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PostPosted: Sat Jan 11, 2020 3:11 pm 
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i don't particularly like the term "Irish flute" (or "celtic flute" or "folk flute"), although if i'm talking to classical musicians i might call it the "19th century simple system ("Irish") flute" if i feel i need to be specific.

i think "Irish" flute might be a more useful term than it first appears, though. for example, what do you call a keyless D flute? it's not a simple system flute, because it doesn't have any keys. it's basically a new instrument that was invented in the second half of the 20th century specifically to play Irish music. so isn't "Irish flute" a reasonable description of that instrument?

even with keyed flutes, they're often designed to play well with "Irish" fingerings (for example, not venting Eb for E, not venting C for C#, not venting F for F#), and may only be designed to play two octaves well rather than three, so they aren't really 19th century classical flutes, they're a new sort of instrument, even if it's only a modification of an older one.

but if we're talking about a Martin Wenner Koch replica, i wouldn't call that an "Irish flute" because it has no connection to Irish music; it was made to play classical music with classical technique.


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PostPosted: Sat Jan 11, 2020 3:20 pm 
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Since I'm now playing the modern silver flute, I definitely think "Irish flute" is a style and a technique more than a specific instrument. You can play the wooden simple system flute in a very non-"Irish" way, just as one can play the modern Boehm flute in an Irish style and what I would call Irish technique.

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PostPosted: Sat Jan 11, 2020 3:44 pm 
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Boy, did this thread take off like a shot!

busterbill wrote:
It all depends on who you are talking to.

People still periodically ask me what type of clarinet I am playing. :D

How well I know. I was also asked if it was an oboe. I would like to flatter myself that it was a testament to my reedy tone, but it's more probable that the blackwood and keys confused them. There was one person who had a hard time being convinced, and I told them, "Look. Any time it's held sideways, whatever it's made of, it's a flute. Trust me."

Of course that's not entirely true on a number of levels, but for that conversation it had to do.

busterbill wrote:
My nomenclature changes depending on who I am am talking to, their experience and their interest level.

That's pretty much how it is for me.

Really, typically I just say "flute", and leave it to them to fill in the blanks. I've tried to buck the current, but it's out of my hands, so it's no longer a big deal to me if they assume I mean a Boehm instrument. They're usually not all that interested anyway, so why belabor it? If they are interested, they'll ask, and we can go from there. I've tried "timber flute", but that only occasionally flies in the States (when it does, it's usually to my surprise), and as has been noted already, plenty of folks assume I mean Boehm when I say "concert flute".

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Well, the problem is that the greater public has pretty much conferred the term "Irish flute" upon it.

Did it though? I never heard anyone call the instrument 'the Irish Flute' outside the internet and then the usage seems mostly American based.

I'm pretty sure you're right, there. But that's the force of the internet, isn't it. And to Americans, the very concept of a timber flute is distinctive enough to warrant a special term; how many times have I had to remind people that flutes didn't start out all-metal? It just doesn't occur to them. Ours is a niche group within a niche group, so how do we muster the leverage to change the public's habits? Kleenex is a brand of facial tissue, but your average Yank calls all tissues kleenexes whatever the actual brand. I've noticed that Right Ponders use the term "hoover" in the same way; Hoover is a brand, yet it's been turned into a verb (being a Yank, I would instead say "vacuum" as a verb).

I think it's enough to educate people when the opportunity presents itself, and C&F is a good place to do it, especially when newbies show up looking for "Irish flutes". And let's face it, the end to that misnomering will be a long time a-coming, so gird your loins and pass the torch.

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PostPosted: Sat Jan 11, 2020 7:19 pm 
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As others have mentioned, the conundrum here in the USA at least, is that we can't call it a "flute" when talking to civilians because they'll automatically assume you play Classical music on a metal flute. And you can't call it a "wooden flute" because that summons images of aging hippies playing New Age music on Native American flute replicas (apologies in advance to World Music flute players here on C&F).

