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Horn History 101

Heidi's Senior Music Project on the history/evolution of the french horn.

Heidi Riley

on 5 June 2010

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Transcript of Horn History 101

Double click anywhere & add an idea Horn Basics The Horn (or French Horn) is a brass instrument about 12-13 feet Horns are coiled, and can
be single, double or even triple.
They are tuned in B flat, F and Eflat respectively. Orgins Instruments in a horn like shape have existed since ancient times - they were primarily used as signaling devices. The horns were made of animal horns. The horn as a musical instrument has only existed for several hundred years.

One of the earliest "horn-like" instruments, the "LUR", dates back to sixth century B.C. The instruments were made of bronze, these horns were used on the battlefields by Scandinavian clans. It made an, obnoxious sound, which was perfect for striking terror into the enemy camp.

Emergence In Europe, horns gained popularity in hunting. As this aristocratic sport spread, horn-makers experimented with different shapes and sizes to increase the range of notes possible. In 1636, French musical scholar Marin Mersenne wrote of four different kinds of horns being used for hunting: Le grand cor (the big horn), the cor à plusiers tours, (the horn of several turns), le cor qui n'a qu'un seul tour (the horn which has only one turn), and le huchet (the horn with which one calls from afar). Each had a specific mode for the hunting party. Shortly thereafter, the horn began to appear in the concert halls and theaters. Too loud and unpredictable for inclusion with the orchestra pit, the hunting horns were used only onstage in scenes depicting, naturally, the hunt. The horn at this point was not yet ready for serious artistic endeavors - only as "special effects." Crooks and Hand Horns The cor de chasse (French for hunting horn), the horn began its evolution into a refined concert hall instrument. Baroque composers began writing more complex and artistic music for this horn.
The most useful range for melodic writing was in the upper harmonics (the "clarino" range). This is because the natural harmonics are close together. It was still necessary however to switch horns if a composer wanted the hornist to change keys, which was impractical. The impracticality soon led horn makers to the invention of the crook (in the 1700's)

The crook is coiled tubing inserted into the horn and it changes the length of the instrument. Changing the length would also change the pitch (the longer the tube, the lower the pitch), allowing the same entire harmonic series, but now, in a different key. Instead of carrying many instruments in different keys, horn players would only have to carry one horn with a set of crooks of varying lengths. They could change the key of the instrument simply by inserting a new crook.
Players started to create new horn options after the crook, such as the hand horn. By 1760 a new technique in playing had firmly caught on that was taking the horn to the next step in its evolution. The Bohemian virtuoso hornist in the court of Dresden, Anton Hampel (1711-1771) is generally credited with developing and teaching the technique that had been known by some hornists as early as the 1720s. Quite simple really: by manipulating the right hand inside the bell of the horn, he could play tones other than the natural harmonics, thus filling in the gaps between the notes of the harmonic series.

Coupled with the use of crooks, this new "hand horn" technique opened up exciting new possibilities for musical expression, and composers of the Classical Period eagerly embraced it.

The Cor Solo and the Waldhorn were among the first instruments designed for hand horn technique. The Cor Solo was still somewhat limited in its range of keys though. It has attachments for only G, F, E, Eb and D transpositions. The Waldhorn had a similar system - a master crook producing the highest key needed, and optional successive crooks, each adding more tubing, to produce harmonics for lower keys.

It wasn't until Anton Hampel encouraged a Dresden instrument maker, Johann Werner, to construct a horn with detachable crooks for BOTH the mouthpipe and the middle of the horn that a full range of transpositions was possible on one instrument. The Orchestra horn, as it was called, was honed and perfected between 1750 and 1755.
With the Orchestra horn all transpositions are possible, from Bb basso to Bb alto. And utilizing hand horn tehcnique, it could now play a full chromatic scale in any key. The horn was no longer a "special effect," but was firmly established as a refined musical instrument, and had become a regular member of the symphony orchestra (which was also beginning to grow as other instruments

Valves and the Modern Horn The piston valve, which moves up and down, soon inspired another development in horn technology. About 1832, the rotary valve, which turns in a circle, was invented by Joseph Riedl in Vienna.

By the mid-1800s the valveless Waldhorn with a set of crooks was being far surpassed by a single F horn with three valves and no extra crooks. The valve could instantly change the length (and therefore the pitch) of the instrument by simply pushing down the key and activating the valve mechanism. At first, piston valves were more common, but by the end of the 19th century, the rotary valve had gained popularity over the piston. Playing with hand horn technique was rapidly fading away.

Late in the 19 century, a German horn maker, Fritz Kruspe, was one of the first to manufacture both "single" and "double horns" with rotary valves. With the double horn, he crafted an instrument having a fourth valve that routed the air through shorter tubing that changed the entire pitch of the horn from F to Bb. Today, the double horn is the most commonly used horn worldwide.
The horn we know today is
the off-spring of these horns,
including the triple horn.

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