Evolution of the Cornet


Actually, it would be more fitting to say "Evolution *and* the Cornet"...

Anyway, there's a very interesting article (at least it's interesting if you're a total geek like me!!) in today's Science section of the New York Times, about a biologist who is also an avid collector of antique cornets, and is using his collection to study the evolution through time of cultural artifacts and the similarities of this process to biological evolution.


You do need to have a free account at the NYTimes to access the article. It's rather long, otherwise I'd probably just copy it below. However, here is a brief excerpt of some banding relevance.

In the late 19th century, the United States had more than 10,000 town bands, providing a thriving market for musical instruments. But as radio brought an alternative source of music, most town bands disappeared. What saved the instrument business was the rise of the school band in the 1920's. Yet the cornet, long a mainstay of any band, almost went extinct when Louis Armstrong switched to a B-flat trumpet in the mid-20's.

This pattern - obscure species' bursting to the fore, as the trumpet did, in the wake of an ecological disruption - "strongly reminds one of the situation between mammals and dinosaurs," Dr. Eldredge wrote in a recent paper.

He says his preliminary analysis of cornet evolution suggests that material culture is also characterized by periods of relative inactivity punctuated by intense bursts of change.

In culture, as in nature, he says, the economic environment inevitably serves as an unpredictable force, driving some species to extinction. Yet death is also the engine of innovation. As one group dies, it is replaced by new forms. The dinosaurs were replaced by mammals, the cornet by the trumpet: in music, as in life, styles change, but the beat goes on.



Active Member
I once wrote a paper on the evolution of the cornet player, didnt get past the title though :wink:


Active Member
and there i was thinking the cornet was invented when someone hammered a straight mute into a trumpet too hard...

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