I've just been listening to a recording of Gavin Bryars' Violin Concerto, which is subtitled "The Bulls of Bashan" (read my review here). In the liner, the composer explains how he came by the title. Much of the work involves the string section of the orchestra moving between muted and unmuted playing. But, Gavin Bryars points out, this is only possible thanks to modern mute technology. Things were very different in 1914 when Cecil Forsythe wrote his famous orchestration treatise. In those days, your violin mute lived in your waistcoat pocket and caused no little disruption when it made an appearance:
"Unhappily the mutes remain something of a problem on the mechanical side of concert-room organisation. When they are required the noise and fuss is most distressing, and, as these moments always occur when a pp is approaching, the musical attention of the audience is completely distracted. About fifty or sixty players all rattle their bows down on their desks in order to be free to search their waistcoat pockets. When the mutes have been dragged out they are fitted to the bridges with a studied and elaborate caution which may be necessary to preserve the bridges from injury, but which gives an impression that the players are taking part in a solemn cabalistic rite. And all this occurs in 1914 when inventors are as thick as bulls in Bashan."