mute

Harmon or wah-wah mute for a trumpet. Spun aluminium. Stamped: HAWKES & SON/LONDON. Cup and integral tube slide into main body of mute so that length can be adjusted. Bought by the Horniman Museum as part of a set with the Clippertone trumpet.

The harmon mute was patented in 1925 by George Schluesselburg. It was one of a number of brass instrument mutes developed in the early years of the 20th century to appeal to the growing number of jazz performers. The harmon mute is unusual in that the cork sleeve completely encircles its upper rim, forcing the air through the mute rather than round its sides. The central stem can be adjusted to change the sound quality, but can also be removed altogether. This technique was pioneered by Miles Davis, whose 'ballad sound' is the result of a harmon mute with the stem removed. The narrow aperture of the small cup at the end of the stem also allows the player to close off the mute with palm of the hand. This allows a muffled articulation to be employed, as the hand is slowly removed and replaced. The effect was famously used for the voices of the adults in the television series based on the 'Peanuts' cartoons.

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