anachronism, Antonio Vivaldi, Benny Goodman, clarinet, Disney, Dwarves, Fantasia 2000, George Gershwin, instruments, Johann Cristoph Denner, Juditha Triumphans, medieval musicians, Paul Dukas, Rhapsody in Blue, The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, The Sorcerer's Apprentice, Tolkien
Welcome, as always, dear readers.
Tolkien scholars have long noticed that the 1937 Hobbit has a certain number of anachronisms—as did JRRT himself.
As have we, too, in past postings, including one on popguns
[Gandalf speaking to Bilbo: “It is not like you, Bilbo, to keep friends waiting on the mat, and the open the door like a pop-gun.” “An Unexpected Party”)]
[Gandalf: “And just bring out the cold chicken and tomatoes!” “An Unexpected Party”]
and steam engines.
[“At may never return he began to feel a shriek coming up inside, and very soon it burst out like the whistle of an engine coming out of a tunnel.” “An Unexpected Party”]
In the 1966 edition, Tolkien changed “tomatoes” to “pickles” and considered changing that engine whistle to “like the whee of a rocket going up into the sky” (see Douglas A. Anderson, The Annotated Hobbit, 47, note 35) but decided against it. And the popgun—remained the popgun.
Recently, we fell upon another:
“Kili and Fili rushed for their bags and brought back little fiddles; Dori, Nori, and Ori brought out flutes from somewhere inside their coats; Bombur produced a drum from the hall; Bifur and Bofur went out too, and came back with clarinets that they had left among the walking-sticks.” (“An Unexpected Party”)
Hmm, we thought. Well, Middle-earth is more or less a medieval world and medieval musicians played stringed instruments and drums and flutes, both transverse (like a modern flute) and recorders, as well as certain other wind instruments, but clarinets?
When we think of clarinets, the first thing which comes into our minds is the famous 20th-century clarinetist, Benny Goodman (1909-1986)
with his Bflat clarinet,
playing the opening of George Gershwin’s (1898-1937)
Rhapsody in Blue (1924)
in a 1942 recording. (Here’s a LINK so you can hear that recording for yourself.) Even if you don’t read music, you can see (and hear) that it begins with a clarinet doing a long trill, then playing a glissando, meaning a slide, up several octaves. We wonder if Bifur and Bofur could play like that!
(We also recommend a very unusual rendition of the piece. In 2000, Disney Studios released a film called Fantasia 2000,
which was their modern take on the 1940 Fantasia
which consisted of a series of piece of classical pieces with Disney animation interpretations. Here’s a famous moment from Paul Dukas’ The Sorcerer’s Apprentice.
The 2000 version features a very lively performance of Rhapsody drawn as if it’s taking place during the Great Depression—and even features a cameo appearance by Gershwin himself.
Here’s a LINK to the scene so that you can enjoy it for yourself.)
But we were wondering about those clarinets, so we did a little research and found this, the ancestor of the clarinet, the chalumeau.
About 1700, it is thought, this man, Johann Christoph Denner, (1655-1707)
a famous wind instrument maker, extended the range of the chalumeau and thus made it a more flexible instrument.
The (presently) first known use of clarinets in an orchestra is in Antonio Vivaldi’s (1678-1741)
1716 oratorio, Juditha Triumphans.
And, with that, we thought: “Hmm. Yep. Another anachronism” and were about to move on when our eye was caught by this about Beorn at the Battle of the Five Armies:
“The roar of his voice was like drums and guns…” (Chapter 18, “The Return Journey”)
Drums—well, of course. Bombur had one. And, in The Lord of the Rings, there’s that mention of “drums, drums in the deep”, but…guns?
Thanks, as ever, for reading and—as you can see—