Thursday 5 May 2016

The Voice of the Carnyx was Heard in the Land - Joan Lennon

A few months ago, Mary Hoffman posted about The Celts: Art and Identity - a fabulous exhibition at the British Museum.  Luckily for me, the exhibition then headed north, to the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh, where I got the chance to see it.


Mary's favourite piece was the silver Gundestrup cauldron and I agree it is absolutely spectacular - and so cleverly displayed - in the round, so that you can see all of the carved images, inside and out.  

(photograph of the cauldron in Berne by Rosemania - Wiki commons)

But what most caught my imagination was the carnyx - the Celtic horn.  You can see three of them being played on a detail from the cauldron -

(photograph by Bloodofox - Wiki commons)

These towering, beast-headed horns, braying out across ancient valleys and hills - just imagining the sound can raise the hairs on the back of your neck.  But you don't have to just imagine.  Musician John Kenny was part of a project to recreate the Deskford carnyx, with its "skull in bronze, with a soft palate, a throat, a jaw that moves and a tongue that moves on a leaf spring" (Celts: Secrets of the Carnyx).  And then, clearly fascinated, he composed a modern piece of music for the instrument, scored for 4 multi-tracked carnyces.  Have a listen - I love it!

Let me know what you think - and if you are within striking distance of Edinburgh, do go to the exhibition.  It's on until the 25th September and you can get all the details here.

Joan Lennon's website.
Joan Lennon's blog.
Silver Skin.


Susan Price said...

I've loved the Gundestrop cauldron for decades but never paid much attention to carnyxes until now.

Catherine Johnson said...

Just played it. Husband wants one!