Some months ago, the team Medina Reeds visited in Madrid the exhibition “Musics in Antiquity” at the CaixaForum facilities. A magnificent exhibition with more than 300 pieces from a score of museum institutions such as the Louvre Museum. It is the first exhibition in Spain dedicated to the music of the ancient civilizations of the East, Egypt, Greece and Rome.
This visit allowed us to hear and understand a sound landscape of more than three thousand years of history, but as good lovers of wind instruments, we look mainly at these and we are going to talk about them, from a collection of wind musical instruments found in archaeological excavations.
One person of our century can find it difficult to imagine the presence of music through instruments in civilizations as old as the East, Egypt, Greece and Rome, however, music was part of the daily life in these ancient societies and it is known why musical instruments and fragments of musical notations dating from before 2,900 BC have been found.
Here we present a showcase with the ancient wind instruments exposed:
The first instrument is the Double Clarinet (material: cane) – from the Roman-Byzantine period, 30 a.C. – 641 AD originally from Egypt. The instrument has been brought to Spain from the Louvre Museum.
The following is the long oblique flute (material: cane) – From the New Empire, 1550 – 1060 a.C. also originally from Egypt and also brought from the Louvre Museum.
The tiniest is the whistle in the form of a bird (material: clay) from the first millennium BC to the first millennium AD. It was found in Susa (Iran) and brought to Spain from the Louvre Museum.
Another of the small instruments is the horn fragment (material: hippopotamus ivory) from 1600 to 1100 a.C. Found in Ugarit (Syria).
One of the most curious wind instruments is the Syrinx, syringa or Pan flute (material: cane) used in the Roman-Byzantine period 30 a.C – 641 AD. in Antinoopolis (Egypt).
We continue with the trumpet fragments (material: silver) from 2200 to 1700 a.C. found in Bactriana (Central Asia).
The following is the monaulos (material: wood) of the Late Period or Ptolemaic Period, 664-30 a.C. found in Egypt.
This instrument is similar to that of the Greek aulós, as shown by the shape of the mouthpiece where the tongue was fixed. However, it is smaller and has two holes, which suggests that it must be quite sharp and should be played with two hands. Therefore, it is very likely that it is what the Greeks called monaulos, that is, an aulos with a single tube that was played at weddings and funerals and that was especially popular in Egypt.
The trumpet was also very popular (material: gold) used since 2200 BC and found in Bactriana (Central Asia).
The last instrument found at the showcase was the Tibial Tube (material: copper alloy, bone), from the 1st century AD. Found in Pompeii (Italy) and brought to Spain from the National Archaeological Museum of Naples. It was used with a double reed tongue. It was the star instrument in the Roman theater scene, but it was also used in public rites, in private entertainments and in funeral processions.
Later in the exhibition we also find the aulos (material: wood) from the Greco-Roman period (332 BC to 385 BC) found in Egypt.
What we loved the most about this exhibition is that it did not only show works of art and instruments, it also reflected the trajectory or evolution of the role of the musician in the ancient era.