So I call it an "Irish" flute, and then explain that it's a replica of a 19th Century wooden orchestra flute that was rescued by the community of Irish traditional music players, when the rest of the orchestral flute world moved into metal flutes around the turn of the 20th Century. We players of Irish trad music adopted it, and gave it a new life, to the point where modern flute makers are making replicas and improved versions of these old 19th Century flutes just so we can play "Irish traditional and related music" on an instrument that fits the style. Fingers on open holes, just like the pipes and the whistle.

Sure, you can play other styles of music on it, or you can play Irish trad on a Boehm flute. But it's the widespread adoption by players of mainly Irish trad that is responsible for the fact that these 19th Century type flutes have survived into the modern era, and are still being played today. Personally, I think that gives us enough justification to call it an Irish flute.

Even if it's really an English design, most of them. :puppyeyes:


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PostPosted: Sat Jan 11, 2020 9:16 pm 
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Akiba wrote:
Since I'm now playing the modern silver flute, I definitely think "Irish flute" is a style and a technique more than a specific instrument. You can play the wooden simple system flute in a very non-"Irish" way, just as one can play the modern Boehm flute in an Irish style and what I would call Irish technique.



The boehm flute is so much the superior instrument, objectively. I picked up a good open hole deford model from the seventies and I’ve been restoring it, and you’ve got all the possible notes and they are all pretty much the same volume and timbre: none of them are veiled or muted. It’s loud and you can go from a round flutey tone to a hard reedy tone, and it’s fast and crisp if you want.

I enjoy playing the conical bore flute more though and I’m not sure why. Probably it’s the association with folk practice or maybe the limits themselves, like the way people often enjoy a simple acoustic guitar more than an electric guitar with a bunch of effects pedals. All keys are not available: deal with it! It’s certainly easier for me to play in what passes for an Irish style on my Ellis flute. But that might have something to do with the psychology of picking music that out of the mainstream.

I do have friends and relatives who don’t understand at all that I’m not playing the classical boehm flute and whose eyes glaze over if I start to explain; who don’t know or care about the difference between a flute and a whistle. If I say “Irish flute” they might think “james galway” if they don’t think river dance.


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PostPosted: Sat Jan 11, 2020 9:31 pm 
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PB+J wrote:
The boehm flute is so much the superior instrument, objectively.


As a universal instrument for all styles of music, okay, but for Irish music? You lose the ability to bend between notes with open holes, or the sound of fingers ornamenting on open holes instead of the clacking of metal keys. You lose the sound of the diatonic "Piper's C" or "C Supernatural."

If the Boehm flute was a superior instrument for playing this music, we would all be playing them. For me, that's enough justification to be calling them Irish flutes, because that's the style of music that has kept this design alive in the latter half of the 20th Century and into the 21st Century.


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PostPosted: Sat Jan 11, 2020 9:39 pm 
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PB+J wrote:
The boehm flute is so much the superior instrument, objectively.


this was not considered the case by many people (especially composers) at the time it was invented, who felt its sound did not blend properly with the other woodwinds and it was incapable of being played in the way they wanted; some well-known players and orchestras actually switched back to the simple system flute after trying the Boehm flute for these reasons. it might be objectively easier to play (i think most of us would agree with that) but that doesn't make it better overall, necessarily.


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PostPosted: Sun Jan 12, 2020 2:11 am 
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PB+J wrote:
The boehm flute is so much the superior instrument, objectively.

Not objectively.

Quote:
you’ve got all the possible notes and they are all pretty much the same volume and timbre: none of them are veiled or muted.

Which is why baroque music sounds much better on a baroque flute. You lose all the characteristic original colouring with a Boehm.

Conical bore wrote:
As a universal instrument for all styles of music, okay

Not even that. It's fabulous for what it does well, but not everything benefits from homogenisation or requires the technical facility it brings.

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For me, that's enough justification to be calling them Irish flutes, because that's the style of music that has kept this design alive in the latter half of the 20th Century and into the 21st Century.

