Oakeley, Sir Herbert (Stanley)

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Obligate Lage


See Obligatory register.


See Obbligato (i).

Obligatory register

(Ger. obligate Lage).

In Schenkerian analysis (see Analysis, §II, 4), the register in which the Urlinie, or fundamental melodic line, makes its stepwise descent to the tonic from the 3rd, 5th or octave above. The term may also be applied to the supporting lower voice, which presents the bass arpeggiation (see Arpeggiation (ii)).

‘Obligatory register’ is most often invoked in connection with a general principal (which Schenker called the ‘Gesetz der obligaten Lage’) which binds every primary elaboration (Prolongation) of the fundamental line and bass arpeggiation to the registers in which they unfold, and every secondary or subsequent prolongation to the respective register of the prolongation from which it is derived. The techniques most often encountered in the ‘freeing’ of lines from the registers to which they are tied involve movement into a different octave: ascending and descending Register transfer, the raising and lowering, respectively, of a line by one or more octaves; and Coupling, the joining of two lines lying one or more octaves apart.

In the first prelude from book 1 of Bach's Das wohltemperirte Clavier, for instance, the register of the fundamental line is determined by the e'' established in bars 1–4 (ex.1a) and brought down an octave to e' (bar 19), which resolves to d' (bar 24); the low d' is then brought back to the higher octave (d'' in bar 34) so that the last two bars of the prelude (ex.1b) can complete the descent of the Urlinie to c'', i.e. in its original, ‘obligatory’ register. The coupling e''–e'/d'–d'' (ex.1c; after Schenker, 1935, fig. 49/1, which shows the entire prelude at a higher level) thus serves to reinforce this register, as well as providing expansion into the lower octave.

Schenker argued that the law of obligatory register applied to both the fundamental line and the bass arpeggiation; but subsequent writings about long-range registral coherence both by Schenkerians (Oster, 1961) and non-Schenkerians (Rosen, 1971, pp.34f and 349), have mainly been concerned with examples of ‘melodic’ connections.



See Obbligo.

Oblique motion.

In Part-writing, the melodic movement of one part against another part that remains stationary.


(Fr. hautbois; Ger. Oboe; It. oboe).

Generic term in the system of Hornbostel and Sachs for an aerophone with a double (concussion) reed (for detailed classification see Aerophone). The name is taken from that of the principal treble double-reed instrument of Western art music (see §II below).

I. General.

II. The European treble oboe.

III. Larger and smaller European oboes.




I. General.

1. Oboes.

The Aulos of ancient Greece may sometimes have had a double reed, and some kind of reed aerophone was known in North Africa in pre-Islamic times. Instruments of the Surnāy type became established with the spread of the Arab empire around the end of the first millennium ce; they were possibly a synthesis of types from Iran, Mesopotamia, Syria and Asia Minor. From there the instrument, then used in a military role, spread into conquered areas and areas of influence: to India, and later, under the Ottoman empire, to Europe (around the time of the fifth crusade, 1217–21; there may already have been bagpipes with double reeds there) and further into Asia (to China in the 14th century). As the instrument spread, it came to be made of local materials and fashioned according to local preferences in usage, shape and decoration: the Śahnāī of north India has a flared brass bell; the Sarunai of Sumatra has a palm leaf reed and a bell of wood or buffalo horn; the Algaita of West Africa is covered with leather and has four or five finger-holes.

