Music Term: Bull-roarer
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Bull-roarer


Definition and background:

Free AerophoneEver since prehistoric times the bull-roarer has been a symbol of fertility and evidence of them has been found in paleololithic sites. The sound of the bull-roarer is said to be the voice of an ancestor, a spirit, or a deity. This is very important because this plays a role in certain rites of passage in some areas of the world. It is still found in some areas of each continent and the Pacific. The bull-roarer is almost exclusively used in rituals and there is no evidence that it has ever been used to take part in a purely musical activity. The main academics that have studied the bull-roarer have been ethnomusicologists and anthropologists, because of it's ties to rituals and magic ceremonies. Made up of slabs of wood, rhomboid, and some times carved and pierced with a small hole at one of the ends for the attaching an length of cord. The performer holds this piece of chord in his/her hand and the wood is twirled around in the air.The sound is produced by vibrations of the flat object as it rotates in the air. In some cultures the composition of the instrument can result in a sound similar to that of a bull, the howling of an animal or spirit, or thunder. Changes in the speed and angle to the ground can change the sonority so that the performer can produce the sounds of a whimper, scream, moan, or roar.There is no standard range for the bullroarer as they are typically one of a kind instruments. However, changing the velocity of the spin of the bullroarer and the size of the instrument effects the realative pitch. The smaller the bullroarer the faster it can be twirled resulting in a higher pitch. A larger instrument spinning at a slower speed results in a lower pitch.Bull-Roarer



For more information on the music term "Bull-roarer" check out these other resources:

Wikipedia - Glossary of Musical Terminology

Virginia Tech Multimedia Music Dictionary

ORB -- Medieval Music Glossary







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