R. Eichmann, J. Fang and L.-C. Koch (eds.) Studien zur Musikarchäologie X. Leidorf, Rahden/Westf.: 63–73 (2016)
In the classification of musical instruments, the place of the jew’s harp has for a long time been disputed. This is a complex, diverse and anomalous musical instrument, technologically and culturally. The variety of shapes and materials within its original distribution area, Eurasia, raises questions about the nature and early history of the jew’s harp. How can we understand the connection between the various forms, and their chronological significance? How do earlier theories match modern archaeological research? These questions concern both organology and archaeology.
How did prehistoric people relate to sound? What significance did various kinds of sound have for them? Classification represents a fundamental approach to these questions. The concepts and classifications we use are indicative of our thinking as modern humans. We often classify sound either as intentional or non-intentional, and either as music or non-music. Moreover, as researchers we relate sound to diverse categories such as religion, ritual, hunting, communication, and others. Sounds and sound tools of the past, and the soundscapes they were part of, might be approached from different angles. Music is a problematic concept with an ethnocentric bias. Intentional sound is a better name. A tripartite classification of intentional sound is suggested, distinguishing between sounds made for functional reasons, for ritual reasons, and, finally, for pleasure and pure expression.
Published in printed journal and online (oa).
The Ritual Significance of the Scandinavian Bronze Age Lurs: An Examination Based on Ethnographic Analogies
The horns of the Scandinavian Bronze Age—the so called bronze lurs—were originally deposited in pairs as sacrifices, most of them in wetlands. It is commonly accepted that these instruments were used for ritual and cultic purposes. Based on the archaeological contexts of the finds, icono- graphical sources, and analogies drawn from different instrument traditions, the article dis- cusses and re-examines the ritual significance of the bronze lurs and their sound. It also analyses the utility value of analogy, and discusses the meaning and usability of the concept of ritual, in connection with religion, performance and music. Other lip-vibrated aerophones from several continents might in various ways provide some parallels to bronze lurs. From archaeological sources the lurs could be compared to the bronze horns of Ireland. Other European ancient trumpets are less relevant analogies, but still important as comparative material. One plausible interpretation of the ritual use of bronze lurs is that they were part of calendar celebrations that worshipped the sun, and thus ensured cyclical renewal, continuity and cosmological order.
‘Music’ is a surprisingly new invention. Most of the languages of the world lack a concept of music, yet in all known cultures people play, sing and dance. Historical musicologists too often employ an ethnocentric understanding of music, arisen from the western art music tradition. Does music archaeology represent an alternative voice that challenges ethnocentric approaches to music? Since the field consists of individual researchers with different interests and views, there is no easy answer to this question. But the fact that music archaeologists use material culture as their primary point of departure means that they arrive at other perspectives and approaches to musical activities than historical musicologists using written sources. Most music archaeologists will probably understand music in the widest sense. On the other hand, does our discipline need ‘music’ at all? Some music archaeologists tend to abandon the concept of music, in favour of ‘intentional sound’ or similar, and some prefer to label their field of study ‘archaeomusicology’ or ‘archaeo-organology’. Such strategies could be seen as a response to an unwanted ethnocentric perspective.