Online Encyclopedia


Online Encyclopedia
Originally appearing in Volume V10, Page 581 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
Spread the word: it!
FLUTE, a word adapted from O. Fr. fleute, modern flute; from O. Fr. have come the Span. flauta, Ital. flauto and Ger. Flute. The New English Dictionary dismisses the derivations suggested from Lat. flatware or flavitare; ultimately the word must be referred to the root seen in " blow," Lat. flare, Ger. blasen, &c. 1. In music " flute " is a general term applied to wood-wind instruments consisting of a pipe pierced with lateral holes and blown directly through the mouthpiece without the intervention of a reed. The flute family is classified according to the mouth-piece used to set in vibration the column of air within the tube: i.e. (r) the simple lateral mouth-hole or embouchure which necessitates holding the instrument in a transverse position; (2) the whistle or fipple mouthpiece which allows the performer to hold the instrument vertically in front of him. There is a third class of pipes included among the flutes, having no mouth-piece of any sort, in which the column of air is set in vibration by blowing obliquely across the open end of the pipe, as in the ancient Egyptian nay, and the pan-pipe or syrinx (q.v.). The transverse flute has entirely superseded the whistle flute, which has survived only in the so-called penny whistle, in the " flute-work " of the organ (q.v.), and in the French flageolet. The Transverse Flute or German Flute (Fr. flute traversiere, flute allemande: Ger. Flute, Querflote, Zwerchpfeiff, Schweitzerpfeiff; Ital. flauto traverse) includes the concert flute known both as flute in C and as flute in D, the piccolo (q.v.) or octave flute, and the fife (q.v.). The modern flute consists of a tube open at one end and nominally closed at the other by means of a plug or cork stopper: virtually, however, the tube is an open one giving the consecutive harmonic series of the open pipe or of a stretched string. The primitive flute was made in one piece, but the modern instrument is composed of three adjustable joints. (1) The head-joint, plugged at the upper end and containing at about one-third of the length the mouth-hole or embouchure. This embouchure, always open when the instrument is being played, converts the closed tube into an open one, in an acoustical sense. (2) The body, containing the holes and keys necessary to produce the scale which gave the flute its original designation of D flute, the head and body together, when the holes are closed, giving the fundamental note D. Before the invention of keys, this fundamental note and the notes obtained by the successive opening of the six holes produced the diatonic scale of D major. All other semitones were obtained by what is known as cross fingering (Fr. doigte fourchu; Ger. Gabelgriffe). It became usual to consider this the typical fingering nomenclature, whatever the fundamental note given out by the flute, and to indicate the tonality by the note given out when the six lateral holes are covered by the fingers. The result is that the tonality is always a tone lower than the name of the instrument indicates. Thus the D flute is really in C, the F flute is Eb, &c. (3) The foot-joint or tail-joint containing the two additiQaal keys for Cjr and C which extend the579 compass downwards, completing the chromatic scale of C in the fundamental octave. The compass of the modern flute is three octaves with a chromatic semitones from = The sound is pro- = co- duced by holding the flute tra versely with the embouchure turned slightly outwards, the lower lip resting on the nearer edge of the embouchure, and blowing obliquely across, not into, the orifice. The flat stream of air from the lips, known as the air-reed, breaks against the sharp outer edge of the embouchure. The current of air, thus set in a flutter, produces in the stationary column of air within the tube a series of pulsations or vibrations caused by the alternate compression and rare-faction of the air and generating sounds of a pitch proportional to the length of the stationary column, which is practically somewhat longer than the length of the tube." The length of this column is varied by opening the lateral finger-holes. The current or air-reed thus acts upon the air column within the flute, without passing through the tube, as a plectrum upon a string, setting it in vibration. The air column of the flute is the sound-producer, whereas in instruments with reed mouthpieces the vibrating reed is more properly the sound-producer, while the air column, acting as a resonating medium, reinforces the note of the reed by vibrating synchronously with it. If the angle 2 at which the current of air is directed against the outer edge of the embouchure be made less acute and the pressure of the breath be at the same time increased, the frequency of the alternate pulses of compression and rarefaction within the tube will be increased two, three or fourfold, forming a corresponding number of nodes and loops which results in harmonics or upper partials, respectively the octave, the twelfth, the double octave. By this means sounds