Lur

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A lur is a long natural blowing horn without finger holes that is played by embouchure. Lurs can be straight or curved in various shapes. Purpose of curves was to make long instruments easier to carry (e.g. for marching, like the modern sousaphone) and to prevent directing the loud tone at near people.

The name lur is particularly given to two distinct types of ancient wind instruments. The more recent type is made of wood and was in use in Scandinavia during the Middle Ages. The older type, named after the more recent type, is made of bronze, dates to the Bronze Age and was often found in pairs, deposited in bogs, mainly in Denmark and Germany. It consists of a mouthpiece and several pieces and/or pipes. Its length can reach between 1.5 meters and 2 meters. It has been found in Norway, Denmark, South Sweden, and Northern Germany. Illustrations of lurs have also been found on several rock paintings in Scandinavia.

A total of 56 lurs have been discovered: 35 (including fragmentary ones) in Denmark, 4 in Norway, 11 in Sweden, 5 in northern Germany, and a single one in Latvia.

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Wooden lurs

The earliest references to an instrument called the lur come from Icelandic sagas, where they are described as war instruments, used to marshal troops and frighten the enemy. These lurs, several examples of which have been discovered in longboats, are straight, end-blown wooden tubes, around one meter long. They do not have finger holes, and are played much like a modern brass instrument.

A kind of lur very similar to these war instruments has been played by farmers and milk maids in Nordic countries since at least the Middle Ages.[citation needed] These instruments, called in English a birch trumpet were used for calling cattle and signaling. They are similar in construction and playing technique to the war instrument, but are covered in birch, while the war instruments are covered in willow.

Bronze lurs

The bronze instrument now known as the lur is most probably unrelated to the wooden lur, and has been named by 19th century archaeologists, after the 13th century wooden lurs mentioned by Saxo Grammaticus.

Bronze lurs date back to the Nordic Bronze Age, probably to the first half of the 1st millennium BC. They are roughly S-shaped conical tubes, without finger holes. They are end blown, like brass instruments, and they sound rather like a trombone. The opposite end to the blown one is slightly flared, like the bell on a modern brass instrument but not to the same degree. A typical bronze lur is around two metres long.

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