Reference Entry

Tuba curva

David Charlton

in Oxford Music Online

Published in print January 2001 |
Published online January 2001 | e-ISBN: 9781561592630 | DOI:

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A crude wind instrument, created during the French Revolution and first heard publicly during the ceremony of Voltaire’s reburial on 11 July 1791 (see illustration). No undoubtedly authentic specimen survives, since official conservation of instruments was haphazard before the late 19th century. The instrument, probably of brass alloy, had a mouthpiece but was otherwise unbroken and curved into a ‘G’ shape. There were no finger-holes.

Examination of the music written for the tuba curva shows that the instrument was somewhat over 2·5 metres long and made in three sizes to yield a limited harmonic series on the fundamentals B♭′, C and D. Its sound was described at the time as resembling that of six serpents.

The tuba curva (and its companion instrument, the Buccin) was created according to a design that satisfied the musical requirements of composers and the aesthetic principles of Revolutionary iconography. Composers needed a new instrument that would provide increased support for the bass in outdoor music. The great majority of tuba curva and buccin music is found in choruses or instrumental pieces performed at various festivals of the Revolution (...

Reference Entry.  460 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Music

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