Quiz Time! Do You Know These Instruments?
The nomenclature of musical instruments can be a fun study, especially when you compare the American English words for instruments with their non-English counterparts. Before we focus on one instrument in the next blog entry, let's start with a snap quiz. Answers tomorrow.
1. What instrument's English name translates from the Italian as "small?"
2. What instrument's English name translates from the Italian as "quiet?"
3. What instrument is known in English simply by its Italian diminutive suffix? Hint: Its full Italian name means "small large viol."
4. What instrument's various non-English names would translate into English as "block flute," "beak flute" or "sweet flute?"
5. What woodwind instrument's name is derived from the French for "high wood?"
6. What woodwind instrument's English name translates from the Italian as "small high trumpet?"
7. What brass instrument's name translates from the Italian as "big trumpet?"
8. What renaissance and baroque instrument's name translates from the Italian as "leg viol?"
9. What ancient plucked string instrument's name comes from the Arabic for "the wood?"
10. What voice type (OK, not an instrument) takes its name from the Latin verb meaning "to hold," as in "to hold the chant melody?"
(Photo: Hey, it's a quiz. You tell me who it is!)
1. The piccolo, short for flauto piccolo (small flute).
2. The piano, short for pianoforte (soft-loud), so named because unlike on the harpsichord, the player can control the loudness of the instrument by touch. How the term fortepiano came to stand today for the instrument of 200 years ago is another story.
3. That would be the cello, formerly 'cello, and known properly as the violoncello.
4. The recorder (another puzzler of a name), known elsewhere as blockflute (blockflute, made from a single block of wood) , flûte à bec (beak flute, for the shape of its mouthpiece) and flauto dolce (sweet flute, for its sound — when played by the pros).
5. The oboe, from haut bois (high wood), presumably not because of the effect on the players's sobriety from having to blow into the darned thing.
6. The clarinet, short for clarinetto (small clarino).
7. The trombone, i.e., the big tromba. Not to be confused with the big kahuna.
8. The viola da gamba. More on the viola, da gamba and otherwise, in the next blog post.
9. The lute, from the Arabic al-ʽūd (the wood), also the source of the name of the lute's Middle Eastern cousin, the oud.
10. The tenor. Though why they permitted tenors to hold onto the sacred chant, or indeed anything of value, is beyond me.
Photo: Bandleader Kay Kyser (1905-1985), Dean of the Kollege of Music Knowledge.