The grave voice of the oboe is heard from the bassoon, where, without becoming assertive, it gains a quality entirely unknown to the oboe and English horn. It is this quality that makes the bassoon the humorist par excellence of the orchestra. It is a reedy bass, very apt to recall to those who have had a country education the squalling tone of the homely instrument which the farmer’s boy fashions out of the stems of the pumpkin-vine.

The humor of the bassoon is an unconscious humor, and results from the use made of its abysmally solemn voice.

Heh. Ah, that abysmally solemn voice.

This is from the same place I found the oboe description. But I read that it’s from a book called How to Listen to Music by Henry Edward Krehbiel. If you go here you can read it via gutenberg. The book was first published in 1896.


  1. OK, making my own reeds is bad enough, but making an instrument out of a pumpkin vine…how much work is THAT and how often do you have to replace it? On the other hand, it’s much cheaper than a Heckel and the vines are presumably only available once a year, so when it wears out, no more gigs till next year!

    Abysmally yours,

  2. Gee, how did I know this one would get your attention? 😉