Pierre-Louis Gautrot’s Sarrusophone: A Maverick of the Woodwind Family Exhibition Opens Today at the Sousa Archives

University of Illinois Concert Band sarrusophone section seated in University Auditorium, c. 1920.

Like the Tyrannosaurus rex and Crocodilian Steneosaurus which roamed the earth over 65 million years ago, many exotic music instruments that were created by ingenious inventors ranged the world’s concert stages during the 19th and early 20th centuries. Today, the strangeness of such mechanical wonders as the sarrusophone and rothophone, much like the fossilized bones of pre-historic creatures, continue to intrigue and amaze us. We cannot deny that these two instrument families had a life and musical purpose. However, their evolution over time followed a similar Darwinian fate as the dinosaur experienced millions of years before, because the sarrusophone and rothophone were unable to meet the evolving needs of the music profession. This new exhibition examines the legacy of these two exotic instruments from the woodwind family, Adolph Sax’ patent infringement lawsuit against Pierre-Louis Gautrot, and their use by A. Austin Harding’s University of Illinois concert bands during the 1920s.

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