Posted by: Erin Longbottom | 8th Sep, 2009

Image Gloss – Embouchure

“I sound triumphal drums for the dead….I fling through
my embouchures the loudest and gayest music to them,”
Both the action of embouchure and the mouthpiece.

Both the action of embouchure and the mouthpiece.

  • Pronunciation: \ˈäm-bü-ˌshr, ˌäm-bü-ˈ\
  • Function: noun
  • Etymology: French, from (s’)emboucher to flow into, from en- + bouche mouth — more at debouch
  • Date: 1760
  • 1 : the position and use of the lips, tongue, and teeth in playing a wind instrument
    2 : the mouthpiece of a musical instrument


    The embouchure is the use of facial muscles and the shaping of the lips to the mouthpiece of a wind or brass instrument.

    The word is of French origin and is related to the root bouche (fr.), ‘mouth’.

    The proper embouchure allows the instrumentalist to play the instrument at its full range with a full, clear tone and without strain or damage to one’s muscles.

    I suppose me not knowing this term might stem from being unfamiliar with wind instruments, but I still thought it was interesting to learn about.  I thought it was interesting that this term seems to be used more typically to refer to the shape of a person’s mouth as they play a wind instrument, whereas here Whitman uses it as the mouthpiece. After reading the definition of this word and then rereading the line, I get a much stronger image. Whitman with his cheeks puffed out, pursing his lips “flinging” the music through the instrument.



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