What's a serpent?
There's another picture of my serpent, wearing its custom-designed scarf, on my knitting page. . Pictures of the groups I play in in action are on the Cantabile Renaissance Band page and The West Gallery Quire page.
And here's what I sound like playing the Dies Irae. (size 327680)
Only half a dozen people in the world perform on serpent as a solo instrument, and I'm not one of them. But there are singers who fight to sit next to me when I play with a chorus. Here's the last verseHarvest Home. What you hear on the bass line is a serpent, baroque bass racket, cello, and 3 or 4 singers.
The serpent is an ancestor of the tuba. You can also think of it as the 16th century equivalent of a bass guitar. (The tuba is the 19th century equivalent of the bass guitar.) It was invented at the end of the 16th century when they were writing music where the bass line is really important. However since bass singers don't always sing louder than other singers, they wanted something that would bring the line out. It has a mouthpiece like a trombone or tuba, but the length of the vibrating air column is changed by finger holes like the recorder. If it were straight, it would be 8 feet long, and nobody's fingers would be able to reach the holes; hence the shape and the name.
- Pop vocal music. Old Man River is a favorite, and Danny Boy works well on the tenor serpent.
- Bach unaccompanied cello suites. No, they don't sound very good, but they're more interesting than most chopbusters.
- Susato and Playford bass lines for a gig in October.
Here's the serpent picture on the web that looks the most like mine: Serpent in Edinborough Museum of Musical Instruments
This is the world wide web answer to the question, "Where did you get your serpent?"CHRISTOPHER MONK INSTRUMENTS
This is the most inclusive serpent page I know about.Paul Schmidt's serpent page
And here's one answer to the question, "Where do you learn to play the serpent?" CURSO Y FESTIVAL INTERNACIONAL DE MUSICA ANTIGUA DE DAROCA
Here's a picture of me trying out the ophicleide at the festival in 1998.
Another answer is to learn to play the tuba. I downloaded one from the internet last spring, and played with the Harvard Summer School Band this summer.
The first place I had a chance to hear really good serpent playing was at the 1995 International Historic Brass Symposium. This is an article I wrote about it.
Another question is "Where do you play?" Here are some answers:
- Hope Ehn's Renaissance Ensemble at the Cambridge Center for Adult Education. The next term starts in September, if you want to join us.
- Bruce Randall's West Gallery Music group, 1:30-4:30, the second Sunday of every month. St Mary's Episcopal Church, Newton Lower Falls.
- So since neither of these groups work over the summer, I organized a Renaissance Band to meet at my house over the summer. It was successful, and now meets year-round.
- The Historic Brass Society meets every year for a weekend. This year it was at Storrs Connecticut, and had a wonderful set of cornetto and sackbut players to play with.
Last modified: 2005-06-12 08:41, 2007