Comparative Study of the use of the Baroque and Modern Flute in Composition

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Comparative Study of the use of the Baroque and Modern Flute in Composition

A comparative study of the use of the barqoue and modern flute in composition, with specific reference to — Sonata IV for flute and continuo by J.S Bach, and Sonata for flute and piano by Hindemith

The baroque, or transverse flute is of great interest to me, mainly because of my own flute playing experience. Since listening to a concert which included both a modern orchestra and a baroque orchestra playing together in a specially written composition, and separately, I have considered the baroque flute a much softer and more beautiful instrument, in construction and sound. It is because of this interest that I have decided to carry out my investigation upon the difference between the two flutes, particularly in composition. Firstly, I plan to study the development of the baroque flute, as it is my main focus for this project, and what its capabilities were for composition. Then I will compare the flutes, using the pieces I have chosen, one written for a baroque flute, and one for a modern flute. From this investigation, I hope to be able to draw some conclusions about the better of the two flutes. At the moment I prefer the baroque flute to the modern flute, and I would like to prove that it is indeed the better flute.

History of the baroque flute

The earliest record of a flute is in a ninth century BC Chinese poem ‘Shih Ching’, but the first pictorial evidence of a transverse flute did not appear until the second century BC, on an urn in Italy. The recorder was the predecessor of the transverse flute, but gradually, the flute became the more dominant instrument. During the baroque period (between about 1650 — 18th century), four main flutes were in use. These were the treble, the alto, the tenor and the bass. Each was pitched a perfect fifth apart (apart from the alto and tenor, which were very similar), and had a range of about two octaves. The bass flute was usually replaced by a sackbutt in wind ensembles, as it had a small range and a weak sound. The baroque flute — which later was developed into the Boehm flute, was in fact the descendent of the tenor flute. This was noted to have the range of the early female voice in 1619,