of higher pitch are produced without actually shortening the length of the column of air by means of lateral holes. The acoustic theory of sound-production in the flute is one on which there is great diversity of opinion. The subject is too vast to be treated here, but readers who wish to pursue it may consult the works of Rockstro,3 Helmholtz,' and others.5 The effect of boring lateral holes in pipes is to shorten the vibrating length of the air column, which may be regarded as being effective only between the hole in question and the mouthpiece. In order to obtain this result the diameter of the hole should be equal to that of the bore; as long as the holes were covered by the fingers, this was obviously impossible. The holes, therefore, being smaller than the laws of acoustics demand, have to be placed proportion-ally nearer the mouthpiece in order to avoid deepening the pitch and deadening the tone. This principle was understood by wind-instrument makers of classic Greece (see AuLos and CLARINET), and has been explained by' Chladni 6 and Gottfried Weber.' The bore of the early flute with six finger-holes was invariably cylindrical throughout, but towards the end of the 17th century a modification took place, the head joint alone remaining cylindrical while the rest of the bore assumed the form of a cone having its smallest diameter at the open end of the tube. The ' See E. F. F. Chladni, Die Akustik (Leipzig, 1802), p. 87. 2 See Sonreck, " Uber die Schwingungserregung and die Bewegung der Luftsaule in offenen and gedeckten Rohren," Pogg. Ann., 1876, vol. 158. 3 The Flute (London, 1890), § 90-105, pp. 34-4o. Theorie der Luftschwingungen in Rohren mit off enen Enden (Berlin, 1896). Ostwald's Klassiker der exacten Wissenschaften, No. 80. 5 V. C. Mahillon, Experimental Studies on the Resonance of Trunco-Conical and Cylindrical Air Columns, translated by F. A. Mahan (London, 1901); D. J. Blaiklev, Acoustics in Relation to Wind Instruments (London, 189o) ; Friedrich Zamminer, Die Musik and die musikalischen Instrumente, &c. (Giessen, 1855) ; idem. " Sur le mouvement vibratoire de fair dans les tuyaux," Comptes rendus, 1855, V01. 41, &c. c Op. Cit., § 73, pp. 87-88, note 1. ' " Akustik der Blasinstrumente," Allgem. musikal. Zeit. (Leipzig, 1816), Bd. xviii. No. 5, p. 65 et seq. See also Ernst Euting, Zur Geschichte der Blasinstrumente im 16. and 17. Jahrhundert. Inaugural Dissertation, Friedrich-Wilhelms UJniversitat. (Berlin, 15th of March 1899), p. 9. s8o conoidal bore greatly improved the quality of tone and the production of the higher harmonics of the third octave. Once the conical bore had been adopted, the term flute was exclusively applied to the new instruments, the smaller flutes, then cylindrical, used in the army being designated fife (q.v.). At Musical instruments, such as flutes, in which a column of air is set in vibration by regular pulsations derived from a current of air directed by the lips of the executant against the side of the orifice serving as embouchure, appear to be of very ancient origin. The Hindus, Chinese and Japanese claim to have used these modes of blowing from time immemorial. The ancient Egyptians had a long pipe held obliquely and blown across the end of the pipe itself at its upper extremity; it was known as Saib-it 5 and was frequently figured on the monuments. The same instrument, called nay," is still used in Mahommedan countries. The oblique aulos of the ' Lehre von der Tonempfindung (Braunschweig, 1877). 2 See additions by D. J. B. to article " Flute " in Grove's Dictionary of Music and Musicians (London, 1904). Musica instrumentalis deutsch (Wittenberg, 1528). * See also L'Artusi, Delle imperfettioni della musica moderna (Venice, 1600), p. 4; Gottfried Weber in Cdcilia, Bd. ix. p. 99. 5 See " Les Anciennes Flutes egyptiennes," by Victor Loret in Journal asiatique (Paris, 1889), vol. xiv. p. 133 et seq., two careful articles based on the ancient Egyptian instruments still extant. See also Lauth, " Ober die agyptische Instrumente," Sitzungs. der philos., philolog. and histor. Klasse. der Kgl. bayer. Akad. zu Munchen (1873). Greeks, plagiaulos,6 was of Egyptian origin and was perhaps at first blown from the end as described a.bove,r since we know that the Greeks were familiar with that method of blowing in the syrinx or pan-pipe. The instruments preserved at the British Museum® having lateral embouchures show, however, that they were also acquainted—probably through the Hindus—with the transverse flute, although in the case of these specimens a reed must have been inserted into the mouth-hole or no sound would have been obtained. The high antiquity of a lateral embouchure in Europe is generally admitted; the flute evidently penetrated from the East at some period not yet determined. A transverse flute is seen on Indian sculptures of the Gandhara school showing Greek influence, and dating from the beginning of our era (fig. 3). But although the transverse flute was evi- dently known to the Greeks and Romans, it did not find the same favour as the reed instruments known as auloi. We have no evidence of the survival of the transverse flute after the fall of the Roman empire until it filtered through from Byzantine sources Tope at Amarabati, British Museum. during the early middle ages. Instances of the flute occur on a group of caskets 6 of Italo-Byzantine work of the 9th or loth century, while of purely Byzantine origin we find examples of flutes in Greek 6 See Albert A. Howard, " The Aulos or Tibia," Harvard Studies, iv. (Boston, 1893), pp. 16-17. 