Amoeblog


"What I like to hear blow," Job says.

Posted by Job O Brother, January 25, 2010 04:58pm | Post a Comment
fleetwood mac
Stevie Nicks, one of many people not mentioned in the following blog post

Gee whiz, I sure do like sackbuts.

Now there’s a sentence you weren’t expecting! In fact, I’m willing to bet you never once considered whether or not someone would one day write that sentence. As far as that goes, it’s a sentence right up there with, “That’s a lovely cancer you’ve got growing on your blouse,” or “Honey, would you mind moving to Atlantis yesterday?” or even, “That George Bush sure was a fine President.”

Come to think of it, there’s millions of sentences we never expect to read or hear.

But who cares? Not me. So moving on...

I like sackbuts.

I know some of you readers are assuming that “sackbut” is a word that I made up for the express purpose of being silly, which goes to show how little you understand my blog which is NOTHING BUT ABSOLUTELY FACTUAL ALL THE TIME.
Renaissance music

A sackbut is an earlier form of trombone, dating from the Renaissance to Baroque era in popularity. In sound it is similar to trombones, but is more delicate and etheric, though only by comparison.

It was invented by Albern Heißen. Legend has it that Heißen was so vexed at having to hear his neighbor, Ärgerlich Nachbarn (formost cymbal player of Saxony) practice his craft, that he invented an instrument that could rival the cymbal in terms of sleep-ruining. What Heißen didn’t realize was that his neighbor was quite deaf, having lost his hearing after dying from Plague. No matter how often or how loud Heißen would blow his sackbut, Nachbarn continued with his cymbal crashing.

Renaissance painting
Albern Heißen, inventor and Playgirl's Centerfold for 1529

This was back when traveling hordes of Mexicans would roam Northern Europe, fruitlessly looking for a warm place to settle down and “exist” in. The Mexicans – known as “Protestants” in those days – happened to hear Heißen and Nachbarn’s “duet” and quickly sought to learn how to re-create it. This led to the sackbut’s spread of popularity throughout Europe, while simultaneously sparking the Thirty Years War, after Jaroslav Bořita z Martinic and Vilém Slavata z Chlumu a Košumberka gave an impromptu performance of a (then scandalous) sackbut sonata at Hradčany Castle, which ended in their being tossed out a window into a pile of manure*.


Early music critics

Eventually, sackbuts lost out to the better tasting and lower calorie trombone, which remains popular to this day.

Even so, there are still some groups of musicians who play and record this instrument of yore. One of my favorite such groups is His Majestys Sagbutts and Cornetts, who have a spiffy selection of compact discs available.

And, at the risk of… erm… tooting our own horn, Amoeba Music Hollywood actually has a sackbut section you could check out. It’s located in Classical Music. The sackbut section is small, but it’s there!

I hope you enjoy discovering this neat instrument as much as I have. In the words of sackbut affectionado Martin Luther:

“Der Hut Ich trage sieht aus wie eine hängende, dunkle Pfannkuchen!”







*This is the origin of that famous schoolyard chant, “See-saw one, see-saw two, play with a ‘but, get a bunch-a poo!”

Relevant Tags

Stevie Nicks (16), Sackbut (1), Renaissance (2), Baroque (4), Classical Music (28), Trombone (1), Thirty Years War (1), His Majestys Sagbutts And Cornetts (1), Amoeba Music Hollywood (104)