Are you sure that's not just your perspective when other traditions like Charanga (see Mr.Gumby's reference to 'Cuban flute' above) have also played their part?

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PostPosted: Sun Jan 12, 2020 4:20 am 
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I agree that 'Irish flute' is more a style of playing also, & when I explain to my ukulele & harmonica forum friends, I call it a keyless flute, as that is the type that I like to play, (also keyless piccolos), & if it needs further explanation, I say it is like a transverse tin whistle, with just six holes.

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PostPosted: Sun Jan 12, 2020 8:12 am 
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Peter Duggan wrote:
PB+J wrote:
The boehm flute is so much the superior instrument, objectively.

Not objectively.

Quote:
you’ve got all the possible notes and they are all pretty much the same volume and timbre: none of them are veiled or muted.

Which is why baroque music sounds much better on a baroque flute. You lose all the characteristic original colouring with a Boehm.



I think you're confusing objective and subjective here. You prefer the tone in baroque music, which is a perfectly reasonable subjective preference. But I'd argue that objectively, the Boehm flute is a superior instrument for the reasons given: it's much more consistent across its range. I prefer the "irish flute" myself. But every time I pick up the Boehm I'm impressed with the technical ingenuity of it and how Boehm thought his way around the problems with the conical bore flute.


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PostPosted: Sun Jan 12, 2020 9:12 am 
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PB+J wrote:
I think you're confusing objective and subjective here.

No, I'm not. I know exactly what they both mean and disagree with your statement that the Boehm flute is objectively better. Reasoning that consistency across its range makes it so is in itself a subjective preference assuming that such consistency is desirable. It's not necessarily if the composer wasn't expecting it and wasn't writing for it!

As for having all the possible notes (part of your initial argument), you could equally suggest that a recorder is objectively better than a whistle for that reason. But it's not, because their different usage makes such a judgement impossible.

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PostPosted: Sun Jan 12, 2020 10:35 am 
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I would also question the assertion that louder is objectively better. Volume and uniformity are things that we can quantify,
but that doesn't mean that an instrument that exhibits measurably larger values in those dimensions is objectively better than
one that does not. Objectively louder, or objectively more uniform, sure. But objectively better? :really:

I think there is a difference between a player's or listener's subjective preferences and the notion of an instrument being fit
for purpose, or optimal for a given musical genre. Although I'd be hard pressed to pin down that difference without somehow
introducing subjective preferences.

I also wonder whether the question of uniformity across notes comes up in forums on stringed instruments. Is the difference
in sound between open and stopped notes, on a fiddle, say, considered to be a problem that needs to be fixed, for example by
having a separate open string for every note, or perhaps just a single string that allows all notes to be stopped. Issues of playability
aside, would anyone argue that either of these modifications result in an objective improvement to the instrument's sound?


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PostPosted: Sun Jan 12, 2020 10:43 am 
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Peter Duggan wrote:
Are you sure that's not just your perspective when other traditions like Charanga (see Mr.Gumby's reference to 'Cuban flute' above) have also played their part?

How big a part did other styles of music play, in the "revival" of this style of flute? Or was it mainly what players of Irish music were doing with it? What's the ratio of Irish players to anything else? I'd argue that the vast majority of people currently playing these flutes are using them for Irish trad, along with closely related Scottish, Shetland, etc. tunes.

Anyway, as I said in my first post in this thread, I dislike the term Irish flute but I use it in conversation with civilians (those who know nothing about ITM), because nothing else works as well to describe what kind of flute it isn't. In a circle of Irish trad players, I just call it a flute.


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PostPosted: Sun Jan 12, 2020 12:58 pm 
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I don’t think the question can be answered fully and sensitively without reference to the complexity of cultural context and social history and all our yearning for meaningful vernacular music that expresses place, community and who we are.

In Ireland that vibrancy at a vernacular level is a reality and informs so beautifully a sense of cultural identity. Whether that modern vibrancy results in part from revival and reinvention does not matter; what matters is that it is there, enjoyed, shared and passed on. And the wooden flute is an integral part of that Irish vernacular music.

