Illuminated Article of research into the Llyn Cerrig Bach horn fragment - by Simon O'Dwyer
This theory was first presented at Oriel Ynys Môn, Isle of Anglesy, Wales, September 2012 by Ancient Music Ireland.
Images courtesy of National Museum Wales, National Museum of Ireland, Ancient Music Ireland and Oriel Ynys Môn.
Llyn Cerrig Bach Horn an Interpretation by Simon O’Dwyer of Ancient Music Ireland. ©2012.
The Llyn Cerrig Bach horn fragment is identified as one of a family of five surviving complete and parts of Middle Iron age horns from Ireland and Wales.
1. Loughnashade – circa 100 BC - complete instrument – © National Museum of Ireland.
2. Ard Brinn ‘A’ - circa 150 BC - complete instrument – shown'top' in the photo below © National Museum of Ireland
3. Ard Brinn 'B' - circa 150 BC - fragment shown 'underneath' in photo below © National Museum of Ireland
4. Roscrea - fragment – circa 150 BC – © National Museum of Ireland
5. Llyn Cerrig Bach horn – fragment circa 150 BC – © National Museum Wales.
These five instruments may be classed together as follows:
(a) they are of a similar age, circa 200 – 100 BC.
(b) the tubing is fashioned of sheet bronze.
(c) the tubes are joined along the inside curves with closely positioned rivets that are fitted through a metal strip on the inside of the tube.
(d) the Roscrea tube has a knop at each end and the Llyn Cerrig Bach is a tube fragment with a knop at one end. In both cases the knops are cast bronze. The Loughnashade has one centre knop which is wrought bronze.
(e) four examples display a relatively wide cylindrical tube, either as a centre or mouthpiece part. In the case of the Roscrea and Llyn Cerrig Bach there is no conical bell end present whilst the Ard Brinn ‘B’ has only the conical bell end surviving. A short extension was soldered onto it probably in the 18th Century AD.
In attempting to suggest a possible reconstruction of the Llyn Cerrig Bach, we have compared it with the Irish examples and similar shaped instruments from North India and Nepal, whilst also referring to our recent experiences learning to present and play new reproductions.
Roscrea fragment tube circa 150 BC ©National Museum of Ireland
The most similar example to the Llyn Cerrig Bach is the Roscrea fragment tube with a knop at each end. In each case the tube is cylindrical with a wide bore of 26-28mm. The Roscrea is slightly wider. Also the two knops on the Roscrea and one on the Llyn Cerrig Bach are all cast in Bronze and are very similar in shape.
Llyn Cerrig Bach tube and knop, original, circa 150 BC. ©National Museum Wales
We think it is possible that the Llynn Cerrig Bach may be a surviving approximate half of an original which had a knop at each end. This would make it almost identical to the Roscrea example. Because the ‘Roscrea’ has a knop at each end, we may deduce that there were at least two other parts to the original instrument. If we suggest that a conical bell was attached at one end and a cylindrical tube of similar diameter to the centre tube with a mouthpiece at the other end, it is possible to present a complete instrument. If all three parts follow the curve of the surviving centre tube, the result may be a semi-circle with an overall length of approximately 2.2 meters.
Drawing of intrepretation by Ancient Music Ireland of what the Roscrea horn may have looked like. circa 150 BC © Ancient Music Ireland
This proposed shape is very similar to the Loughnashade when fitted in a semi-circle or ‘C’ position. It is important to note that because the knop on the Loughnashade is at the centre of the overall length, the horn may be assembled in either the ‘S’ or the ‘C’ position.
Loughnashade reproduction in the ‘S’ position circa 100BC
The Roscrea however, having knops positioned at two points indicate that it could only be presented in a single curve or ‘C’ shape. See photo below showing the Loughnashade in the 'C' position.
The Loughnashade in the 'C' position.
The Loughnashade, Roscrea and Llyn Cerrig Bach are all similar in that the side wall metal thickness of the tubes is very light at approximately 0.3 to 0.5 of a millimetre. Whereas the Ard Brinn examples are heavier at 0.7 mm.
Close up end of Roscrea circa 150BC ©National Museum of Ireland
We know that the Loughnashade is designed to be held up in the air because of its configuration and the overall lightness of the instrument, 1 KG. It is therefore probably that the Roscrea and the Llyn Cerrig Bach were designed for a similar playing position.
Plate on Loughnashade circa 100BC
For this reason we suggest that the distingtive decoration plate on the bell end of the Loughnashade is an important design functioning as a visual enhancer and an addition to the audio qualities of the horn. It is therefore possible that the Roscrea and Llyn Cerrig Bach were also fitted with a decorated circular plate.
Pair of Bronze Age Drumbest horns circa 900 BC © Ulster Museum
Recent studies by Dr. Peter Holmes suggest that the earlier Late Bronze Age horns in Ireland and Britain occur in pairs of a side blown and end blown. He proposed that this represented male and female. It is also the case that long curved metal horns are played in Nepal in pairs so that two instruments held in the air to right and left will form a complete circle.
Pair of narsingra from Nepal ©Ancient Music Ireland, photo taken in Nepal November 2011
Proposed size, shape and presentation of original Llyn Cerrig Bach horn.
(a) The surviving fragment is similar to the Roscrea tube.
(b) The original was undoubtedly curved.
(c) The metal thickness is very light, suggesting that the horn was presented in an upright position. Proposed overall weight of complete original horn – 1.5. KG.
(d) The horn may have had a circular decorated plate attached at the bell end.
(e) The original may have been one of a pair which together when held up would form a circle, thus representing male and female. So as in the case of the narsinga or curved horns of Nepal, the Middle Iron Age sheet bronze instruments of Ireland and Wales could have been played for important occasions such as religious ceremonies and weddings and perhaps also in situations of confrontation or war.
Proposed Roscrea/Llyn Cerrig Bach horn and Loughnashade reproduction with pair of Nepalese Narsinga
© Ancient Music Ireland 2012