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Music man's bid to restore harmony in Middle East

A SCOTTISH musicologist is bringing a little harmony to the Middle East by recreating an instrument that has not been heard since the days of the Old Testament.

John Kenny was part of a team of scientists and musicians who resurrected the Pictish instrument known as the carnyx, a 2,000-year-old metal trumpet in the shape of a boar’s head which was used by ancient Scots in their battle against Roman invasion.

Using this experience, Kenny, a teacher at Glasgow’s Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama, is now working with Israeli and Palestinian academics to recreate an ancient horn instrument described in the Old Testament.

Using traditional methods, Kenny joined forces with musicologist John Percer, metalworker John Creed and archeologist Fraser Hunter to reconstruct the carnyx in 1998 from the fragile remnants of an original instrument discovered in the Moray Firth in the 19th century.

Since then the team have worked on a range of projects seeking to bring the music of the ancient world back to life.

Earlier this year, the Scottish group helped recreate two working models of Irish Bronze Age instruments, the Ard Brinn Horn and the Lough Nasaed Trumpet.

Kenny, who lives in Edinburgh and has recorded several CDs of music featuring the carnyx, is now working with musicians and archaeologists in Egypt, Israel, Greece and Turkey who sought advice on reconstructing ancient instruments from their own countries.

Among the instruments that could be recreated are the hazerot, which consists of a pair of joined silver trumpets and is mentioned in the Old Testament.

Although no surviving instruments have ever been found, a representation can be found on the Arch of Titus, which portrays how they were used by defending forces when Roman Emperor Titus sacked of Jerusalem in 70AD.

The instrument was used in conjunction with the shofar - which is carved from a ram’s horn - to gather people to tribal meetings, to alert camps of danger and to signal in warfare.

Working with renowned music expert Professor Joachin Braun at the University of Jerusalem and Palestinian musician Bassam Abdul Salam, Kenny’s ambition is to create a working example of the instrument that can be used by musicians on both sides of the divide.

He said: "It is absolutely essential to work with academics in Arab lands and in Israel because modern boundaries have very little to do with pre-classical boundaries and the variations of the instrument were common to Arab and Israeli people. This means working cross-culturally.

"The people do share a common base for their musical culture. There is far more to unite them than divide them.

"I have had some talks with people in Jerusalem and we are now looking at the best way of funding the project."

Metal horns and trumpets were common across much of the Pictish world, such as Scotland, Ireland and France, and similar brass and silver instruments were found in ancient Egypt, Greece, the Middle East and Indus Valley.

 
 
 

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