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The Flute

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For any music-lover familiar with the sound of , it seem to posses a magical power that comes from inner most part of the soul. It's speak of its own way, it moves, it holds and presents a strong sense of passion as if it has been there since creation. With a symphony or opera orchestra, makes up a large portion of the solo section. is not only one of the worlds oldest musical instruments, it is also one of the simplest. There are many myths and misconception about . Few truly understand the facts surrounding its manufacture and manipulation. How does one build a flute? What should you look for in a flute? What is the history behind it? These are some of the question I will answer and I'm sure it will provide you with the same enjoyment that I have found.
Woodwind instruments and specifically are just that. An instrument that relies solely on the exhaled breathe for the function. In this particular part of my paper I will be discussing woodwind exclusively. The woodwind flute can be traced back to many era's in our history and for the most part it's design has been constant. There are three major things that affect the sound of . The first is construction type. A basic element common to all wind instruments is that of an empty space encompassed by a long or round object which can be held in the hand (Meylan, p. 13). The sound produced is a result of the resonance in the cavity by the motion of the airstream as it flows through the cavity.
There is not enough space to fully go into the scientifics of musical acoustics however, a brief description of the basics of how the instrument works is necessary. A second factor affecting the sound is the type of wood that it is made of. Many types of wood have been used to craft from Chestnut to a variety of fruit and nut trees, as well as Poplar and Eastern red Cedar. Each type of wood has a subtly different voice, although as a general rule, hard woods tend to be mellower and more subdued while soft woods are a little brighter and more resonant (, p.1). The third thing that effects the sound of is craftsmanship. Some people enjoy hand carving the inside and the outside with a pocket knife, while others may choose to use more modern equipment.
In either case the smoothness of the inside and the placement of the holes play considerable roles in the type of consistency in sound from one flute to the next. The general construction that will be discussed applies to both metal and wood flutes. A flute is normally built in three sections: the head joint, with the mouth-hole in the side; the body or middle joint, with the keys; and the foot joint, with keys for the little finger. It should be pointed out that the mouth hole located on the head joint is raised surrounding the hole, to give the hole proper depth (Baines, p. 53). The bore of or what makes up the general shape of the instrument consists of two types, conical and cylindrical. The conical bore receives it's heritage from the eighteenth century and is designed to taper conically from the head or mouthpiece towards the lower end.
The cylindrical bore was introduced by Theobald Boehm of Munich in 1847 (Baines, p. 53). The difference from the preceding is that body tapers near the mouthpiece but remains cylindrical at roughly the same diameter throughout the remaining part of . The cylindrical design is pretty much the standard flute design found today. There are certain distinct differences between metal and wooden flutes found today and in the past. To appreciate those differences, let's look at the distinctions. Wood flutes are traditionally found in England and Eastern Europe. Wooden flutes naturally give a denser and more powerful sound than metal and require a more forceful blowing technique. According to Anthony Baines, the author of a very informative book, as well as an accomplished conductor and Bassoon player, the ability of a player to have lightness and delicacy of sound can be attributed to the skill and proficiency of the player. Most modern day wooden flutes have the head joint lined with silver to prevent against cracking. Today people prefer metal over wooden flutes, since they are mass-produced and relatively cheap to buy. The history of can be traced back thousands and thousands of years, to that of early man, crouched in a cave and noticing that certain objects, like a bone or a hollow cane, might give off sound, a flute-sound. This sound sparked a curiosity and with that curiosity came the deliberate fashioning of flutes from natural materials. The tribal medicine-man would use , like the drum, to cure sickness, stop rain and so on. Even in modern civilization, we can see some associations with wind instruments.
For instance, in some churches the organ acts like a sort of super-flute. In the earliest stages of they were very crude and often fashioned out of bones and tree limbs. For example, the 'Bushman's flute,' made of an ostrich feather and quill, closed at the bottom and was held vertical against the lower lip. It closely resembles a fountain-pen cap. The classic American Indian medicine man's 'Mataco whistle,' is made of a bird bone flageolet, producing sound from a hole in the middle under which there is a lump of resin applied to deflect the breath on the far edge of the hole. Furthermore, flutes can be made from bamboo as can be found in South-east Asia and typically designed as a notched flute and blown from the end (Baines, p. 173). These are but a few examples of the variety of flutes that have been developed long ago and passed on in design from generation to generation.
Until now we have described flutes that were fashioned long ago and were very basic in design consisting mainly of one hole. The notes or sounds that were produced from these 'whistles,' are not really what we consider music. When two or more flutes giving off different sounds were blown continuously one after the other, then you might say that it was a kind of music. This was probably the most primitive and ancient music there ever was. To most of the tribes that practice ceremonies in this fashion, the longer of s is called the man, and the shorter, the woman. One explorer in New Guinea obtained a flute only on the strict understanding that it would never be shown to a woman.
These flutes are regarded as sacred and taboo to women and children on pain of death or poisoning. As I was researching this topic and deciding what to discuss, I came across a story and legend that I found very interesting. The story itself is very old and could be attributed to the mystique and captivity that flute possesses. The story is about the Pied Piper of Hamelin and how he played the flute in a way that put a spell on the children, so that they couldn't help following him. The story goes that in a town called Hamelin in north Germany the people had a tremendous rat problem. The rats were multiplying beyond control and eating everything but metal. The town had a meeting and begged for the Mayor to do something. Poison did not stop them and all the cats were dead. A stranger came to the meeting dressed in brightly colored clothing, with a long feather in his hat, and waving a gold pipe at them. The man said that he could rid the town of the rats for a thousand florins.
The mayor yelled that he would pay fifty thousand florins if he succeeded. The stranger took the offer and claimed that by the next morning there would be no more rats in Hamelin. At dusk that evening, the pied piper was seen playing his flute through the streets. He slowly made his way through houses and behind him flocked the rats. As the stranger played he marched down toward the river and straight into the water, up to his waist. Behind him the rats continued to follow him into the water where they all drowned or were swept away by the current. Early that next morning at the town hall everyone was delighted. They were all happy until the piper tried to claim his payment. The mayor exclaimed 'fifty thousand florins' never. The piper at least wanted a thousand florins and began to demand angrily his payment. The mayor and the people said that the rats would never come back so the piper should be happy with fifty florins. The piper pointed his finger at the Mayor and told him that he would regret breaking his promise.
That night the citizens of Hamelin slept well without fear of the rats. And when the strange sound of the piper's piping wafted through the streets at dawn, only the children heard it. The piper again paraded through town, but this time with all the children following behind. The piper led them through the forest and to the foot of a large mountain. A huge cave opened up and the children were led inside. ...

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