The instrument, manufacturing and restoration
Parts ot the instrument
The horn is made up of several tubes which add up to a total of 4.545 meters. This length determines the fix note, that is, the note D, which marks the starting point for all the other notes. The diameter of the tube, or, the axial canal, gradually widens starting from the mouthpiece all the way to the bell (this is one of the characteristics of the horn, one that adds to that particular horn tone). The widening is even up to the bell, where is accentuated. The best horns have a welded bell, that is, their metal is hammered for an extended period. This type of metalworking hardens the metal and gives it its special tone. Moreover, the garland that encircles the rim of the bell has more than just a decorative function. It’s not only joined to the rim, rather, it is set with it; thus it reinforces rigidity, and restricts the bell from vibrating to its full capacity (which would in fact blur the tonality).
Making a good hunting horn… Not exactly an easy task!
Slabbing, boiling, bending, welding… the main principles of instrument manufacturing are well known. François Périnet, who was an outstanding pupil of Raoux in the 19th century, knew how to optimise these steps to produce better tone, solidity, sound emission, volume of the sound…
As the basis for all his innovations, he put in place a restructured bell, one that has since served as the model for all manufacturers. This is explains why even present day players will happily use more than 150 year-old instruments..
Nevertheless, things have been bound to change during the course of two centuries. To meet general demand, many manufacturers have succumbed to focussing on looks rather than sound quality, that is, reproducing good looking instruments that would not allow for a high level acoustic performance. Yet with the evolution of the market, both in terms of technological as well as economic advancements, the stakes are even higher. Here is a non exhaustive list of challenges:
- A new approach to the instrument influenced by respiration techniques as seen with other brass instruments or employed by singers.
- Higher expectations regarding ease of sound emission as well as tone quality.
- Stronger technical approach in terms of choice of resources and computer science.
- Certain materials have been banned; such as lead, which was once used for piping, or for blackening the bell.
- The increasing the number of players makes it necessary to adapt production.
- More highly qualified and better paid workforce means higher selling prices.