Horns have evolved from the most basic of instruments used for hunting and announcing to more sophisticated musical versions aimed to extract the most melodic tones throughout the last six centuries.
Not only that, but when it’s uncoiled, it’s one of the most prominent brass instruments, just like in the past. The French horn has long been a part of the orchestra family, performing in a variety of genres, and the audience has adored it.
A Brief History
To comprehend the etymology of the phrase “French horn,” we must first comprehend the instrument’s history. Humans have used animal horns as signaling instruments since the woolly mammoth inhabited the globe. After centuries of using animal horns, humans found they could make them out of wood and metal and utilized them for things like rousing troops for war and terrifying the enemy.
Hunting became a popular hobby for the nobility in the 17th century, and they began utilizing horns when hunting wildlife. Its physical design began to shift away from a straight cone and toward curved designs that expanded the tube’s length, allowing for a larger range of pitches.
They created four different horns: The grand cor (large horn), the cor qui n’a qu’un seul tour (horn with only one turn), the cor à plusieurs (horn with numerous turns), and the huchet (horn with many turns) (calling horn).
Composers were so taken with their sound that they began utilizing it in concert halls as a special effect to symbolize hunting. In his Ballet de 1664, Jean-Baptiste Lully was one of the first to do so. Horns were not capable of playing consistently at the time. The interesting history of the French Horn was about to change, however, when the German Count Franz Anton von Sporck (a hunter and arts patron) returned to Bohemia with some horns from France. The Germans began to improve their ability to play them. By 1700, a virtuoso horn player named Anton Hampel had discovered a method for playing music in many keys with a single horn by placing his hand inside the bell of the instrument and employing distinct crooks. Horn was born in the Classical era, and Mozart and Haydn embraced it in their works. Mozart’s excitement for it can be heard in his famous horn concerti.
Twelve things to know about the French horn
- Prior to the introduction of the double horn, the “single horn” was widely used in orchestras and ensembles. The most popular was the German horn, which debuted in the late 1800s and featured a slide crook for tuning. It was also famous for having a bell horn that was significantly larger than any subsequent version of the French horn, making it significantly wider.
- The most common variety of French horns, which is used in orchestras and bands, is known as a “double horn,” since it has a fourth valve that plays distinct notes through a separate set of tubes. The French horn has the broadest range of notes of any brass instrument because of this.
- French horns haven’t always been used for music. It’s the same device you see red-coated European lords carrying on horseback in historical dramas as a “hunting horn.”
- In a brass band, the horn is not a standard instrument. Despite being a brass instrument, the French Horn is not a conventional instrument in a British-style brass band. In these ensembles, horn players play alto/tenor horns, which supply the much-needed alto and tenor voices.
- The Horn is the longest instrument in the brass family. Uncoiled, the Horn measures 12 to 13 feet for a single horn and 22 and a half feet for a double horn, depending on the type.
- Dennis Brain, Phillip Farkas, Dale Clevenger, and Barry Tuckwell are among the most well-known French horn players. These musicians were either born into musical families or began playing as children. Because it is such a difficult instrument to master, getting a head start and knowing your family history helped.
- Horns can be found across the Star Wars universe and beyond. In the iconic Star Wars soundtrack, the Horn section can play several stunning pieces. There is a link between some of the characters and the actors that played them. In high school, Samuel L. Jackson, who played Jedi Mace Windu, played the horn and trumpet. In his teens, Ewan McGregor, who played Obi-Wan Kenobi, was a passionate horn player. In the 1996 film “Brassed Off,” he played alto/tenor horn. Both appeared in the prequel trilogy of Star Wars. Debbie Reynolds is an actress, businesswoman, and singer (1932-2016) Horn was also played. Carrie Fisher (1956-2016), Reynold’s daughter, played Princess Leia in the Star Wars trilogy and sequel. It’s worth noting that Luke Skywalker’s tune includes a solo trumpet; Leia’s theme has a leitmotif. Jon Stweart, former anchor of Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show,” and singer, TV, movie actress, and entrepreneur Vanessa Williams are two other celebrities who played the Horn in school. Chuck Todd, the moderator of “Meet the Press,” received a music scholarship to George Washington University. These encompass the great contribution of the French horn just as how French culture inspired the whole world with its wonderful people.
- A French horn has a total of eight valve combinations. However, most musicians just utilize seven.
- The bell of the French horn is frequently removed to make transportation easier.
- Musicians don’t just put their hands in their French horns to keep them in place. It influences the pitch of particular notes, implying that the musician relies on more than just breathing and lip tightness to stay in tune.
- Heinrich Stölzel and Friedrich Blümel of Germany patented the first valved horn with rotary valves in 1818. François Périnet introduced piston valves in France around 1839. Valves were invented to solve the difficulty of changing criminals in the middle of a performance.
- The International Horn Society designated this instrument as the “Horn” in the 1960s, and the American Academy of Music considers the horn, along with the oboe, to be the most difficult orchestral instrument to play.
In conclusion, from its humble beginnings to being included in soundtracks and a fixture in symphony orchestras, the Horn is certainly a one-of-a-kind instrument. Even though it is the most difficult brass instrument to play, many Horn players think that it is well worth the effort. This historic instrument is but a glimmer of the rich history and culture of the French people.