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Changes in Horn Design--Development or Evolution?

Are the terms interchangeable?

John Ericson

A footnote from my dissertation

This is a question which I have never seen discussed in any resource on brass instruments. The term "development" is used in preference to the term "evolution" throughout this site to avoid the commonly made analogy between evolution and changes in horn design and technique. Drawing upon the theories of Charles Darwin (1809-1882) which were first presented in his influential On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection (1859), this analogy implies an inherent superiority of modern horn designs (and techniques) over those of the past. While there certainly was an aspect of "evolution" in the minds of those pushing new ideas (especially in the late nineteenth century), it is felt by the author that the older designs stand on their own merits along a path of gradual change and development. Instruments changed for a variety of reasons to fit the musical situations and needs of players; modern, "evolved," brass instruments would be just as out of place in Mozart's orchestra as would Mozart's brass instruments in a modern orchestra. It can be seen as well that the older ways were quite vigorously supported by some musicians over the new "improved" instruments and techniques. [See, for example my article "Trashing the Valved Horn?," currently posted in The IHS Online].

Copyright John Ericson. All rights reserved.


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