Page:A Dictionary of Music and Musicians vol 1.djvu/548

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
536
FLUTE.

obliquely from the approximated lips. In the lower part are six holes to be stopped by the first three fingers of either hand—and various intermediate keys; there are also on the lowest joint three, or even four, levers producing additional notes below the regular scale of the instrument. It is held transversely and sloping downwards against the lower lip, with the orifice in the head turned somewhat outwards, so that the stream of wind shall impinge upon its outer edge. By this impact of the current upon the wedge-like margin of the aperture sound is produced. Considerable practice is required to develop any note whatever, and much controversy exists as to the exact cause of the musical vibration. It is not however necessary that the feather edge should be at the side of the main tube; for in the Nay or Egyptian flute figured in the margin[1]

Page 536 (A Dictionary of Music and Musicians-Volume 1).jpg

the extreme circular end of the tube itself (here made of bamboo) is thinned away so as to produce a linear termination, against which the current of breath is directed. Such a flute might be held straight in front of the player, like the Flageolet or flute à bec; in which, however, the simple combination of orifice and lip is replaced by a far more complicated arrangement, exactly similar to the mouth of a diapason organ-pipe. As a matter of fact it is held obliquely towards the right side of the player, like the modern transverse flute, except that its lower extremity bears considerably downwards, so as to enable the blast to enter a terminal instead of a lateral orifice. An almost similar instrument to the one here figured is in the ancient Egyptian collection in the British Museum, and from the absence of the usual lateral hole was considered to be a forgery. Not only is the same instrument still in use at the present day, but the mode of playing and the position of the ancient instrument can be recovered from the plaster mural decorations still preserved. The only difference in the more ancient instrument is that the scale is one of four orifices, whereas the modern possesses the full complement of six. Either of these may be looked upon as intermediate between the flute and the flue-pipe of the organ, the foot and 'languid' being in this case supplied by the cavity of the mouth and the linear opening of the lips.

No instrument has undergone so many changes and improvements within the last half century as the Flute. The bore, instead of being conical, has been made cylindrical; the fingering and disposition of the keys have been entirely altered according to the system named after Boehm.

The flute, though not possessing a very extensive compass, is especially prominent in concerted music, from the acuteness of the sounds it is competent to produce. Indeed, the Piccolo, or small Octave variety, emits the sharpest notes ordinarily used in music. Its true Scale may be considered to begin on D (1) below the treble stave, and hence the Flute is often called a D instrument. The notes C♯, C, B♮, and even B♭, below D, are obtained by associated levers set in motion by the two little fingers of either hand, but do not occur again in the higher registers. By the successive removal of the three first fingers of the right hand, followed by those of the left, the series of notes rising from D to C♯ (2) are elicited, and on D again (3) a new octave harmonic scale is commenced by closing all the holes except that beneath the forefinger of the left hand. In this respect the scale is similar to the Oboe and Bassoon, with the exception that the latter, being fundamentally in the key of G, change upon that note instead of upon D. The second octave is produced by a stronger pressure of wind and an alteration of embouchure, rising to D above the stave (4), and there remains a third still higher octave, obtained by cross-fingerings often of a complicated nature, rising to D or even D♯ in altissimo (5)—

{ \override Score.TimeSignature #'stencil = ##f \cadenzaOn d'4_"(1)" s cis''_"(2)" s d''_"(3)" s d'''_"(4)" s dis''''_"(5)" }

The scale here described is that of the old eight-keyed Flute.

The principles of the Flute originally invented by Captain Gordon of Charles the Tenth's Swiss Guards and introduced by Theobald Boehm[2] in his new flute, constructed in 1832, were principally (1) that each note should speak independently out of a single hole, as though the remainder of the bore were entirely cut off; (2) that all keys in their position of rest should be permanently open. He also aimed at equalising the difficulty of the different keys, some of which, on the older flute, were notoriously inconvenient and all but impracticable. A subsequent improvement consisted in substituting a cylindrical for a conical bore. In its latest modification, the Boehm flute consists of a cylindrical tube terminating at the upper end, above the embouchure in a conical or 'parabolic' prolongation. For the left hand, which occupies the upper part of the instrument next to the head, are four open keys to be closed by the first finger, thumb (situated at the back of the instrument), second, and third fingers successively. For the little finger of this hand is an open key producing the G♯ or A♭. On the right hand joint are three open keys, for the first, second, and ring fingers respectively, with accessory or 'shake keys' (which are normally closed) interposed. For the right little finger are the closed key of D♯ and the two open keys of C♯ and C. In many flutes mechanism, still worked by the right little finger, is added to produce B♮ and even B♭. But from the D♮

  1. This curious instrument is still used by the peasants about the Nile. The original of the figure was brought from Egypt by F. Girdlestone, Esq., of the Charterhouse. See an admirable cut in Lane's 'Modern Egyptians.'
  2. See his pamphlet 'Über den Flötenbau and die neuesten Verbesseruugen.' Mainz, 1847.