The Flute


The art of music lies in its ability to organize sounds and rhythm. Sounds usually come from the singer’s voice as well as out of an instrument. We define an instrument as any object that is used for some purpose by humans. The key to this definition is that the instrument itself is provided its functional use and identity because of humans.

In the early stages of the flute, it didn’t carry the musical connotation it has nowadays. In certain cultures it was usually identified with “mythical or spiritual figures, with pastoral life, and with death.”[1] Dates like holidays or deaths might have been inscribed on by tribal leaders. At the time, it had the capacity of producing one sound that was used to be informative of weather or danger.

In the 14th century, after the Swiss troops defeated the Burgundian army, the Swiss used “the flute to signal precise movements (…) of soldiers armed with pikes,”[2] and other types of weapons. This method spread all over Europe quickly. It was preceded by the earliest written instruction on how to play it.

By 1700s, the German and French influences over the flute gave it prestige. The earliest educational books written by composers gave it the identity it holds today in classical music. Bit by bit, the flute became classical and musicians like Theobald Boehm enhanced the instrument. He “aimed to make the flute louder, its timbre more homogeneous from note to note,”[3] and because of his creativity he radically changed its anatomy. He also gave it more keys, creating more notes, therefore it was more in harmony with other instruments. His innovation served as the blueprint for later instruments like the saxophone and clarinet[4].

Used among cultures as a tradition to declare war or to celebrate, the flute shows it is time biased, promoting tradition and stability. Boehm’s drastic design proved it has the flexibility to change[5]. No matter who you are, or where you are, the flute has no restrictions. To anyone who is willing to play, it will be happy to show its versatility.


Estefania Wujkiw


[1] Flute History

[2] Flute History.

[3] The Anatomy and Evolution of the Flute.

[4] The Anatomy and Evolution of the Flute.

[5] Intersections of Media and Communications. Pp. 117


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