"Western" flute evolution and history

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GreenWood
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"Western" flute evolution and history

Post by GreenWood »

This thread is started as a resource page and possibly discussion on the history behind our flutes, or how they came to be what they are. Some will be familiar with this already, to others it will be new. Hopefully anyone will find something of interest and presented in a way they find readable amongst whatever is offered.

I'm not much of a musical theorist or whatever name is used to describe studying styles of playing and so on, though I do listen to the music and appreciate the qualities of the different instruments, and their evolution. Anyway, I'll put down three links that go into more detail of the background realities than

www.oldflutes.com

which also covers the range well. Starting with renaissance flute

https://gtmusicalinstruments.com/an-int ... nce-flute/

and then an idea of what was going on in baroque times

https://gtmusicalinstruments.com/traver ... h-century/

and then on to Nicholson style

https://www.academia.edu/6447630/Charle ... lute_Sound

Which is also covered in great detail at Terry Mcgee's site

http://www.mcgee-flutes.com/

with its classification of makers and instruments of the day. Many academic texts are unbearably long, but some include very pertinent information of various kinds.

So anything related of interest, just drop in a link... "Ancient flute found in bog" is as good as "Influence of reaming techniques on the musical style of mid 18th century chamber music" as far as I am concerned.


[As a sidenote, I had better explain why I think all of this is related to Irish traditional music. Most know that modern Irish flutes are derived from and very close to mid 19th century flutes, Rudalls and Prattens for example, and how those came to be what they are is relevant enough I think.

However, my own path to playing Irish music had a particular revelation along the way. I started and play with a simple cylindrical flute, basically a renaissance flute with larger toneholes. The first song I learned was Sailor On A Rock, after hearing it played fast sligo style and embellished. I learned that tune from tab, because I didn't know where or how else to start. I was very surprised, I was wondering if I had the same tune before me, because what came across was a very different song in many ways. So I looked at old recordings

https://www.irishtune.info/tune/1715/

And Coleman and McKenna are playing closer to what I think the tune is about , but still not what had come to mind, a very innocent fun song of a sailor clambering around on a rock... which is how it will stay to me.

It was first annotated in 1867

https://tunearch.org/wiki/Sailor_on_the_Rock

and must have been composed earlier because Elias Howe only compiled the collection I think.

The thing is this...I could not think of playing it the way I do on a Ruddal, on a whistle maybe but I don't play whistle (yet at least). So my thinking is that a lot of older songs are adapted (and usually nicely adapted) to newer instrument and newer style, but in the past (where a lot of the music comes from) it would have been composed for and from the instruments of the time, whether simpler flutes, whistles, harps, fiddles and so on, along with their nescessarily different playing which fitted with the various realities of the day, ones that were very different from how the modern world is. Which is what this window on the past is meant to illustrate. Even if what exactly is going on in Ireland musically in say 16th through 18th century is not much documented anywhere (though talk of playing ability is mentioned by visitors for example), at least we are given some idea of what kind of instruments would have been available, and would have been being played. I was about to say "It would be amazing to have recordings from those times"... but then I think maybe it is all just as well as is, with tradition being something alive that carries back to then all the same.


From what I understand so far, the even earlier history of flute in Ireland just isn't documented, with few surviving instruments (mostly a set of whistles) and texts which use names that can be confused for whistle or flute. ]
Last edited by GreenWood on Tue Nov 09, 2021 2:24 pm, edited 1 time in total.
gwuilleann
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Re: "Western" flute evolution and history

Post by gwuilleann »

You might also be interested in the Flute History Channel. It's a private facebook group, unfortunately, but it is dedicated to exactly that kind of things :)
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GreenWood
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Re: "Western" flute evolution and history

Post by GreenWood »

gwuilleann wrote: Tue Nov 09, 2021 12:20 pm You might also be interested in the Flute History Channel. It's a private facebook group, unfortunately, but it is dedicated to exactly that kind of things :)
Thanks gwuilleann, that looks really interesting. It is a shame it is private though. I could understand not being allowed to comment but to not be able to just read it is hard to fathom, plus it has 6000 members I think so it isn't exactly exclusive. Flutemakers site is like that but there it is understandable because it is relatively close quarter technical discussions. Hmm, will see if I can tempmail create an account with FB...done...and answer a question to join...

"I would like to join this group to see if I would like to join this group, but because it is private I don't know how or what it is in reality."

.... and the now lit up submit button doesn't work, and there are no boxes to tick agreeing to policy that are asked to be ticked... just an unresponsive page... now I know a reason FB has a nickname...

I guess I will hear from their admin for admission at some point :-) ....be surprised if they put up with someone like me though :-D

Thanks (sincerely)
rykirk
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Tell us something.: I am a piper and guitarist who has recently taken up the whistle and flute and looking for info and community. Mostly interested in and playing Scottish baroque and trad.

Re: "Western" flute evolution and history

Post by rykirk »

Its a very interesting subject that actually greatly informed my choice in instrument. I eventually settled on a one key baroque flute for playing the 'trad' music of the British Isles after the realization that many of the most important and oldest English, Scottish, and Irish tunes were first published in collections during the late 17th thru the 18th Century. It just feels right. I'm not Irish and I have very little interest in 'ITM' or sessions which are not a thing where I live. Plus it's not actually so old and traditional as many claim, that interpretive style has a relatively recent origin in the 20th Century. I'm much more interested in historical country dance, parlor and drawing room music, court music etc. Especially the Scottish baroque material which so nicely blends the native tonality and melody types with Baroque technique and formal conventions.

Plus I just generally prefer the smoother, mellower tone and lower volume and the 'simplicity' of a one key instrument that allows fully chromatic playing and the option to play the full repertoire of continental Baroque and early Classical music as well. It's a very refined and interesting instrument in its own right.
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Sedi
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Re: "Western" flute evolution and history

Post by Sedi »

I thought this one was interesting:
https://youtu.be/lxCwmLeerPA
And Martin Wenner on Renaissance flutes:
https://youtu.be/Tpg4Yi1vfIg

A few more links:
https://www.cs.dartmouth.edu/~wbc/rockstro/
https://archive.org/details/storyofflut ... 1/mode/2up
The rest of my link collection is more about flute making.
rykirk
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Tell us something.: I am a piper and guitarist who has recently taken up the whistle and flute and looking for info and community. Mostly interested in and playing Scottish baroque and trad.

Re: "Western" flute evolution and history

Post by rykirk »

Some interesting theses:

The Flute in Musical Life in 18th Century Scotland:
https://theses.gla.ac.uk/7351/

Sophisticated Laddie Scottish Flute Music 1720-1780:
https://tspace.library.utoronto.ca/handle/1807/69009
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