It’s been a while since my last post on this topic, and that is because progress has been a little slow, and writing about it has had to come second to getting it finished! However, it is now near enough done and being played in rehearsals for the premiere of my new piece for æðelfrìth: brass quintet, being played on 24th July at the Ryedale Festival.
Since I last wrote about the lur, I have been experimenting with all kinds of pipe bending equipment and heat guns. This article could be called ‘one hundred and one ways of how not to bend a plastic pipe’.
This is a less music orientated topic than before. Essentially all I am trying to achieve is to get the correctly proportioned pipe looking like a Lur by bending it into the typical shape. My model for this was always the Brudevælte Lur, found in Denmark and dating from the Bronze Age. My version already sounded roughly like the recording of it, so only a few small tweaks required in that department. As we heard in the Part 2, the ‘raw’ pipe was sharp in the upper harmonics. That has now been reduced by the addition of a slight mouthpiece taper, and a bell flare.
These two simple modifications have vastly improved the intonation of the instrument. This is an interesting lesson to have learned knowing that some of the trumpets I have played in the past also tended to be sharp in the upper register. I wonder if those might be improved quite easily?
Anyhow, getting back to cosmetics; to bend my Lurs into their recognisable shape a few DIY lessons were needed so I watched a few videos on YouTube!
The main difficulty was finding something of the correct diameter to bend the pipe around. It was also difficult to ensure that all parts of the tube were warm enough to bend at the same rate. Early attempts meant quite a few kinks and distortions. This home made jig was part of those attempts and proved effective if crude. However, I was determined still to make this in the living room of my flat and not to have to invest in any hefty equipment or borrow someone’s workshop!
All was going quite well until I reached the two larger pieces of tube. This pipe was bought from the DIY store and is your standard 32mm and 40mm PP waste pipe. The smaller diameters were bought from a model shop and are butyrate. I had bent this by filling with sand to stop kinking, applying a heat gun and bending around the jig. This was working ok, but instead of bending the last two started burning! I can only imagine that PP pipe either has a higher melting point or is a non thermosetting plastic. I’m a novice in plastics and this is all very complicated but I reckoned that I needed some PVCu pipe instead as was used in the video. After some trips to local hardware stores I found what I needed. As per the video, I filled with hot sand that I had heated in a saucepan and the pipes turned rubber-like in an instant!
So after cooking up a few more portions of sand, I had an intense pipe bending session and the result came out something like this:
Lurs have mostly been found in pairs and these would be no different, and so after turning the kitchen into a Lur-factory a second instrument began:
You can see here that the bell section was in it’s early stages of completion. More about this in Part 3!
Meanwhile, a trip to Norway enabled me to visit the Revheim Lurs held in the Stavanger Archaeology museum. Read about these here: http://abel.hive.no/trompet/lur/bronze/revheim/
Discovered in 1894 in Southern Norway, they date from the Bronze age (1500-500 AD). They are in astonishing condition and have been played and recorded. These were obviously made by somebody who knew and cared about what they were doing – from my living room workshop I will struggle to match such craftsmanship!