I both found the answer I’ve sought and had my hopes and dreams crushed by said answer in one shot.
I’ve been listening to a song by Mercan Dede for sometime now, “Book of Wings.” In it is a featured instrument – apparently Asian in nature (in my mind) – of which I knew nothing. It’s a hollow, simultaneously wooden and brassy, sound. There’s a distinctively melancholy and mysterious feeling to it. If sound can be old, this resonates with something ancient and nearly forgotten.
I am also a big fan of the Avatar cartoon series and remembered that Uncle Iroh once played an instrument that sounded like what I was looking for. After some quick searching, I found the YouTube video I was looking for.
As I searched for references to the “Tsungi Horn,” I’m met with the Avatar forums in which one contributor quotes a track team member from the show.
the tsungi horn had to be a cross between a woodwind and a brass instrument. we played that theme on a duduk (armenian reed instrument) and then performed a computer process called convolution where we combined the timbre of a trombone with our duduk performance. convolution can sound very natural if done correctly. one of the most interesting challenges of avatar is to create new sounds that sound old…
Aaargh! I was so excited to finally have an answer to this riddle, only to be met with a myth. On the upside of things, I read into the duduk and found that the Tsungi Horn is largely qualitative of the duduk. It’s missing the brassy resonance on the high end, however.
While possible that I could pick up one of these and learn to play it a bit, I think it would benefit greatly from circular breathing. This is something I will need more practice on as I’m awful at it! It seems a rarity that my nasal passages are clear enough for me to do this efficiently.