Bassoon Reeds

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Bassoon Reeds
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This cane comes from the Arundo Donax plant or Giant Reed, a large, herbaceous grass that is native to southern Europe, North Africa and temperate Asia. This plant grows in clumps of bamboo-like stems with blue-green leaves that grow up to five metres tall, and spread by rhizomes. 
This inconspicuous-looking, straw-like piece of dried grass has been used as a source of cellulose for the production of rayon, but perhaps most importantly it has played a central role in the development of music, as it has been used in the production of woodwind instruments for over 5000 years. The Egyptians are known to have made flutes from single tubes of Giant Reed cane with finger holes, or double pipes tied together with string and wax, as far back as 3000 BC. This plant is now the source of all the ‘reeds’ used in woodwind instruments like oboes, clarinets, bassoons and bagpipes. Woodwind instruments rely on a tubular or conical resonator within which sound waves are generated by the vibrations of the reed. The tone produced by the instrument is controlled by the length of the resonator, which is controlled by opening and closing apertures along the length of the instrument. 
Although Giant Reed now grows all over the world, most of the cane cultivated for woodwind instruments comes from coastal southeastern France, Texas and California, where the soils and environmental conditions are thought to be particularly suited to the production of top quality woodwind canes. Arundo donax cane is harvested in the winter of its second year of growth, which allows it to obtain the ‘woodiness’ and density needed for reed instruments. The resulting canes are hollow, with a very hard, brittle and glossy pale golden outer stem. This hardness comes from the highly silicified cells in the leaves and stems of this plant. Once harvested, the cane is then bundled and allowed to dry outside for two to four months. The leaves and sheaths are then removed, and the cane is carefully sun cured for several weeks until it turns a creamy colour. The seasoned cane can then be stored until it is ready to use. 
Reeds of different diameters are selected for the different wind instruments: this larger cane is suitable for a bassoon’s reed. Specialist reed makers receive the cane cut into short lengths, and they split it, flatten it, plane it, remove parts of the rounded epidermal surface and sand it using specialist tools, until it becomes the partially-formed bassoon reed we see in front of us.

Sample ID: 1465


Solid | Object
Crook & Staple
Acoustic | Acoustics | Brittle | Cellulose | Cured | Dense | Dried | Fibre | Flattened | Glossy | Golden | Grass | Hard | Hollow | Music | Planed | rayon | Seasoned | Sound | Sound of Materials | Vibration

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