About the Clarinet
The clarinet is a musical instrument in the woodwind family. The name derives from adding the suffix -et meaning little to the Italian word clarino meaning a particular type of trumpet, as the first clarinets had a strident tone similar to that of a trumpet. The instrument has an approximately cylindrical bore, and uses a single reed.
Clarinets actually comprise a family of instruments of differing sizes and pitches. It is the largest such instrument family, with more than a dozen types. Of these many are rare or obsolete, and music written for them is usually played on one of the more common size instruments. The unmodified word clarinet usually refers to the B♭ soprano clarinet, by far the most common clarinet.
In classical music, clarinets are part of standard orchestral instrumentation, which frequently includes two clarinetists playing individual parts - each player usually equipped with a pair of standard clarinets in B♭ and A (see above) and it is quite common for clarinet parts to alternate between B♭ and A instruments several times over the course of a movement. Clarinet sections grew larger during the last few decades of the 19th century, often employing a third clarinetist, an E♭ or a bass clarinet. In the 20th century, composers such as Igor Stravinsky, Richard Strauss, Gustav Mahler and Olivier Messiaen enlarged the clarinet section on occasion to up to nine players, employing many different clarinets including the E♭ or D soprano clarinets, basset horn, bass clarinet and/or contrabass clarinet.
The clarinet is widely used as a solo instrument. The relatively late evolution of the clarinet (when compared to other orchestral woodwinds) has left a considerable amount of solo repertoire from the Classical, Romantic and Modern periods but few works from the Baroque era.
The clarinet was a central instrument in early jazz starting in the 1910s and remaining popular in the United States through the big band era into the 1940s. Larry Shields, Ted Lewis, Jimmie Noone and Sidney Bechet were influential in early jazz. In the early 20th century, Clarinets in B natural were often used at ice skating rinks. The idea was that the low temperatures would make the clarinet so flat that it would effectively become a B♭ clarinet.
Clarinet choirs and quartets often play arrangements of both classical and popular music, in addition to a body of literature specially written for a combination of clarinets by composers such as Arnold Cooke, Alfred Uhl, Lucien Caillet and Vaclav Nelhybel.
The clarinet developed from a Baroque instrument called the chalumeau. This instrument was similar to a recorder, but with a single reed mouthpiece similar to that of the modern clarinet and a cylindrical bore. Lacking a register key, it was played mainly in its fundamental register, with a limited range of about one and a half octaves. It had eight finger holes, like a recorder, plus two keys for its two highest notes.
Around the turn of the 18th century the chalumeau was modified by converting one of its keys into a register key to produce the first clarinet. This development is usually attributed to a German instrument maker named Johann Christoph Denner, though some have suggested his son Jacob Denner was the inventor.
The final development in the modern design of the clarinet used in most of the world today was introduced by Hyacinthe Klose in 1839. He devised a different arrangement of keys and finger holes which allow simpler fingering. It was inspired by the Boehm System developed by Theobald Boehm, a flute maker who had invented the system for flutes. Klose was so impressed by Boehm's invention that he named his own system for clarinets the Boehm system, although it is different from the one used on flutes. This new system was slow to catch on because it meant the player had to relearn how to play the instrument."Clarinet." Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. 26 Apr 2008, 17:31 UTC. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. 26 Apr 2008 <http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Clarinet&oldid=208355208>.
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