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thing 24: trumpet saline (detail) | by ranjit
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thing 24: trumpet saline (detail)

Ever since I saw it in the instrument collection at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, I've been obsessed with the trumpet marine, a giant one-stringed instrument that's supposed to sound like a trumpet. Besides its monstrous size, the most important characteristics of the trumpet marine are that it's fingered at the harmonics and played with a bow (like Glendon's harmonic violin) and that it has a buzzing bridge that gives it the brassy sound of a trumpet. The bridge has to be carefully balanced to get it to buzz, which is done by adjusting the tension on a string called the guidon that tugs the main string sideways. (You can see the guidon in the closeup shot.)

 

My instrument with no bow at all is a pretty poor imitation of a trumpet marine, but it does sound a bit salty. In the sound sample, you can hear as I fiddle with the guidon to get a buzz that I like. On the last four notes in the sample, I supressed the plucking sound in software to simulate what it might sound like when bowed. (And I cranked the reverb way up.) It does kind of sound like a trumpet!

 

What was I saying about making stringed instruments too big for myself? This one is over seven feet tall.

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Taken on February 24, 2008