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A lur, also lure or lurr, is a long natural blowing horn without finger holes that is played by embouchure. Lurs can be straight or curved in various shapes. The purpose of the curves was to make long instruments easier to carry (e.g. for marching, like the modern sousaphone) and to prevent directing the loud noise at nearby people.
The name lur is particularly given to two distinct types of ancient wind instruments. The more recent type is made of wood and was in use in Scandinavia during the Middle Ages. The older type, named after the more recent type, is made of bronze, dates to the Bronze Age and was often found in pairs, deposited in bogs, mainly in Denmark and Germany. It consists of a mouthpiece and several pieces and/or pipes. Its length can reach between 1.5 meters and 2 meters. It has been found in Norway, Denmark, South Sweden, and Northern Germany. Illustrations of lurs have also been found on several rock paintings in Scandinavia.
The earliest references to an instrument called the lur come from Icelandic sagas, where they are described as war instruments, used to marshal troops and frighten the enemy. These lurs, several examples of which have been discovered in longboats, are straight, end-blown wooden tubes, around one meter long. They do not have finger holes, and are played much like a modern brass instrument.
A kind of lur very similar to these war instruments has been played by farmers and milk maids in Nordic countries since at least the Middle Ages. These instruments, called in English a birch trumpet were used for calling cattle and signaling. They are similar in construction and playing technique to the war instrument, but are covered in birch, while the war instruments are covered in willow.
Lurs made of bronze were used as musical instruments in ancient Greece, as well as in northern Europe where a total of 56 lurs have been discovered: 35 (including fragmentary ones) in Denmark, 4 in Norway, 11 in Sweden, 5 in northern Germany, and a single one in Latvia.
The word lur is still very much alive in the Swedish language, indicating any funnel-shaped implement used for producing or receiving sound. For instance, the Swedish word for headphones is hörlurar (hearing-lurs), and a telephone might be referred to as a lur in contemporary Swedish (derived from telefonlur, telephone handset). The Norwegian and Swedish words for foghorn are respectively tåkelur and mistlur. The Danish butter brand Lurpak is named after the lur, and the package design contains pictures of lurs.
The word lur has several other meanings in Danish, Norwegian, and Swedish that are not related to sound.
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