The words trumpet and horn are often used interchangeably and, in modern casual parlance, horn is even used to apply to any
instrument one plays. But the classical distinction between them is important and relates to their origins and structure.
Horns, originally made from animal horns, commonly have a conical shape and internal bore, while trumpets, originally made
in sections from various materials, generally have a cylindrical shape and bore.
In the Middle Ages the trumpet par excellence was the long straight martial instrument introduced from the Middle East.
Called añafil (from the Arabic al-nafir), it is shown in the Cantigas with pennons displaying the lion and castle arms of
Leon and Castile, leaving no doubt as to its role as an instrument of power and prestige. It was traditionally played with
shawms and drums, especially kettledrums, in an ensemble called nauba. The ensemble was the personal band of a caliph and
accompanied military operations as a signals troop.
Notice particularly the round bosses which reinforce the joints of the several sections. Also observe the clear flat mouthpiece
and, at the other end, the bands of engraving around the flared bell. The inscriptions are the common Alfonsine stylized version
of Arabic Kufic script. Similar decorations can be seen on the trumpets in the Maqamat and, if you've ever seen a modern brass
instrument, the tradition continues. While the illustration from the Northern French bible doesn't include any of these details,
the limners did consider it appropriate that the procession of the Ark of the Tabernacle be accompanied by such prestigious
|from the Maqamat of Hariri
|from the Shah Abbas Bible
Another unusual instrument depicted in the Cantigas is the albogón, below left. This was derived from the Arabic al-buq, originally
a generic word for horns and trumpets, but latterly restricted to horns. Supposedly, in the 10th century, during the reign
of the Spanish Umayyad caliph, al-Hakam II, a horn was fitted with a double reed and fingerholes. This unlikely instrument
seems to have survived, or have been revived, into the 13th century and Cantiga 300 shows a huge one being played, accompanied
by an hourglass-shaped drum.
Unlike the female singer and bones player previously mentioned, this illustration seems the picture of domestic propriety.
Both players are Muslim. The alboka player wears the noble box cap, birrete, and a richly embroidered full-sleeved oversaya
with sleeve patches indicating his religion. The woman, with a hat and modest veil, likewise wears the identifying patches
on her embroidered saya. She plays a drum with a narrow waist, rather unusual for the Islamic area but perhaps the tabl al-mukhannath
mentioned by Farmer. If the instruments were of a quieter nature one could imagine a husband and wife having a musical soiree
at home. Whatever the actual occasion, the picture reminds us that the religious and ethnic makeup of the peninsula was not
as simple as our modern preconceptions would lead us to believe. [Don't forget, Caliph Abd al-Rahman III, whose mother was
Basque or Frankish and whose paternal grandmother was a Basque princess--that makes at least 3/4 non-Muslim--had fair hair
and blue eyes. He used hair dye to darken his appearance.] With his fair skin and fashionable length blond hair, this Muslim
grandee could have passed for Christian--and has to most modern observers.
The horns on the right bear a resemblance to the albogón but there are differences which seem important. Firstly, there are
no apparent fingerholes. Second, the mouthpiece, which on the albogón has a pirouette and reed going into the mouth, seems
only to be a disk--thus, perhaps, a trumpet type mouthpiece. Thirdly, the albogón is constructed in three sections which meet
at obvious angles, while this instrument curves smoothely and appears to be in one piece, albeit with lateral decorative grooves.
Lastly, this horn is portrayed as ivory-colored: could it be an oliphant? Not exactly a musical instrument, but a prestigious
sound generator, nonetheless. The information arguing against this interpretation is the appearance of the players. One is
wearing the separate detachable hood, caperón, while the other is still wearing an outdoor cloak. Neither looks particularly
noble. Perhaps these are merely signalling horns of some sort: poor cousins of the knightly oliphant.