Saturday, January 13, 8170

Colin Muset (b. c. 1170)

Colin Muset

Chansonnette "Quant je voy yver retorner"

(Gemshorn and Lute Drone)

Colin Muset (fl. 1200), French trouvère, was a poet, musician and a native of

Lorraine [as in Alsace or Quiche!]. He made his living by travelling from castle to castle singing his own songs and playing the vielle. These are not confined to the praise of the conventional love that formed the usual topic of the trouvres, but contain many details of a singer's life. His complete works (21 poems) were published by Joseph Bédier in 1912 (Paris).


Gemshorn is a Germanic term for a chamois (goat) horn. It refers to an instrument of the ocarina made of such material.

Examples have been unearthed in Italy and in Germany, including one intact instrument made of clay which dates at least to 1450, as it was found buried beneath the foundation of a house built at that time.

The early history of the instrument is not well known, but the oldest known illustration of one in a reference work is in Musica Getutscht (1511), by Sebastian Virdung. A skeletal figure is seen holding one in a Danse Macabre illustration dated to 1485.

There is also mention of this instrument in The Complaynt of Scotlande as "ane gatehorn"(goat horn). Volume 2 of Praetorius's De Organographica, from the early 1600's, provides detailed construction plates and diagrams for the gemshorn. They were primarily a pastoral instrument and were not widely known after the mid-to-late 1500s. With resurgent interest in early music in the 19th and 20th centuries, they have received new attention. Horace Fitzpatrick developed a form of gemshorn which adopted the fingering method of recorders and produced them in consort families, which have proven very popular since the 1960's.

Modern gemshorns are often made of the horns of domesticated cattle, because they are readily available, and their use prevents endangering wild species. The hollow horn has tone holes down the front, like a recorder or clarinet. The pointed end of the horn is left intact, and serves as the bottom of the instrument. A fipple plug, usually of wood, is fitted into the wide end of the instrument, with a recorder type voicing window on the front of the horn, for tone production.

On more advanced models, there is a "tuning ring." This is a metal band or ring, placed between the voicing window and the top tone hole. A hole is drilled through this ring and the horn beneath. When the ring is turned with the fingers the hole is partially blocked. This lowers the flute's keynote by up to about 1 major tone. Partial wax closure of the dorsal (rear) thumb hole will accomplish the same keynote tuning.

The sound of the gemshorn is like that of other flutes, but with an ocarina-like lack of harmonic overtones.

There is a gemshorn organ stop, modeled after this instrument. Its pipes are conical, with the wind going in at the wide end, as in the actual gemshorn.