Shawm being played(the renaissance shawm)

"At great feasts they are to play upon shagbut, cornetts, 
shawms and other instruments going with wind."
-Richard Brathwaite, 1621

click image for alto shawm sound (134kb wav) 
or here for same in mp3

canario - dance tune by Fabrito Carioso 
(second verse by alto shawm)

ein feste burg - three settings by Walther 
(first setting includes tenor shawm, alto zink and crumhorn)

Unlike the medieval shawm, the late Middle Ages and Renaissance shawm uses a broad cane reed controlled by the player's lips. With the smaller size shawms, the reed could be placed inside a pirouette, a funnel shaped protector against which the player places his lips. This pirouette not only protects the reed, but also helps avoid lip fatigue.

tenor schawm The shawm band enlivened the palace courtyard and market square of the sixteenth century and added to the general din and confusion associated with them.

"Clown: Why, masters, have your instruments been at Naples, that they speak i' th' nose thus?

Musician: How, sir, how?

Clown: Are these, I pray, call'd wind instruments?

Musician: Ay, marry, are they, sir.

Clown: O. therey hangs a tail.

Musician: Whereby hangs a tale, sir?

Clown: Marry, sir, by many a wind instrument that i know. But, masters, here's money for you; and the General so likes your music, that he desires you, of all loves, to make no more noise with it."
-Shakespeare, Othello 

End piece of shawm All shawms have several vent holes between the hole for the lowest note and the end of the bell. This section of the instrument is very long and contributes to the tone and carrying power of the instrument. A large fontanelle protects the key mechanism of the lowest note(s), and the crenellated metal band often found wrapped around the bell not only helps protect the instrument but also helps make the shawm a sturdy weapon for settling disputes among town musicians.

Musica Antiqua's shawms include a soprano in c1 by Hermann Moeck, two altos in by Moeck, a tenor in c by Moeck, a soprano in c1 by John Hanchet, and an alto in f by Collier.

Additional Resources:

  • S. Virdung: Musica getutscht (Basle, 1511/r1970)
  • M. Agricola: Musica instrumentalis deudsch (Wittenberg, 1529/r1969)
  • O. de La Marche: Memoires (Lyons, 1562)
  • T. Arbeau: Orchesographie (Langres, 1588)
  • C. de la Ruelle: Decem insignes tabulae, complexae icones justorum ac honorum supremorum, corpori serenissimi principis(Nancy, 1611)
  • M. Praetorius: Syntagma musicum ii, iii (Wolfenbuttel, 1618/r1958)
  • M. Mersenne: Harmonie universelle (Paris, 1636/r1963)
  • J. Talbot: Musica (MS, GB-Och Mus.1187, c1697)
  • E. vander Straeten: La musique aux Pays-Bas avant le XIX siecle, iv (Brussels, 1878/r1969)
  • A. Sandberger: Introduction to H. L. Hassler: Werke II, DTB, viii, v/1 (1904)
  • H. C. de Lafontaine: The King's Musick (London, 1909/r1973)
  • F. W. Galpin: Old English Instruments of Music (London, 1910)
  • K. Weinmann: Johannes Tinctoris, 1445-1511, und sein unbekannier Traktat 'De inventione et usu musicae' historische-kritische Untersuchung (Regensburg, 1917)
  • C. Sachs: Sammlung alter Musikinstrumente bei der Staatlichen Hochschule fur Musik zu Berlin (Berlin, 1922)
  • G. Kinsky: 'Doppelrohrblatt-Instrumente mit Windkapsel', AMw, vii (1925), 253-96
  • A. Schering: Musikgeschichte Leipzigs, ii (Leipzig, 1926)
  • P. Bromse: Floten, Schalmein und Sackpfeifen der Sudslawen (Brno, 1937)
  • A. Baines: 'James Talbot's Manuscript: I: Wind Instruments', GSJ, i (1948), 9
  • W. L. Woodfill: Musicians in English Society from Elizabeth to Charles I (Princeton, 1953/r1969)
  • P. Bate: 'Shawm and Oboe Embouchure', GSJ, viii (1955), 60
  • A. Baines: Woodwind Instruments and their History (London, 1957)

Schawm at the madrigal dinner



Shawm being played(the medieval shawm) 

click image for Medieval schalmei sound  
(114kb wav) 
or here for a short mp3

The shawm was the most important double reed instrument of the Middle Ages and Renaissance. The shrill piercing tone of the medieval shawm made it suitable for use outdoors. It is still found in Asian and European folk cultures today.

