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7 December 2016, 12:21
This is the Tromba Marina – an instrument that was popular in medieval and Renaissance Europe and which sounds like literally nothing else we’ve ever heard
The ‘marine trumpet’ has one long, thick playing string which is bowed and a host of resonating strings.
The instrument dates back to the 12th century and over the years it grew and acquired a bridge and its resonating strings.
The instrument in this video was made for Clare Salaman, the founder and director of The Society of Strange and Ancient Instruments.
Here’s what Clare says about the instrument:
“Many surviving instruments were found in convents. It seems that tromba marinas were a staple of the Northern European nun’s musical instrument box. Wind instruments would have been off-limits for women so it’s possible that tromba marinas were used as substitutes for trumpets.”
This example was made by luthier Shem Mackey and is a copy of an 18th-century instrument in the V&A musical instrument collection.
You can hear Clare and The Society of Strange and Ancient Instruments perform on this and a variety of other unusual instruments on 8th December at the Spitalfields Music Winter Festival.