How old people made flutes

Schott Music

The flute is one of the oldest musical instruments. Even in prehistoric times, flutes were built that consisted of hollow bones and were already provided with tone holes. During excavations in the Chinese province of Henan, archaeologists discovered bone flutes that are around 9,000 years old. A sensational find was made recently (2004) in Greystones, Ireland, when construction work found around 4,000 year old, 30 to 50 centimeter long ebony flutes from which even some tones could be produced.

Middle Ages: permanent guest in public life

As Pastoral instrument the flute entered the western world and spread in the early Middle Ages mainly in the circle of singing and playing guilds, which included minstrels, town pipers and jugglers. In Europe in the early Middle Ages, pan flute-like instruments were particularly widespread. They consisted of hand-hole-less pipes that were staggered lengthways and tied together.

Renaissance: the instrument of the hour

The vertically held recorder with finger holes, which can be played with both hands, has been documented in Europe since the 11th century. The recorder was one of the most important woodwind instruments as early as the 14th century. During the Renaissance period there was a rapid development in the field of woodwind instruments. No other type of instrument produced a comparable variety of types and developed a similar variety of sizes from soprano to bass. In Germany it was the city of Nuremberg in particular that became, among other things, an important center for the production of woodwind instruments.

The recorder still had a cylindrical (i.e. straight) bore, had seven finger holes in the front and consisted of only one piece. This was accompanied by a mild, overtone-like sound, which is excellent for Singing accompaniment was suitable and because of these specific sound characteristics rightly the name Flute douce or. Flauto dolce wore. The recorder was the only wind instrument in the Renaissance to have its own printed textbook dedicated to it: the “Opera Intitulata Fontegara” by Sylvestro Ganassi, which was published in Venice in 1535 and is the oldest and most comprehensive school work for recorder.

Baroque: The golden days of the recorder

During the baroque period (approx. 1600-1750) the recorder was thatFashion instrument par excellence and enjoyed the highest esteem at royal courts, princely palaces and town houses. Since, in addition to greater virtuosity, a different sound spectrum was desired for the music of the Baroque, which should stand out more clearly from the sound of the human singing voice, this was changed Constructionthe recorder: Its body was now assembled from three individual parts, the tube was drilled in an inverted conical shape (i.e. narrower at the bottom than at the top) and the finger holes were placed closer together. The thumb hole was also found on the back of the instrument since the 16th century at the latest. On the other hand, the double system of the lowest handle hole on the front was no longer part of the standard. It had become obsolete because, among other things, the lower part of the flute could now be moved and turned into a position that was comfortable for the player. Overall, the recorder now had a clearer sound that was richer in overtones. Although other instruments continued to be used within the recorder family during the Baroque period, the Alto recorderin the foreground as a solo instrument due to its special sound beauty.

Many well-known composers, including Antonio Vivaldi, Johann Sebastian Bach, Georg Friedrich Händel, Jean-Baptiste Loeillet, Giuseppe Sammartini, Johann Mattheson and Georg Philipp Telemann, use the recorder specifically in their compositions. It was extremely popular for over 100 years. One of the most important and comprehensive textbooks of the 18th century comes from Jacques Hotteterre: In 1708 he published the textbook “Prinicipes de la Flûte traversière, de la flûte á bec et du Haut-bois”, which primarily provides information about the Baroque style of playing with regard to posture , usual fingering, trilling technique, ornamentation and articulation.

Classic & Romantic: A sinking star

In the 18th century, however, the tonally stronger one gradually gainedFlute the upper hand because it simply proved to be more assertive in the expanded instrumentation of the orchestra and in the large concert halls. Until about 1750, the term “flute” was clearly reserved for the recorder, but this was reversed: Now - and is by the way to this day - the term “flute” meant the flute. If the recorder is to be used, this has been and is recorded separately since then.

20th century: awakening from deep sleep

For around 150 years, the recorder then eked a shadowy existence and came primarily only as a House musical instrument used in bourgeois circles - until the musician and instrument maker Arnold Dolmetsch, who had French roots and lived in England from 1917, bought an original Bressan treble recorder from the 18th century. Around 1919 he took it as a historical model for his first recorder building and thus advanced to one of the most important pioneers of the Recorder renaissance in England. It is thanks to him and the German instrument maker Peter Harlan that the recorder was slowly awakened from its slumber in the following years. Great importance was attached to a sound image of Renaissance and Baroque music that was as true to the original as possible. Important modern composers such as Luciano Berio, Paul Hindemith, Benjamin Britten and Leonard Bernstein subsequently created works for this woodwind instrument.

In the 1920s, at the same time, continued the development of the industrialMass production of recorders, initially led by the Moeck and Adler-Heinrich companies, which were to be followed by other workshops over the years. The associated production of cheaper instruments made of plastic, for example, was advantageous insofar as the recorder was increasingly being discovered for educational purposes as well. After the Second World War, a real recorder boom set in. The easy-to-transport and inexpensive instrument was used primarily for teaching purposes, be it within entire school class groups or in the communal music schools that were sprouting up from the ground. Since playing the soprano recorder in particular is easy to learn in preschool because it requires neither a complicated approach nor a virtuoso fingering technique, the recorder was and is often used as a Entry-level or early education instrument used. This has clearly damaged the image of the recorder and threw an all too one-sided, even wrong image of that traditional woodwind instrument, which - if played seriously and professionally - is an extraordinarily dynamic and flexible instrument with a variety of expressive possibilities.

With Hans-Martin Linde and Frans Brüggen, two leading musical personalities have made a decisive contribution to counteracting the bad image of the recorder: Since the 1960s, both have achieved world fame as soloists on the concert stage and as record interpreters and also made themselves as conductors and teachers a name. Hans-Martin Linde has published numerous textbooks and compositions for the recorder, including the "Handbuch des Recorderenspiels" (Schott, ED 8703).

Avant-garde: rediscovered and replayed

The musical avant-garde enabled the recorder to expand its traditional range of expression, whereby the simple construction of this instrument turned out to be ideal. Because with the flapless instruments of the recorder family GlissandiFinger vibrato, Multi-sounds, Flageolet sounds (by blowing under or over) in a range of more than three octaves easily implemented. In addition, so-called “piano” or “forte grips” enable new dynamic gradations. In experimental music, sometimes only parts of the recorder are used, e.g. only the headjoint. Also producing Knocking or hissing noises or singing along at the same time is used as a new design tool for the recorder.