Web Site:www.prehistoricmusic.com ____________________________________________________________________
My work is the culmination of fifteen years reproducing and musically exploring Irish instruments from prehistory. They range from Late Bronze Age horns to the great Celtic trumpas of the Middle Iron Age and on to wood wind instruments of early Christianity. As no written or oral music survives from these times we can never be sure what was played by the musicians or the circumstances in which instruments were used. My research has however indicated strong possibilities as to the reasons why horns and trumpas were designed and how they may have been played. We have established beyond doubt that these instruments were made as a result of a hitherto unrealized level of expertise and sophistication. It is remarkable that a bronze horn cast 3,000 years ago retains its integrity as a professional instrument and continues to function as a means to evoke the human emotions which are the essence of the universal timeless language that is music. It is interesting to note that musical instruments, which have their origins in prehistory, can evoke such live excitement today.
In the latter half of the 20th Century worldwide interest in pre-historical musical instruments has steadily increased. Surviving instruments are seen as a way to enlarge our knowledge of early peoples who made and played them. Insights can be had into ancient ways of life and living. Ireland’s extensive collection of surviving pre-historic trumpets, horns, bells and others make us unique in the world. These instruments span at least 3,000 years from 2,000 B.C. to 1,000 A.D. and are the product of several distinct cultural ages. Until the mid 1980s only strictly archaeological studies had been carried out on the Bronze Age horns and Iron Age trumpets. Then in 1986 Prehistoric Music Ireland was set up and the first accurate reproductions were made of a pair of bronze horns from Co. Antrim. Almost immediately new and exciting discoveries came to light about how to make and play these instruments. It became clear that a very high level of craftsmanship and intellect would have been required to develop them. Since then Prehistoric Music Ireland has been reproducing and studying Bronze Age horns and Iron Age trumpas including An Trumpa Créda, (loughnashade original), the Ard Brinn (trumpa fada), the Mayophone (Early Medieval free reed horn) from Co. Mayo, crothalls (Bronze Age bells), the Wicklow Pipes (4,000 year old wooden pipes), stone and bone flutes and instruments from abroad including English and Scottish horns and the silver pipes of Ur (Mesopotamia).
The illustration below shows a selection of the instruments.
Adharc – Bronze Age horn (Co. Antrim)
Mayophone – Early Medieval free reed horn. (Co. Mayo)
Crothall – Bronze Age bell (Co. Offlay)
Dord Ard – Bronze Age horn (Co. Antrim)
Loch Erne horn – Early Medieval wooden horn (Co.Fermanagh)
I have been employed as a heritage specialist by the INTO and The Heritage Council for the past 5 years. This work involves visits to National schools around the country presenting the prehistoric instruments of Ireland. Since my membership began I have visited over 160 schools.