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Anvil in orchestra? (Read 1546 times)

Offline ed_thomas

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Anvil in orchestra?
« on: November 01, 2006, 02:16:41 PM »
Someone asked on another board if anyone knew of an orchestral piece that required playing a real blacksmith's anvil during its performance.  I'm familiar with Handel's Harmonious Blacksmith, but that's for keyboard and about the only blacksmith piece I know.  Anybody know of a real anvil piece?

Offline timothy42b

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Re: Anvil in orchestra?
«Reply #1 on: November 01, 2006, 03:18:02 PM »
Yeah, there is one.  Anvil Chorus?  something like that.

We played it once, and the director brought a real anvil.  That didn't work.  Real anvils are built to damp out vibrations and they don't ring much. 

I brought in a short piece of railroad track and that rang very nicely. 
Tim

Offline ed_thomas

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Re: Anvil in orchestra?
«Reply #2 on: November 01, 2006, 07:26:10 PM »
Timothy:  Thanks.  I didn't know if that piece was actually scored with an anvil or not.  Since I posted this, someone else pointed me to the Ring Cycle where Wagner actually prescribed 18 tuned anvils in the score.  Supposedly, the Solti recording used the full complement, though it is seldom done.   I think I'm going to have to chase that one down now.   :D

I am an ornamental blacksmith by profession, and life-long amateur pianist by enthusiasm.  Makes for an interesting combination sometimes.  You must have gotten a Fisher anvil when you did your performance.  They are unusual in that they DON'T ring.  But most anvils, particularly good new ones, ring quite loudly.  Those of us that care about our ears, go to great lengths to reduce that ringing by dampening the sound with straps or chains, and making stands that help mute it.  Of course I always wear hearing protection the whole time I'm in the shop, though unfortunately I'm an exception.

That was pretty clever using a RR track, by the way.  Yes, they sure do ring! :)

Offline pianolist

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Re: Anvil in orchestra?
«Reply #3 on: November 01, 2006, 08:07:38 PM »
There are obscure works which call for anvil, such as Patrick Hadley's "La Belle Dame sans Merci," which can be found on Google, but one important musical moment is the hammer and anvil in Mahler's 6th Symphony. I heard it in Berlin last year, when the Berlin and Vienna Philharmonics played together. I can't imagine any other orchestra has a bigger set, and it certainly made a noise from hell when it was struck. The hammer was absolutely enormous, and it was a real effort for the player to lift. I think they had fun at the rehearsals, making as though to hit someone's head, but you'd have to be careful not to end up with one player fewer!
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Offline timothy42b

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Re: Anvil in orchestra?
«Reply #4 on: November 02, 2006, 11:50:09 AM »

I am an ornamental blacksmith by profession, and life-long amateur pianist by enthusiasm.  Makes for an interesting combination sometimes.  You must have gotten a Fisher anvil when you did your performance.  They are unusual in that they DON'T ring.  But most anvils, particularly good new ones, ring quite loudly. 

Thanks, I didn't know that, it is very helpful to hear from an expert.

Many machinery bases are made from cast iron for just that purpose, as this material tends to damp vibration.  (It's also cheap to cast in large sizes.)  I made the erroneous assumption anvils were that way too. 

Yeah, rails ring really well!  And since I've used a piece as an anvil in my garage practically forever, I am careful to wear earplugs if I do much hammering.  The other weird thing is how different a brass cannon sounds from a iron/steel one.  When they do Civil War reenactments it is fun to hear one cannon go pow and the next one go powGOOOOONNNNGGGGG. 
Tim

Offline ed_thomas

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Re: Anvil in orchestra?
«Reply #5 on: November 02, 2006, 01:35:16 PM »
pianolist:  I shared your post with the blacksmiths on that forum.  Thanks.  One other blacksmith noted the Mahler symphony as well, and said there must be over a 1,000 pieces scored with an anvil.  It's just seldom done literally.  I can see why.    It's been years since I listened to the 6th, and I never knew about the anvil.  Now I just HAVE to go find it and listen again.

Tim:  As you surmised, the Fisher has a cast iron base.  It was an American invention and made the US independent from exclusively importing European anvils.  As I understand it, Fisher perfected the process of pouring (casting) iron onto a tool steel face.  A Fisher anvil is the only quality anvil that doesn't ring.  Previously, the top tool-steel plates were always forge-welded onto a wrought iron base.  A quality forged anvil was tested for integrity of that forge weld by its ring.  Anywhere the plate was not completely welded to the base, it would sound dull and lifeless.  So if the plate was  successfully forge-welded, it rebounded and rang like a bell.   Now, all good anvils are cast or forged from one chunk of high-grade steel because it is easier and cheaper, and they all ring. 

There are exceptions that we call:  "Anvil-Shaped Objects" or "ASOs".  These are cast iron imitations of anvils that worthless for forging.  You can find them in Harbor Freight, Grizzly, and various other non-blacksmithing supply houses.  They look like anvils, but are actually boat anchors.  They do not ring at all, as you noted, being just a hunk of soft cast iron.

I live about 20 miles from New Market VA, and grew up less than 20 miles from Gettysburg, and haven't attended a reenactment yet.  But now you got me curious about the sonics of such an event.  Maybe I'll go check one out.  A coincidence:  my home-built double-axle trailer for hauling machinery and other toys, came from someone who used it to haul a reproduction cannon for reenactments.  I never saw the cannon.

Offline Bob

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Re: Anvil in orchestra?
«Reply #6 on: November 03, 2006, 03:52:27 AM »
Anvil in a "wind" orchestra....

Gustav Holst, Second Suite for Band, Song of the Blacksmith
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Offline Floristan

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Re: Anvil in orchestra?
«Reply #7 on: November 03, 2006, 06:32:21 PM »
Timothy: Thanks. I didn't know if that piece was actually scored with an anvil or not. Since I posted this, someone else pointed me to the Ring Cycle where Wagner actually prescribed 18 tuned anvils in the score. Supposedly, the Solti recording used the full complement, though it is seldom done. I think I'm going to have to chase that one down now. :D

Yes, Wagner calls for tuned anvils in "Das Rheingold," the first of the 4 "Ring" operas.  It's at the end of Scene 2.  Here's the description from Wikipedia:

"At this point there is an orchestral interlude that "paints" the descent of Loge and Wotan into Nibelheim. One of the most striking features of the interlude is when the orchestra fades out and gives way to a choir of 18 tuned anvils (indicated in the score with specific size, quantity and pitch), beating out the dotted rhythm of the Nibelung theme to starkly depict the toiling of the enslaved dwarves."

It's quite a scene, and if you've ever seen and/or heard it, it will stick in you memory as one of the great dramatic moments in opera.

Offline steve jones

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Re: Anvil in orchestra?
«Reply #8 on: November 04, 2006, 04:39:46 AM »

Didnt Verdi also use this instrument?

SJ

Offline arbisley

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Re: Anvil in orchestra?
«Reply #9 on: November 04, 2006, 08:30:14 AM »
Yeah, there is one.  Anvil Chorus?  something like that.

We played it once, and the director brought a real anvil.  That didn't work.  Real anvils are built to damp out vibrations and they don't ring much. 

I brought in a short piece of railroad track and that rang very nicely. 
Didnt Verdi also use this instrument?

SJ

It's in Verdi's "Latraviata", The Anvil Chorus.
My mum conducted a production where they didn't actually bring an anvil in, just a very sonoroues piece of metal, sounded godd enough though!