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The Central Coast Philharmonia

The Octobasse

The octobasse (octobass) was the result of a commission from composer Hector Berlioz to have another species of string instruments, one that would play the 32' octave (the octave below the string basses and the piano), and have acoustical power while doing it. Berlioz's intent was for the orchestra to become equipped with a section of these monstrous instruments. Because the instrument is so enormous, it is fingered with keys like a woodwind which are connected to gears that actually stop the notes in question. For obvious reasons, this highly impractical instrument never made it into the mainstream orchestra, but its addition to any orchestra would be irreplaceable and extremely valuable. Composer Adam Gilberti, one day set to extend the frequency range of the orchestra as Berlioz once did, has provided parts in all of his larger orchestral works for the octobasse, and in the tradition of Berlioz, has intended a section of these instruments. Unfortunately, they do not exist in the United States as of yet, and recordings, though rumoured to exist, have yet to be dug up. However, for the Genesis Concert, Adam's octobasse parts will be covered on an electronic synthesiser thanks to UCSB technology working with him to recreate a realistic patch which is to sound as close to the sound that a section of octobasse would make as possible. Someday it is the composer's aspirations to feature real specimens of this undoubtedly powerful and towering beast in a concert of grand proportions. In Europe, such performances do occur, and interested parties should check out http://www.xray.it/octo/performances.htm.


Learn more about other Special Instruments

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