I’m English, my flute teacher teaches me in an Irish style and I have come to listen to and love Irish flute players such as Patsy Hanley, Eddie Cahill and others and the delight, idiosyncrasy and specialness of regional styles. Through a wonder and respect for those vernacular musicians I have come to research and explore my regional repertoire and the ordinary working folk who made music where I live and was brought up. What we in England soon discover is a systematic destruction of our vernacular culture and the communities where it once thrived too. Here in North Somerset coal miners and quarrymen once step danced in pubs and at fairs; who now is aware of that and what it meant to be from these parts? Hear Conal O Grada’s version of Haste To The Weding on his The Top Of Coom? Here not 5 miles from my front door versions of that tune were transcribed from Somerset fiddle players also beautiful and regionally distinctive.

What we get when an instrument is culturally ring-fenced is the anguish of what we have lost sight of- that vernacular music, tunes and flute were once ubiquitous in working communities everywhere regardless of artificial borders or lines on maps, danced to by young and old. The sounds of all our identities.

I passionately wish that sense of ownership could be regained and the cultural damage wrought by class challenged.

Flute? It’s beauty and ability to shape regional identity belongs to all of us. Those communities that have that vibrancy should act as beacons and inspiration. We are all musicians who belong, have a sense of place and feel that belonging deeply. The focus is the restablishment of a meaningful vernacular culture and we should all share a common sense of purpose in enabling that expression of identity and life for everyone.


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PostPosted: Sun Jan 12, 2020 1:58 pm 
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OK, I know I'm going "off on one", a rant that is, but I do feel the urge every now and then, so here goes.

---

I find the term "celtic" in parts both ridiculous, offensive and damaging.

I'll put this clearly; the dance music in Scotland and Ireland are clearly related, but dance music in Scotland is even more closely related to that in England. I know, it's shocking, can't be allowed to be uttered, but traditional English dance music, dances and song are just as closely related to Irish traditional dance music, dances and song as those in Scotland.

The term "celtic" tells lies. Lies about how music dance and song have really moved around these islands and informed one another. Calling the music "celtic" is, let's be blunt, used to exclude connexions with English folk music. For this it relies upon outmoded, racist, 19th century ethno-nationalism, incorrect assumptions about language ethnicity and culture, revisionist history and cultural stereotypes that in the past were considered offensive.

On the most simple level, the music that we play is not "celtic." It has developed over the last 3 to 4 hundred years and has no links to some ancient celtic culture, whatever people may think that may mean or if it really existed in the simplistic (and outdated) way that many imagine.

The dance music originated in the early modern period and developed into the modern period. It is regional (less so these days I suppose), not truly national and closely related to dance forms. Many things that we think of as characteristic of Irish music are linked to quite late developments in dances, such as the quadrilles introduced in the late 19th century.

Many of the nationalistic tendencies are a modern phenomenon. I noticed the other day that the person who runs a prominent tin whistle channel on Youtube referred to the "celtic whistle." I've not seen anyone seriously using that term before ("Irish whistle" is bad enough), but when I challenged it I was bluntly told that that's what people call them.

Traditional music exists in Ireland. It is the result of the history of that country and its regions, *all* the various people who lived lived and visited there, it is Irish traditional music. It is most similar to the traditional music found in Britain, for obvious reasons of geography and history.

I mentioned "damaging" in the first line, and not by accident. It's a little trying to be constantly ignored, have your songs, music and dance misappropriated, have strangers insisting that you're playing music from somewhere else, have smartarses argue that English traditional music doesn't really exist, and the constant attrition of "celtic" this or that.

Personally, as an English musician, I do play many tunes that come from Ireland, Scotland, Wales ... Australia, North America (France, Scandinavia etc). Why? ... precisely because I'm an English musician. It's nice to get that same kind of acknowledgement back sometimes.

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