The Middle Ages was not only a time when men liberated holy sepulchres, waged war and fought lethal plagues, but it was also a time when people danced to the rhythm of music and laughed thanks to a comedy simple and accessible to all; nothing to do with complex humour.
It is precisely thanks to the union between music and complicity that the protagonist instrument of our historical curiosity would be born: the bumbulum. The peculiarity of the object is that it was capable of generating flatus-like sounds. Well, this very normal physiological function of our body has always been a symbol of universal comedy and that it does not require contextualization; even Shakespeare makes a joke about farting among his famous writings.
Apparently, medieval people loved laughing so much, in front of that iconic sound, that they decided to create a device that produced the aforementioned vibration. The name bumbulum would come from bombauliosa Latin term that refers to the buzzing of bees described in the comedy “The Arcaneseby Aristophanes. The medieval instrument is resembling a bagpipe and was described for the first time in a letter from St. Jerome (347-420), addressed to his friend and colleague, Claudio Postumo Dardano. The theologian explains that the bumbulum was specially designed for accentuate musical compositions with fart-like sounds.
A second description, dating back to the 11th century, sheds light on a new version of the instrument, consisting of a frame on which rectangular metal sheets were hung. However, today we cannot say for sure how was formed the bumbulumas we are in possession of different medieval illustrations that could refer to the device, such as those depicting strange drums or trumpets to be played with the butt.
Many music history experts argue that the bumbulum never really existed, is probably nothing more than a comic concept of the undeciphered time. However, if you’re curious about musical tools, you might want to check out our article on an ancient instrument made from human bones.