The Aulos: an enchanting sound for the player and the listener.
You may have seen pictures or mosaics dating back from Roman and Greek antiques of musicians holding two pipes in a V shape.
Only within the last few years, reconstructions have been made that actually sounded well.
These types of reed instruments were already known in ancient Egypt as ‘Memet’. The Etruscans called them ‘Subulo’ and, in the Roman antiquity, was named ‘Tibia’. They can be seen as the direct ancestors of similar instruments we still find today in the Mediterranean (Sipsi, Midschwiz and Launeddas).
The Auloi from my workshop have double reeds made of Mediterranean cane (Arundo Donax), similar to Oboe, Bassoon or Duduk, yet are different in the way of construction.
They enable a very fine and sensitive style of playing, already known from the instruments mentioned above and resulting in an amazing and vast range of dynamics and sound colours.
Although handling and care might be easier, I am choosing not to use plastic reeds, as I don’t like the dynamics or sound.
The instruments are made of wood, preferably boxwood (natural or stained), and sometimes Dalbergia, Elder, Olive or Plum.
The main model is based on the Aulos found in Egypt, owned by the Louvre, Paris (E10962).
Hole-settings and sizes are the same as the original. The pipes are ergonomically comfortable to play with five fingers with the deeper pipe in the right hand. The upper five holes were probably used for playing with a thumbhole on the back of each pipe. The lower holes can be closed to change the keynotes.
Dr. Stefan Hagel has undergone interesting research about the possibilities of the ‘Berlin’ Aulos, which are similar to the Louvre Aulos. Taking into count the upper five holes of each pipe, the pipes are a fourth apart from each other.
We have a diatonic scale in A in 364Hz or an F# in A444Hz, as the lowest tone with all holes closed. The scale (in A) is A, B, C, D, E, F, G, A, B, C, D. (A440Hz version is possible too)
One version closely follows the original Aulos, made of one piece with bindings on the reed seat. I added a second binding in a place that many discovered Auloi instruments had cracked. The bindings then, naturally prevent the wood from cracking.
The second Aulos version has a metal ring to reinforce the wood; the part with the reed seat and bulb sits in it and can be turned or taken of. This can be very practical to bring the reeds easily into position for playing. The metal ring also creates another protection to prevent cracks in the main pipe. The end of the pipe has a reinforcement made of black horn.
A third version of the Louvre Aulos has the same tone hole settings but is up scaled, so its tonality is deeper with a fuller sound. With all holes closed, it is tuned in D (A 440Hz). Playing the low pipe needs practice, as it is not easy to hold due to its size.
Robin Howell supported me a lot with his immense knowledge about the Auloi and reeds. And thanks to him, I could get deeper into the understanding of reed making.
Callum Armstrong inspired me much and guided me on my first steps in making the Auloi reeds and continues to be greatly important.
The measurements and researches for the Louvre Aulos by Dr. Stefan Hagel helped to work on the models and are an important reference. see his publication here