Music History

Weird musical instrument alert: the carnyx

I’d never heard of the carnyx until Christopher pointed to this article at The Quietus.

The Sunday lunchtime peace and quiet of the Glasgow commuter town of Lenzie is shattered by loud, metallic parps, birds scattering from mossy roofs. In the garden adjoining his home and workshop, silversmith John Creed is blowing heartily into his replica of the Iron Age Loughnashade horn, an s-shaped tapered bronze tube capped with a decorative disk. It’s Creed’s third ancient horn since he was recruited by archaeologist Fraser Hunter in the early 90s to work on a reconstruction of a 2000-year-old zoomorphic instrument known as the carnyx. The fearsome prototype, a 1.6-metre-tall pipe topped with a stylised bronze boar’s head complete with jagged mane and a red tongue wagging menacingly in its jaw, lurks in Creed’s office, peering out from above a grandfather clock.

Creed’s work on the carnyx was one of the first of a number of projects recreating ancient instruments to better understand oral cultures in which sound would have had as much, if not more, significance than the visual. In 2013 these disparate groups, working on anything from 40,0000-year-old flutes made from vulture wing bones to Roman lyres, were united in the European Music Archeology Project (EMAP) an EU-backed £3.5 million programme of research, releases, concerts and a touring exhibition. Dr Rupert Till of Huddersfield University, producer of EMAP recordings including an album of carnyx music called Dragon Voices, explains that the organisation’s driving philosophy is to prove that “there were huge commonalities between cultures. It shows how European we are”. In this strange time of Brexit and rising nationalism and insularity, these ancients instruments have a very modern message.

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Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

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