Music aside

Mahonia against blue sky

Mahonia spp. I’m used to yellow flowers and blue “fruit,” but this one has yellow fruit.

Yesterday I encountered a word I hadn’t remembered encountering before, but of course I had…and forgotten. The word is carnyx. Synonyms are war trumpet and Celtic horn. Apparently it was ritual instrument used in warfare. Only a very few have been found—and only one in the British Isles: the Deskford carnyx.

I saw that carnyx in a display at the National Museum of Scotland, along with a reconstruction (with a tantalizing red tongue). And I saw the word carnyx in the accompanying explanatory materials.

373px Figures with horns on the Gundestrup Cauldron

However, I focused on getting a decent memory-photo (bad reflections), and thought about how big it was—serious mixed media and complex metallurgy techniques, it seemed to me—still does.

The Gundestrup caldron, found in northern Denmark, has a panel showing a trio of carnyx players (Open Commons photo). This helps us know how it was used. Read more on this page by acoustics professor Daniel A. Russell. He also details many of the times illustrator Albert Uderzo used versions of the instrument in the Astérix series.

Holding those tall pipes must have been tricky while walking. The much later, stubbier bagpipes made music-while-marching much easier, I would think.

I’m guessing carnyces fit into the group of instruments that create vibrating columns of air.

One comment

  1. kayak woman says:

    Those are weird looking horns!