NEWS: Birth of a new Oboe for contemporary music

The Birth of an Oboe, Royal Academy of Music: Concert Room   

2nd November 2011, 6.00 p.m.


The Redgate-Howarth Oboe System for Contemporary Music

During the last century the keywork of the oboe changed little. In contrast, the demands made upon the instrument by some composers increased considerably. Obvious examples included the extended range, (at the beginning of the 20th century G6 was usually considered to be the top note and only to be used with caution) while at the end of the century several composers had written up to D7. A second example is the increased use of microtones. In both of these examples the fingerings are frequently difficult and impractical especially when execution is required at any speed!  In addition, the increased use of sonic resources, such as multiphonics also requires, on some occasions, complex fingerings.

The Redgate-Howarth Oboe has been designed in response to these compositional developments with the joint aims of developing the keywork in order to render many of the recent challenges more readily playable and also to open the instrument up to further musical developments in the future.

Central to the project has been the development of an instrument which is at once playable by any oboist performing repertoire of any period. The developments therefore include new keywork minor modifications to existing keywork both of which will engender contemporary repertoire more playable while not altering the performance of standard repertoire.

The oboe pictured is the first instrument to be built using this re-designed keywork.

In addition to redesigned keywork a range of electronics has been developed for the instrument which can be added when required (not pictured).

The ideas for the keywork were formulated and tested by Christopher Redgate in conjunction with the oboe maker Howarth of London as part of Christopher Redgate’s Arts and Humanities Research Fellowship (AHRC) in the creative and performing Arts, held at the Royal Academy of Music, London.


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