Gut, Wind and Wire

November 13, 2007

Fascinated by the variety of timbres that instruments can produce, renaissance musicians developed a wide variety of sound colors, ranging from the almost vocal sound of the bowed strings to the chirpy, bird-like sound of the high winds, the twang of the wire-strung cittern, and the buzz of the crumhorns. The sixteenth century musician's love of variety can be seen in the vast array of instruments imitated by organ stops of the period, by surviving instruments and pictures of instruments, and also by eyewitness accounts of the cornucopia of the insturments used to provide music for the lavish banquets of royalty. In true English Consort style, the Baltimore Consort, America's most popular early music ensemble, mixes instruments from different families. The Baltimore Consort was founded to perform instrumental music of Shakespeare's time. Although later joined by a singer, the group's experience of rehearsing purely instrumentallly forged its identity as an ensemble dedicated to exploiting the diverse sound colors offered by gut- and wire- strung plucked and bowed strings and transverse and end-blown recorders and flutes, capped reeds and percussion.