeenth century began to produce wind instruments in several pieces. By the latter part of the century the first bassoons were produced. In Germany and Italy they were called faggot, the same name that was applied to dulcians. The fact that their name did not change suggests that bassoons were seen as an evolution of the dulcian. In England they were called bassoons. This referred to the low register of the instrument. By the early eighteenth century dulcians had been superceeded by bassoons.


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