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Acoustically and phonetically, how do you account for its similarity in music and linguistics?


Selected readings



  1. Peter Grubtal said,

    August 18, 2023 @ 5:34 am

    Surprised to see what I thought was always known (in England as well) as a Cor anglais called an English horn.

  2. AntC said,

    August 18, 2023 @ 6:08 am

    @PG, wikip says the American name was always 'English Horn'.

    I've noticed a tendency even in the cricket-playing nations of dropping the fancy foreign term.

    And anyway 'anglais' is confusion with 'angelic' (originally in German: engellisches Horn — because it _looked_ like horns played by angels in stained-glass windows/other images).

    So not necessarily angelic in sound. YMMV

  3. Victor Mair said,

    August 18, 2023 @ 6:19 am

    I play French Horn, have played it from the time I was in junior high school, but people have told me that has been out of fashion for decades, and that now I should just say I play "horn". That doesn't make sense to me, and I resist it as best I can, because, for goodness' sake, there are many other kinds of horn out there, and I would feel silly and presumptuous if I were to declare that I play "horn".

  4. Tom Dawkes said,

    August 18, 2023 @ 6:30 am

    The London Symphony Orchestra gallery has heading for Woodwind /Oboes and cor angles, and for Brass /Horns

  5. AntC said,

    August 18, 2023 @ 7:38 am

    @Victor now I should just say I play "horn".

    'horn(s)' (unqualified) in jazz/rock parlance means saxophone (especially) and trumpet, maybe even clarinet.

    I agree no-one would expect French Horn.

    Blow, bugle, blow, set the wild echoes flying,
    Bugle blow; answer, echoes, dying, dying, dying.
    [Tennyson, Nocturne]

    Set in Benjamin Britten's Serenade for Tenor, French Horn, Strings.

  6. James said,

    August 18, 2023 @ 8:14 am

    Huh, I always thought the name was derived from "cor anglé" — that's what the Oxford Dictionary of Music says.

  7. Coby said,

    August 18, 2023 @ 10:53 am

    Music terminology in America is more German-influenced than in Britain: half-note, quarter-note etc. (Halbnote, Viertelnote vs. minim, crotchet…); concertmaster (Konzertmeister vs. leader); and so English horn (Englischhorn vs. cor anglais).

  8. rosie said,

    August 18, 2023 @ 11:27 am

    @AntC That's the first time I've read a reference in that form to that Britten work. It's always "Tenor, Horn and Strings" with no "French". Even wiki agrees. Likewise horn concertos.

  9. Taylor, Philip said,

    August 18, 2023 @ 11:28 am

    "The London Symphony Orchestra gallery has heading for Woodwind /Oboes and cor angles, and for Brass /Horns". Where do you see that, Tom ? From your link I see only "Oboes and Cor Anglais".

  10. Peter Grubtal said,

    August 18, 2023 @ 12:27 pm

    Victor Mair : French horn

    There is inconsistency admittedly with the woodwind cor anglais, called English horn in the US, and the very much brass French horn. But to say you should use the term horn alone for the French horn, how do you distinguish it then from the rest of the brass – trumpet, trombone etc?

    Why does anyone listen to people who say things like that, or why do they have any influence?

  11. Richard Hershberger said,

    August 18, 2023 @ 12:30 pm

    In the context of a classical (meaning Romantic) orchestra, "horns" refers to the French horns. But as has been pointed out, it means other things in other contexts. I would suspect someone of lecturing me about using "French horn" of straining to establish status.

  12. Cervantes said,

    August 18, 2023 @ 12:43 pm

    In terms of acoustical science, all woodwind and brass instruments are what are called Bessel horns, which refers to the shape of the tube, so in that sense all wind instruments are horns. (Well, okay, not flutes.) Not so much in the vernacular however. In Jazz, "horn" normally means trumpet or cornet. The sax is the sax. If you say, "I'm a horn player," you play the trumpet. The saxophone, btw, is made of brass, but uses a reed to produce sound, which means it's classified as a woodwind even though there's no wood.

    In the U.S. at least classical musicians will say just "horn" to refer to the French horn but of course if there's possible ambiguity you would specify. The French horn is certainly made of brass and produces sound by vibrating the upper lip rather than a reed, but it's relatively mellow sound blends well with woodwinds, so they are present in standard wind ensembles. It's technically a brass instrument but it swings both ways.

  13. David Marjanović said,

    August 18, 2023 @ 1:03 pm


    halbe Note, interestingly; also ganze Note "whole/entire note" for twice that; but, yes, Viertelnote (no adjective for "quarter" exists).

  14. Coby said,

    August 18, 2023 @ 3:27 pm

    Thanks for the correction (it's been 75 years since my music lessons in Hamburg).

  15. Mark Metcalf said,

    August 18, 2023 @ 6:33 pm

    Such a lovely piece.

    Brings to mind two others:
    Albrectsberger's "Concerto for Jew's Harp, Mandora and Orchestra":

    PDQ Bach's "Quodlibet for Small Orchestra":

    You're welcome.

  16. Daniel Deutsch said,

    August 19, 2023 @ 5:37 am

    Speaking of PDQ Bach, a more relevant work is his Concerto for Horn and Hardart. I was fortunate to see its first performance.

  17. Cervantes said,

    August 19, 2023 @ 7:43 am

    I expect Victor knows that PDQ Bach is a Swarthmore College alum, since Victor lives in the town. They brought him back to perform at a graduation and his piece was, shall we say, not extremely kind to the college.

  18. Nathan said,

    August 19, 2023 @ 9:43 am

    This is a cryptic post indeed. Clearly that's why no one has engaged with it yet.
    Are you saying the tmibre of these instruments is reminiscent of nasal speech sounds?

  19. Chris Barts said,

    August 19, 2023 @ 1:31 pm

    Yes, I'm sure all those horns sound nasal. That's why the musicians are wearing their best post-nasal drip.

  20. Terry Hunt said,

    August 20, 2023 @ 12:25 pm

    Perhaps there is a physical similarity between the shape of the Bessel horn (thank you, Cervantes) and the shape of the nasal passages? [Disclaimer: I am not an anatomist!]

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