Friday, 4 March 2011

New things coming from old ones.

There´s nothing new under the sun and, whatever we think is something new, chances it has been invented and developed by someone else before we did are very possible. Today, I´d like to write about a percusive gadget that has deep roots into the past.

First is first, so let me introduce you the original concept:

Photo courtesy of Maciej Kazinsky

Have a look at the bottom of the bowl of this pair of baroque timpani.You can see a device shaped like a trumpet bell: it´s a "Schalltrichter" ("schall" means sound, and "trichter" means funnel).

This device was common in German timpani for a long period (between 1600 and 1800). Drums with this piece are very rare outside Germany, so we can think this constructive element is very characteristic from this country.

It was mentioned in old treatises: "Musicus autodidactos" (J.P. Eisel - 1738), "Die Pauken und Trommeln" (G. Fechner - 1862), and the older ones can be found in a pair of timpani kept at the Bayerische Nationalmuseum, dated in 1620. 

Its function was to create a saussenden Nachklang (resonant reverberance ) by means of the funnel moving back and forth, enriching a sound that, otherwise, would be quite anodyne (Fechner dixit)*.

As time passed, the "Schalltrichter" fell in disuse.

You can see more photos and read a very interesting article in The Well-Tempered Timpani.

Don´t you thik its desing is very similar to those found on subwoofers and loud speakers?

Three years ago (I don´t know if they even know what a "Schalltrichter" is), a company started selling a gadget coming form that organologic tradition, a device which gives rise to many opinions among drummers: the "Kickport".

© Kickport

As you can see, it´s kind of a funnel which goes on the resonant head of the bass drum:

© Kickport

Acording to the manufacturer, it gives "more lows, more tone, better definition and more punch", apart from slightly dampening the resonant head. Does it work? Opinions vary: there´s people that, after trying it, they hear a huge improvement, and there´s people who hears nothing at all. As always, we can find confronted opinions: some think it´s very useful and its creators have hit the jackpot, while others think it´s a bluff coming from someone with a very cunning commercial vision.

The thing is that it seems to have had some sucess, and their creators have milked the idea: Why just the bass drum when the set includes more drums? As bold as brass, they extended the concept to toms and snare drum:

© Kickport

I haven´t tried it, so I cannot give my opinion. If I ever have the chance to try it, I´ll write about it trying to explain my thoughts on it.

The very interesting thing, and what made me write about this new toy, is the similarity I´ve found between the "Kickport" and "Schalltrichter" present in German timpani. We tend to think we are very modern and cool, but this idea has been working since 1600.

As I said at the beginning, there´s nothing new under the sun... Very new looking ideas are 400 years old. The eternal return hits again, and the "Schallrichter" gets reincarnated in the "Kickport".  

* The information on the two paragraphs before the asterisk comes from an article by Ben Harms titled "The world of historical timpani", written for "Early Music America" for its summer 2008 edition.

…et in Arcadia ego.
© David Valdés

No comments:

Post a Comment