This is a blog about music, photography, history, and culture.
These are photographs from my collection that tell a story about lost time and forgotten music.

Mike Brubaker
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Les Filles Françaises et Leurs Trompes de Chasse

06 March 2011

The French Girls and their Hunting Horns is a special collection of French postcards from 1905. These young ladies are playing Trompes de Chasse, an instrument that is the authentic French Horn and the ancestor of  the modern orchestral horn. It is played outdoors as the signaling component of the Hunt, an equestrian tradition that goes back to the 17th century and the time of Louis XV.  Here is an audio sample of Les Honneurs du Pied , the tune played when the quarry's foot is presented to a special guest. :

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The Trompe de Chasse is held either with the bell to the left or right and in this card you can see that the interior of the bell is painted black, supposedly to avoid upsetting the horses with flashes of the sun. The uniforms are also part of the equestrian tradition and could be in several colors like green, blue or red.  Another sample with Le Réveil :

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Players are called sonneurs or ringers, and play in groups, sometimes on horseback, but usually standing in a V-formation with their backs and bells facing the audience of hunt riders and hounds. The hand is not used in the bell for tuning as it is with the early valveless hand horn and modern valved  horn. The Trompe de Chasse is pitched in D, looped twice around, and lacks the ability to change the length with additional bits of tubing.  Another sample with Le Débuché which is used to indicate that the animal goes away from the forest :

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The traditions of the Hunt come from a time when music was more than entertainment but had practical purpose as well. There were dozens of hunting horn tunes played for every aspect of the hunt, from the departure of the horses; the mistaken scent picked up by the hounds; the standing animal brought to ground; the farewell to the guests; even probably the awarding of the special dog treats. The quarry might be a fox but could also be a deer or stag too, and of course the dogs, riders, trackers, and assorted followers would be quickly separated over hills and forest by a considerable distance, so the call of the horns would help everyone to keep with the program. More can be found at the French Wikepedia  entry for Trompe_de_chasse. Use Google translate.

Today the tradition of the Trompes de Chasse continues in France with clubs of professional  and amateur enthusiasts who love the sound of the horn but do not necessarily hunt.  More can be found a the website of the F.I.T.F.  - Fédération Internationale des Trompes de France
And there is even an American club too. Trompe USA

The samples comes from Echos de Sologne by Les Trompes de Chasse de Guy Brousseau et André Pigeat. 

Obviously the charm is in the novelty of girls playing the horn, which might actually have been the case, as unlike modern photo models, these young ladies certainly look like they know what they are doing. But the addition of the written-out musical tunes demonstrates how familiar it was at this time to have the ability to read music.

 Three of the cards were sent in 1905 to Madame and Monsieur Antoine Carriere of  Arles on the Rhone in southern France. This seems to be a common habit of the time to send multiple felicitations which may be why the postcards  were printed in series.

Was the sender on holiday attending a hunt event? Or did Monsieur Carriere play the horn too?

This is my contribution to Sepia Saturday 

And for the full multimedia effect -
here is something I found on YouTube
from the Lyon-Parilly in 2009.

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Howard said...

Fantastic postcards, but the music nearly knocked me off my chair!

Christine H. said...

Ha too. I wasn't expecting that. This is a fascinating post. I stand ready to join my local women's horn club. Seriously, I would if we had one. These are beautiful cards and beautiful horns.

Tattered and Lost said...

French Ladies with Horns. Beautiful and fascinating, but I'm imaging some fellow being told he could buy some photos of French ladies and this would not be what he expected. I'm envisioning a guy walking up and saying, "Pssssst. Hey buddy. You want some photos of French ladies? You know, nudge nudge wink wink." And the fellow buys them, takes them home and hides them in the dresser drawer. His wife becomes suspicious when starts whistling unknown tunes through the day with a smile on his face.

Bob Scotney said...

This a long interpretation we could not have expected. Cards and music fantastic. Thanks

Alan Burnett said...

What a marvelous post, you tick every box under the sun, music, fine old photographs, fascinating explanations and the theme as well. This is classic Sepia Saturday.

Pat transplanted to MN said...

Beautiful cards! Ohh that sound! I think they should align themselves across in a straight line, pity to have that blowing in you ears from ahead and behind!

Travis Bennett said...

Those postcards are great! A horn player's version of a pin-up girl!

Karen S. said...

Oh my what horns! This was a fascinating post! The postcards are excellent, especially the stamps, and the handwriting...what great style! Very nicely done with so much interesting information too!


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