The surnāy is the oboe of traditional music in the Islamic world; instruments of this type and with local names are played in the Near East, Turkey, south-east Europe, North Africa and many parts of Asia. The surnāy consists of a wooden conical tube widening at the end into a flared bell, a tuning-fork-shaped section (nāzik) which is inserted fork end down into the instrument, a staple, inserted into the top of the instrument, a metal lip disc (Pirouette, a name taken by Hornbostel and Sachs from Mersenne) which may be part of the staple or separate from it and attached to it, and the reed, which fits over the top of the staple and is taken entirely into the mouth when playing. The tube usually has seven finger-holes and a thumb-hole. The instrument of the Middle East is made in three sizes. It has a loud and brilliant tone and is used for outdoor celebrations. It is usually played in small ensembles: with a double-headed drum (ghayta with tabl in North Africa (see Gaita (i)), zurna with davul in Turkey); in Egypt three mazāmīr (sing. mizmār) play with one or more drums, two of the mazāmīr acting as drones; in Macedonia a large zurla acts as a melody instrument, a smaller one as a drone, a reverse of the usual pattern. The technique of circular breathing is commonly used. The Suona of China, which has a large flaring metal bell, and the European Shawm are descendants of the surnāy (and have related names). The śahnāī of North India resembles the surnāy but is distinct in not having a lip disc. Large oboes of the surnāy type include the Nāgasvaram, a wooden conical oboe of South India about 95 cm in length, with seven finger-holes, played with drums and ottu (a drone oboe with no finger-holes) for festivals, and the rgya-gling of Tibet, played in identical pairs for Buddhist rituals.

A small type of double-reed instrument originated in China where it was known as bili; it became the Guan of China, the Hichiriki of Japan (imported to Japan in the 8th century), and the P’iri of Korea. Instruments of this type are made in a variety of sizes. The guan has a cylindrical bore. The hichiriki has a reverse conical bore with seven finger-holes and two thumb-holes; the reed is made of a length of reed stalk, flattened and scraped. Such instruments are characterized by their capacity for subtle ornamentation and flexible pitch.

Rustic oboes without finger-holes, used for signalling or as noise makers, are found in England and France. The Whithorn (England) and the bramevac (France) are made of a strip of coiled bark bound together with thorns; the reed is made of green bark. There are also idioglot oboes (with the reed formed from the material of the tube); they have been found in Europe, Korea and Malaysia. The hodugi of Korea is a tube of bark removed from a slender branch. At one end the upper layer of bark is shaved down to make a reed. It may have finger-holes and the sound may be modified with open or cupped hands.

2. Reeds.

The reed is not long-lasting and so tends to be made of a plentiful local material. The reeds of the modern Western oboe, and of most other European double-reed instruments, are made of a slip of the stem of a large semi-tropical grass (Arundo donax) folded in half, the two halves bound together and scraped thin to vibrate. Arundo donax grows around the Mediterranean Sea, in Spain, France and Italy (and also in other places with a similar climate such as California and South America). The p’iri, the guan and the hichiriki have reeds of flattened and scraped bamboo. The reeds of the surnāy and many related instruments are made from a section of soft cane, bound at one end and flattened at the other to an oval; when the reed is not in use a protective cover may be placed over the end to maintain the correct shape. The guard, spare reeds and staples, and a metal mandrel for making reeds are strung together and hung from the śahnāī during performance. The charumera of Japan has a reed of corn stalk. Many instruments of South-east Asia have reeds of palm or other leaf. The selompret of Indonesia has reeds of thin plates of bamboo cut into a fan shape and tied together in two sets of three; the reeds of the of Thailand are similar, but made of palm leaf. The hnè of Myanmar has a composite double reed made from young leaves of toddy palm, which are soaked, smoked, folded and cut to shape; six to eight fan-shaped layers are bound with a thick cord. (See also Reed.)

Other oboes of Western music include the basson d’amour, Bassoon, cromorne (see Cromorne (i)), curtal, Dolzaina, Hautbois d’église, Heckelphone, Racket, Sarrusophone, Sordun, Tartölt, tenoroon and Tristan Schalmei. The cleron pastoral, cornamusa (see Cornamusa (i)), Crumhorn, Hautbois de Poitou, Schreyerpfeife, Schryari and some types of Kortholt and Shawm are Wind-cap instruments, oboes in which the reed is enclosed within a rigid wooden cap. Some bagpipes have double reeds; see Bagpipe.

See also Būq; Mizmār; and Piffaro.

For bibliography see individual entries.

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