Trumpets and horns

Horns and trumpets made from gourd or tree bark belong to simpler types of musical instruments kept in the Ethnographic Museum and bear witness to somewhat older musical heritage – from the 19th century. The nature of certain chores, such as tending cattle in pastures, often involved physical separation of people, so that they regularly communicated by means of structured calls or signal instruments, such as the animal horn, which herdsmen used for communicating with each other as well as with animals.

“A soon as the day breaks the herdsman signals with his horn (…), then not only servants hurry to work but the cattle starts pouring down to chew up the last bites of forage anxiously awaiting their release from prison (…), before long a servant dashes to open the barnyard door and welcome the cattle, which peasants do not call their blago (treasure) in vain. Apart from these signals, our herdsmen have some others (…), for instance, the signal that a cow is lost: (…) or the signal not to let the cattle out of the stable due to foul weather or a plague or a wolf. If a herdsman wants to make out if there is a call or a wagon in distance, etc., he holds the tip of the horn close to his ear and listens in. Then the horn is called the receiver (slušalo). If a herdsman is sitting close to a wide ditch or a river and wants to communicate something to another herdsman on the other side, he speaks into his horn – then the horn is called the reporter (doglašalo)” (Kuhač, 1878: 21).

By making seasonal instruments such as tree bark horns or little fiddles (gusle) from corn stalks or by playing the double flute, the tamboura or some other solo instruments, herdsmen managed to stay alert and pass the time in pastures (Marošević, 2001: 410).

The trumpet (also called the trublja or the trumbeta) can be made out of a single piece of wood or composed of a few slats joined by wooden or iron rings. There are a couple of wooden trumpets in the Collection of musical instruments marked with the inventory numbers POH-431/1920 and POH-435/1920. They were brought from Northwest Croatia by Kuhač, who interpreted their origin as belonging to Slavic peoples. Animal horns such as the cowherd’s horn, the night watchmen’s horn, and the goatherd’s horn were made from the horn of an ox, a buffalo or a goat koze (POH-432/1920, POH-433/1920, POH-436/1920, Et 14451). The horn was removed from the animal, properly cleaned, both inside and outside, and further scraped with dry grass for smoothening. Unlike the other two, the night watchmen’s horn has an additional cane reed that is inserted into a slot, secured with flax and sealed with wax.

The bučina is an instrument made from dried gourd by cutting off its top on one side and a half of its round body on the other side, scooping it out, removing its seeds and leaving it to dry in the chimney. Its inside was then spun above faint flame for the remaining fibres to be burnt. A reed was generally inserted in the narrow opening into which air was blown. Trumpets made from gourd, bučine, horns made from tree bark, as well as bells, rattles, drums and whistles were all used in processions. Participants used them for distinguishing themselves from the observers, for announcing their arrival, or the beginning or ending of the ceremony (Marošević, 2001: 411). Noise has been a dominant audio component of particular processions, especially those at Shrovetide (ibid.).

Horns are still used today with the revival of certain customs. “A relatively new musical tradition in Sali on the island of Dugi otok – the so called tovareća mužika – is an orchestra whose major role is making noise with the purpose of mockery and castigation. Apart from drums and various objects that can generate noise (old-fashioned irons, pots and lids) the orchestra has a large number of horn players” (Ćaleta, 2001: 438).