Derived from the French verb meaning “to put in or to the mouth,” embouchure refers to the mouth of a river, to the opening out of a valley into a plain, as well as to the shape of lips and mouth in blowing on a musical instrument. In observing landscape, we sometimes overlay our language onto the land, transmute sight into musical sound. In a specific conflation of landscape and musicality, Walt Whitman employs embouchure and its antonym, débouchure. In Song of Myself, Whitman writes: “I blow through my embouchures my loudest and gayest” for the dead, and later, close to the end, “I perceive that the ghastly glimmer is noonday sunbeams reflected,/and debouch to the steady and central from the offspring great or small.”

Arthur Sze