Word of the Week (168): VIELLE (probability 12344), by David Sutton

A VIELLE is a mediaeval stringed and bowed instrument resembling a viol; later it was also used to mean a hurdy-gurdy. There are a great many musical instruments which never made it to form part of the classical orchestra, though I believe there has been a revival of interest in some of them in recent years, prompted by a desire to hear early music as its composers would have heard it. From what I've heard of it I tend to say 'poor composers', but what do I know...

Another example of such a period instrument would be CREMONA, an ancient double-reed wind instrument: this has variant spellings CREMORNE, CROMORNA, CROMORNE, CRUMHORN, KRUMHORN and KRUMMHORN. Then we have the SHALM or SHAWM, an ancient oboe-like instrument, the THEORBO, a double-necked lute, also called the CHITTARONE, the CHALUMEAU (from Latin calamus, reed), an early rustic reed instrument that developed into the clarinet, the DULCIAN, a small bassoon, and the RACKETT, an old wind instrument of the double bassoon kind, having ventages but not keys. Less useful to the Scrabbler but splendidly named is the OPHICLEIDE - the name means 'serpent key' - a precursor of the tuba.

Finally let us mention the SACKBUT (or SACBUT or SAGBUT), which is not to be confused with a HACKBUT or HAGBUT, another name for the harquebus, a matchlock gun invented in the 15th century.


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