The shawm was probably a Mohammedan invention and supposedly developed in Bagdad during the reign of Calif Harun-al-Rashid (763-807). It seems logical that the shawn was introduced into Europe during the time of the Crusades when the typical Saracen military band consisted of shawms, trumpets, and drums.

The medieval or oriental shawm is keyless with seven finger holes and one thumb hole. The narrow bore accounts for its compact tone which is produced by a double reed which is not controlled by the player's lips (i.e., the entire reed is placed inside the mouth). This reed is attached to a staple at whose base lies a metal disc, against which the player presses his lips when performing.

shawm mouthpieceMusica Antiqua's shawms include a maple sopranino in f1 and a soprano in c1 by Gunther Koerber.




Additional Resources:

  • S. Virdung: Musica getutscht (Basle, 1511/r1970)
  • M. Agricola: Musica instrumentalis deudsch (Wittenberg, 1529/r1969)
  • O. de La Marche: Memoires (Lyons, 1562)
  • T. Arbeau: Orchesographie (Langres, 1588)
  • C. de la Ruelle: Decem insignes tabulae, complexae icones justorum ac honorum supremorum, corpori serenissimi principis(Nancy, 1611)
  • M. Praetorius: Syntagma musicum ii, iii (Wolfenbuttel, 1618/r1958)
  • M. Mersenne: Harmonie universelle (Paris, 1636/r1963)
  • J. Talbot: Musica (MS, GB-Och Mus.1187, c1697)
  • A. Baines: Woodwind Instruments and their History (London, 1957)
  • F. L. Harrison: Music in Medieval Britain (London, 1958)
  • R. Rastall: 'Some English Consort-groupings of the Late Middle Ages', ML, 1v (1974)

Comments from Musica Antiqua's audiences

Peter Boyce, MIT, President, American Astron. Society 

"I would like to extend a word of appreciation to you for the delightful entertainment that you and Musica Antiqua provided. We received countless compliments from our members and we would like for you to know how enjoyable the occasion was for everyone. Clearly, you all put your hearts into every performance, and your audience certainly appreciated it." Read more about Comments from Musica Antiqua's audiences

Antiqua Program in the Boone Elementary Schools


The great audience of Boone students participated by watching and carefully listening, by keeping time with their feet, and even sometimes by covering their ears with their hands as they listened to the instruments of Medieval and Renaissance times. This educational experience was supported by the Boone Educational Endowment Foundation

The musicians of Musica Antiqua would like to thank Boone's students, teachers, and administrators for the warm reception we received while performing in your community. Apologies are offered to the fine students of Bryant School (and to principal Linda Boettcher, who celebrated her 29th birthday with the help of her students and the well-known medieval tune, Happy Birthday) because we did not take photos during our first performance of the day.

Steve tuning before performance

Sir Steve Kelleher is pictured clowning around while tuning the six string bass gamba in preparation for an audience of 3rd, 4th and 5th graders at Boone's Bryant, Franklin, and Lincoln schools.

Kids watching
Girls smiling for a picture with instruments
Kids posing for a picture
Kids posing for a picture
Kids trying out recorders
Kids trying out recorders
Kids posing for a picture

The students performed the old round Derrie Ding Ding Dasson after being prepared by their music teachers, Darlene Miller, Becky Reger, and Ruth Kanagy. Students performing as soloists with the ensemble included Andrew at Bryant and Steph at Franklin School. 

Student with instrument
Kids watching performance
Kids watching performance
Doc playing pipe and tabor

Doctor Bleyle performs on two instruments at the same time with his pipe and tabor.

kids watching performance
Student with an instrument


zink being played(cornett) 

click image for zink sound 
(105kb wav) 
or here for same in mp3 format

"It seems like the brilliance of a shaft of sunlight appearing in the shadow or in darkness, when one hears it among the voices in cathedrals or in chapels."

