The Conch Shell is the shell of a sea snail used by Pacific Islanders, ancient Romans, Caribbean Sea natives and some South Americans as a trumpet. The conch is blown either from the end or from a hole carved into one side. The sound can be changed by placing your hand into the open end of the shell or by changing your lip tension. Shell trumpets have been used for thousands of years for signaling and to accompany dancing. Scientists have recently learned that the material like what the conch is made of can be used in space exploration and for computer parts. Find more info in the June 29, 2000 issue of Nature magazine.
The Shofar is a horn used by ancient peoples wherever sheep and antelope lived, particularly Asia and Africa and consisting of an antelope’s or ram’s horn. The shofar can produce only two notes. In ancient times it was used as a signaling and musical instrument in various ceremonies and rituals, often in religious rites conducted in the biblical Temple in Jerusalem. The shofar is still used by Jews in the rituals celebrating the Jewish New Year and the Day of Atonement.
The Didgeridoo is a horn used by the native peoples of Northern Australia to accompany singing and dancing in rituals and entertainment. In use for about 1000 years, the didgeridoo is made from a eucalyptus branch that has been hollowed out by termites. Here is one of over thirty stories about how the music of the didgeridoo was first discovered.
A long time ago while the men of the tribe were searching for food, they found that hollow logs had termites that they could shake out of the log and eat. One day it happened that one of the men blew down the hollow log to get the termites out. He was so surprised by the sound he got that he kept blowing. When he turned around he saw that the other members of the tribe were all clapping and dancing in time to the sound and the rhythm. They liked it so much, they still play it today!
My Alphorn is 12 feet 3 inches long. It sounds like the French horn which would be the same size if you stretched it all out!
Instruments similar to the Alphorn (Australian Didgeridoo, Biblical Shofar) have been in existence for nearly 100,000 years. The early instruments were used to signal warnings often for military use, but in the mountainous area of the Alps, it was more commonly used to announce daily activities. Archaeological records of the Alphorn in Switzerland date back to the Celtic tribes on the northern slopes of the Alps about two thousand years ago. References to the modern Alphorn in Switzerland date to the early 16th century. Today the Alphorn is not used by herdsmen for signaling, but primarily by amateur musicians.