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trumpet marine


Name of Instrument: trumpet marine

Maker / Brand:

Stearns Catalog #: 1273

Country of Origin: Italy

Region of Origin: Europe

Instrument Category: Chordophone

Date of Fabrication: 18th C body?

Description: This instrument's name, Trumpet Marine, is as exotic as its history and the music it produces. The Trumpet Marine is a bowed monochord with a vibrating bridge; it is not a brass instrument. Found as early as the 12th Century in both single or double string forms, the tromba marina became popular by the late 17th and early 18th Centuries and was still in use into the early 19th Century. There are many theories concerning the origin of its name: Its German title, trumscheit, might relate to its strong, drum-like (trummel) sound. The term "marina" may also have come from "maria", since 35 of the 70 surviving instruments in Central Europe were found in convents (thus the instrument's other titles, such as "marien trompet" and "nonnegeige).

This is one of the most beautiful instruments in the Stearns Collection and exhibits excellent craftsmanship. The neck and fingerboard are not original; the satyr figurehead is original. The addition of a fingerboard indicates it might have been played as a stringed bass. The spruce table has a circular sound hole with a gold-painted rosette. The back is bowl-shaped with eleven ribs; it is decorated with many hundreds of ivory and ebony zig-zagging rectangles that produce stripes. The one gut string passes over a movable maple bridge with both feet on the table surface. It fastens to an ebony tailpiece which is fastened to the lower end with gut.

Research: Dr. Bruce Mitchell Smith and Stearns Staff

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Photography Credits:

U-M Photo Services

Joe Welsh

Peter Smith

David Smith

Glen Behring

Tom Bower

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