New Sounds for Old: Tam-Tam, Tuba Curva, Buccin

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During the first years of the French Revolution the public festivals honouring persons and events became gradually more large-scale and organised. But even in 1790 and 1791 the contributions of music marked an important break with the past. The tam-tam was first heard on 20 September 1790 at a funeral ceremony for the Swiss regiment massacred at Nancy, and then in Gossec's extraordinary 'Marche lugubre' at Mirabeau's funeral, 4 April 1791. An engraving of the occasion reveals the instrument in action. The Tuba curva and Buccin were wind instruments established on Roman designs and created for the large-scale, neoclassical, street procession for the reburial of Voltaire in the Panthéon on 11 July 1791. Several illustrations of these instruments, in service on this and other occasions, are reproduced. Analysis of their surviving music reveals their probable dimensions. Tables show operatic uses made of the tam-tam between 1792 and 1810, and the sum total of surviving notes written for the two wind instruments.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)39-47
Number of pages9
Publication statusPublished - 1973


  • France, Revolution, music, festivals, tam-tam, tuba curva, buccin.

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