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Brasswind terminology

Note on the Brasswind Terminology Working Group

All of us are frequently confronted with the problem of identifying musical instruments and their components correctly, whether in the process of defining a part that has been damaged or restored, or trying to transmit our knowledge to school children, students or our academic colleagues. Occasionally this task is a distinct challenge due to the lack of a standardized terminology in the field of organology.

Recognizing this fact, the Brasswind Terminology Working Group, which consists of four brass scholars at this point (Stewart Carter, Arnold Myers, Bradley Strauchen and myself), tries to develop a coherent terminology for brasswind instruments and their components in English. Our approach differs from hierarchical systems, such as the Hornbostel-Sachs classification - which is a "downward" system - in its "upward" orientation. We derive our terminology from the detailed inspection and delineation of an instrument in its musical, social, historical and technological contexts, rather than its classification according to general characteristics.

The primary goal of the Brasswind Terminology Working Group is the standardization of brasswind terminology to create a commonly accepted, precise language, which eventually can be used by anyone concerned with this instrument type (organologists, musicologists, museum curators, instrument makers and others who have need to refer to these instruments).

We hope that this project will stimulate the development of similar working groups for other types of instruments, and in languages other than English. A long-term goal is to create a generally accepted terminology for the field of organology that applies to instruments and their parts in a clear and consistent manner.

Sabine K. Klaus
Brasswind Terminology Working Group Member
From CIMCIM Bulletin No. 58, February 2005.

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This page updated 18.2.05