Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Weird Instruments 6: The Dord and the Carnyx

Today we have two ancient Celtic horns. First up is the Dord.

The Dord is is a curved tubular horn with a very large mouthpiece, native to Ireland. It hails from the Bronze Age, and examples have been uncovered dating from as early as 1000 BCE. Experts believe it may have been played like a Digeridoo, and you can hear this in the video below:


The second example (the Carnyx) is an awesome fusion of Iron Age engineering and art. It consists of a long straight tube culminating in a dragon's head. Depending on the style it could be played horizontally or upright, and the sound could either come straight out of the mouth like a trumpet or could resonate in the head. Some advanced examples had wings or ears that resonated like bells, adding to the sound.

I ran into references of it in Suetonius' histories of the Roman Empire. When the Celts sacked Rome, prior to entering the city, they played these outside of the city walls first to soften up the resistance. I don't know about you, but if I heard an angry barbarian mob playing these freaky things I'd piss my pants.