7 Representations of flutes blown as here described have been found in Europe. See Comptes rendus de la commission impiriale archeologique (St Petersburg, 1867), p. 45, and, atlas for the same date, pl. vi. Pompeian painting given by Helbig, Wandgemalde, No. 7607; Zahn, vol. pl. 31; Museo Borbonnico, pl. xv. No. 18; Clarac, pl. 130, 131, 139; Heuzey, Les Figurines, p. 136. 6 There are two flutes at the British Museum (Catal. No. 84, 4-9 and 5 and 6), belonging to the Castellani collection, made of wood encased in bronze in which the mouthpiece, consisting of the head of a maenad, has a lateral hole bored obliquely into the main tube. This hole was probably intended for the reception of a reed. The pipe is stopped at the end beyond the mouthpiece as in the modern flute. There are six holes. See also the plagiaulos from Halicar. nassus in the British Museum described by C. T. Newton in History of Discoveries at Halicarnassus (London), vol. ii. p. 339. The Louvre has two ancient statues (from the villa Borghese) representing satyrs playing upon transverse flutes. Unfortunately these marbles have been restored, especially in the details affecting our present subject, and are therefore examples of no value to us. Another statue representing a flute-player occurs in the British Museum. The instrument has been supposed to be a transverse flute, but erroneously, for the insufflation of the lateral tube against which the instrumentalist presses his lips, could not, without the intervention of a reed, excite the vibratory movement of the column of air. e Florence, Carrand Collection. See Museo Nazionale Firenze, Catalogo (1898), p. 205, No. 26 (description only). Illustration in Gallerie nazionali italiane, A. Venturi, vol. iii. (1897), p. 263, L'Arte (Rome, 1894), vol. i. p. 24, Hans Graeven, Antike Vorlagen byzantinischer Elfenbeinreliefs," in Jahrb. d. K. Preuss. Kunst-Sammlungen (Berlin, 1897), Bd. xviii. p. I I ; Hans Graeven, " Ein Reliquienkastchen aus Pirano," id., 1899, Bd. xx. fig. 2 and pl. iii. From Captain Day's Catalogue, &'c., by permission of Messrs. Eyre & Spottiswoode. Messrs. Rudall, Carte & Co. the present day in England, France and America, the favourite mode of construction is that introduced by Theobald Boehm, and known as the " cylinder flute with the parabolic head," of which more will be said further on. The successive opening of the holes and keys on the flute produces the chromatic scale of the first or fundamental octave. By increasing the pressure of the breath and slightly altering the position of the lips over the mouth-hole, the same fingering produces the notes of the fundamental octave in the next octave higher. The third octave of the compass is obtained by the production of the higher harmonics (Fr. sons harmoniques; Ger. Flageolettone), of the fundamental scale, facilitated by the opening of certain of the finger-holes as " vent holes." The quality of tone depends somewhat on the material of which the flute is made; silver and gold produce a liquid tone of exquisite delicacy suitable for solo music, cocus-wood and ebonite a rich mellow tone of considerable power suitable for orchestral music. The tone differs further in the three registers, the lowest being slightly rough, the medium sweet and elegiac, and the third bird-like and brilliant. The proportions, position and form of the stopper and of the air chamber situated between it and the embouchure are mainly influential in giving the flute its peculiar slightly hollow timbre, due to the paucity of the upper partials of which according to Helmholtz' only the octave and twelfth are heard. Mr Blaikley2 states, however, that when the fundamental D is played, he can discern the seventh partial. The technical capabilities of the flute are practically unlimited to a good player who can obtain sustained notes diminuendo and crescendo, diatonic and chromatic scales and arpeggios both legato and staccato, leaps, turns, shakes, &c. By the articulation with the tongue of the syllables te-ke or ti-lee repeated quickly for groups of double notes, or of to-ke-ti for triplets, an easy effective staccato is produced, known respectively as double or triple tonguing, a device under-stood early in the 16th century and mentioned by Martin Agricola,3 who gives the syllables as de for sustained notes, di-ri for shorter notes, and tel-lel-lel for staccato passages in quick tempo.'
End of Article: FLUTE
FLUSHING (Dutch Vlissingen)
FLUX (Lat. fluxus, a flowing; this being also the m...

Additional information and Comments

There are no comments yet for this article.
» Add information or comments to this article.
Please link directly to this article:
Highlight the code below, right click and select "copy." Paste it into a website, email, or other HTML document.