Altezza d'Amore - dance tune 
(live performance with dancer includes soprano zink, recorders, lute)

ein feste burg - three settings by Walther 
(first setting includes alto zink, tenor shawm, and crumhorn)

The most versatile Renaissance wind instrument was the cornett or zink. Between 1500 and 1650 the zink was used indoors and out, in serious music, dance music, town bands, rural households, at church, and court. Its uniqueness is due to its hybrid construction: a very small acorn cup mouthpiece (played on the side of the mouth where the lips are thinner) is attached to a hollowed out piece of curved wood or ivory.  Six finger holes and a thumb hole are drilled in the body of the zink and it is fingered in much the same manner as a recorder. A competent performer can make the zink sound as loud as a trumpet or softly enough to blend with recorders. No other instrument came so close to the sound of the human voice. Roger North even stated that one might mistake it for a choice eunuch.

zink being played Very little breath is used in playing the zink. Mersenne mentions a French court musician, M. Sourin of Avignon, who could play one hundred measures in one breath!!

According to Benvenuto Cellini, it was his cornett playing that procured him a position with Pope Clement VII who hired him on the spot after hearing Cellini perform the soprano part of some motets on the zink. Although the straight cornett was probably the earliest type of this instrument, later cornetts were curved, possibly to facilitate reaching the finger holes on larger instruments.

The cornetto curvo or krumme zink has a bore made from a curved piece of wood which has been cut in half, hollowed out, and glued back together. The outside is then planed to an octagonal shape and a leather covering is glued around it to seal any weak portion of the wood against the wind pressure built up inside.

The cornett was an instrument of the virtuoso player. In the early Baroque it was in competition withthe violin for instrumental supremacy. The violin, however, won the battle and is still considered on of the most virtuosic of modern instruments. Other competitors which finally drove it to extinction were the baroque trumpet and oboe.

zink mouthpieceMusica Antiqua's collection of small size zinks includes a soprano zink in c1 by Monk, a soprano in c1 and an alto in a by Moeck, and a nicolo in c by Monk. See the lizard page and the serpent page for information about the larger sizes of the zinc family.

Additional Resources:

  • Duane Roberts' Renaissance Cornetto Page
  • David Jarratt-Knock's Cornetto Page
  • 16 Century Italian Repertory for Cornetto
  • G. Dalla Casa: Il vero modo di diminuir (Venice, 1584)
  • M. Praetorius: Syntagma musicum ii, iii (Wolfenbuttel, 1618/r1958)
  • M. Mersenne: Harmonie universelle (Paris, 1636/r1963)
  • R. Holmes: Academy of Armory (MS, c1688)
  • G. Kastner: Danses des morts (Paris, 1582)
  • F. W. Galpin: Old English Instruments of Music (London, 1910)
  • M. Schneider: Die Anfange des Basso continuo und seiner Bezifferung (Leipzig, 1918/r1971)
  • C. S. Terry: Bach's Orchestra (London, 1932)
  • G. Karstadt: Zur Geschichte des Zinken und seiner Verwendung in der Music des 16.-18. Jahrhunderts diss., U. of Berlin, 1935)
  • A. Vesella: La banda (Milan, 1935)
  • A. Gardner: Handbook of English Medieval Sculpture (London, 1937)
  • G. Karstadt: 'Der Zink' AMf, ii (1937), 385-432
  • A. Carse: Musical Wind Instruments (London, 1939/r1965)
  • A. Baines: Woodwind Instruments and their History ((London, 1957)
  • F. Harrison and J. Rimmer: European Musical Instruments (London, 1964)




Bagpipe playerclick image for bagpipe sound (175kb wav) 
or here for the same in mp3 format

The origins of the bagpipe can be traced back to the most ancient civilizations. The bagpipe probably originated as a rustic instrument in many cultures because a herdsman had the necessary materials at hand: a goat or sheep skin and a reed pipe. The instrument is mentioned in the Bible, and historians believe that it originated in Sumaria. Through Celtic migration it was introduced to Persia and India, and subsequently to Greece and Rome. In fact, a Roman historian of the first century wrote that the Emporer Nero knew how to play the pipe with his mouth and the bag thrust under his arm. During the Middle Ages, however, the bagpipe was heard and appreciated by all levels of society.

Bagpipes have always been made in many shapes and sizes, and have been played throughout Europe from before the Norman Conquest until the present day. Medieval pipes usually had a single drone - see contemporary illustrations of Chaucer's Canterbury Tales for English single-drone pipes. Around 1400 (give or take 50 years), most shepherd-style pipes acquired a second drone. A third drone is added about after 1550. See paintings by Brueghel and the illustrations in Praetorius' Syntagma Musicum. The Renaissance also saw the advent of small, quiet chamber pipes such as Praetorius' Hummelchen or the French shuttle-drone models, some blown with bellows under the arm rather than with the mouth.

The construction of the bagpipe allows a continuous supply of air to be maintained. By squeezing the bag with his left hand while a breath is taken, the flow of air can be kept up in both the drone pipes and chanter. Other features of this instrument are the mouthpipe and the double reed of the chanter and drone. The mouthpipe contains a round piece of leather hinged onto the bag end which acts as a one way valve. As the player blows air in, the flap opens; when he stops blowing the air pressure within the bag forces the flap shut. The chanter has seven finger holes and a thumb hole, and has a usual range of an octave and one note.

The bagpipe is ideal for solo dances and monophonic music. It has been mentioned for use in polyphony, but if so, problems would arise. The drone would preclude the possibility of any change of mode, and the continuous sound would prohibit observance of rests.

Stone carving of bagpipe During the Renaissance, the bagpipe gradually moved from country to court. Both Edward II and Edward III had pipers at court. King Henry VIII, composer and music patron, also had an extensive collection of instruments which, according to a contemporary account, included wone with pipes of ivorie and a bagge covered with purple vellat. As a rustic instrument it has been immortalized in the paintings of Pieter Breughel and his contemporaries.

Bagpipe DronesMusica Antiqua's collection includes a replica with two drones patterned after Brueghel's Peasant Wedding, and a Hummelchen (little bumblebee) bagpipe which is modelled after the smallest of the four included in Praetorius' Syntagma Musicum of 1619. The Brueghel model is smaller than a highland pipe and loud, but not as piercing as a today's highland pipes. The Praetorius model is tiny and has sweet and delicate tone, making it useful both as a solo instrument and in ensemble with other Renaissance instruments. The chanter has a range from c1 to d2 and two drones tuneable to and or g and d. This boxwood replica was made by Wolfgang Lentelme of Germany. 


Additional Resources:

Dragonlance Recording Session in Brooklyn Falls, Minnesota


"You met one of the true celebrities from Lake Geneva to frequent our store.  We knew Margaret well.  She was also a strong supporter of the local wildlife rehabilitator that we sponsored, so we'd see her at their events frequently.  I think she ended up in LG because of TSR - the creators of Dungeons and Dragons - which was headquartered in LG until ~'98 when they moved to Seattle.  Margaret stayed behind and started writing and publishing her fantasy books. I think she now has her own line of role-playing fantasy games, ala D&D, which are based on her books.  Now movies, WOW! A very pleasant woman."
-Bryce Dreeszen, Wisconsin

Doc, Dee, and Alan with Karl Pruesser

Dragonlance composer, Karl Pruesser, flew to Ames in October of 2006 to discuss characteristics of Medieval and Renaissance instruments.  The animated film, based on Margaret Weis's first book in the Dragonlance series, is scheduled to be released in November of 2007.  From left: Alan Spohnheimer, Dr. Bleyle, Karl Pruesser, Dee Dreeszen

Margaret Weis

The Wisconsin author, Margaret Weis, visits with Carl Bleyle during a lunch break.

Doc with organetto

Sound technicians worked constantly to adjust microphones for best effect. Some instruments needed three mics. 

Dee with dulcimer

Dee found a spot to ready herself to record one of several numbers on her dulcimer. 
The recording studio was Winterland Studios

Steve with lute

Behind Stephen Kelleher in the primary recording room is the control box with sliders.  Wearing earphones while performing, each instrumentalist could control the volume of his own sound, the sound of the performers in the other three rooms, the midi track, and the click track.  Note the zink and small crumhorn on the floor.

The Red room

A view of the red room 

gemshorn played by Dee

Gemshorn work in the blue room 

Preparing to sample the percussion instruments

Preparing to sample the percussion instruments 

control booth overview

This view of the control booth shows only some of the equipment.  That's the composer, Karl Pruesser, in the foreground. 
Sometimes a window on the computer screen would show the animation coordinating with the music played.

Group ready to play the ensemble number

Preparation for an ensemble number; Dee on alto recorder, Alan on bass hirtenschalmei, Steve on bass gamba, Doc on percussion. 
Tenor gemshorn, bass crumhorn, alto shawm, and lute are visible in the background.

Steve resting

13 hours of recording can be exhausting! 

instrument in the studio lounge