No instrument emulates the twitting, floating, fluid songs of birds quite as well as the flute. While the human voice has difficulty replicating the delicacy with which birds and flutes undertake musical gymnastics, this is certainly not for lack of trying. In this “Twitter” section, images of The Country Choristers and Le Concert capture moments when twittering should have been left to birds and flutists, while Soo D’oude Songen Soo Pepen De Jongen (As the Old Sing, So the Young Twitter) presents a more harmonious interaction between voice and woodwind. Of course, at the wrong time and place even the most melodious song may be unwelcome, as seen in the image of Gavarni’s flageolet player, who has no reason to expect a friendly greeting when his playing keeps his neighbor awake at 3 a.m.
In his unpublished history, Miller wrote that, while during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries composers favored solo vocal and instrumental music, the composition of pieces for ensembles with multiple instruments began to dominate around the year 1600. However, the instruments available for these works were still in very simple, almost crude forms. The development of more sophisticated woodwind instruments for orchestral use reached its peak during the eighteenth century, although simple, whistle-type instruments such as three-hole tabor pipes and flageolets (end-blown instruments with distinctive “beak” mouthpieces) remained popular for amateur performances, such as those portrayed in this section.
To utter a succession of light, tremulous notes;
to chirp continuously with a tremulous effect.
To sing after the above manner.
In this “Chatter” section, images depict members of the flute family being played with a variety of other instruments, from delicate strings and keyboards to martial trumpets and drums. Each type of ensemble depicted has a particular characteristic chatter and suits a particular setting, whether stately halls or raucous streets. Musical performance acts as the catalyst for a variety of other sound interactions—interpreted from the scenes of noisy cacophony of the impromptu Beggar’s Opera (a popular, satirical eighteenth-century English opera by John Gay) in Hogarth’s The Enraged Musician to the refined conversation at the quiet salon in L’Assemble au Concert. As Miller noted in his treatise, the emergence of large ensembles required not only inspired composers and skillful performers but also instruments that were technically capable of producing a variety of musical tones. The ability to play different dynamics, from very loud to very soft, was necessary to create the appropriate emotion and balance between instruments for ensemble performance. The improvement of the sound quality of orchestral woodwinds such as the oboe, a double-reeded instrument previously considered too harsh for inclusion in many compositions, led to their increasing use in orchestrations by composers of the eighteenth century.
To utter a rapid succession or series of short vocal sounds; now applied to sounds approaching those of the human voice, e.g. of starlings, magpies, etc., but originally used more broadly to include what is now termed the ‘twitter’ of sparrows, swallows, etc.
To talk rapidly, incessantly, and with more sound than sense.
Like harps, dulcimers, and flutes, recorders—which derive their name from the verb “record”—were considered to be bas, or soft-playing, instruments, particularly suited for interior performance. The gentle sonority and clear, sweet tone of recorders led to their Italian name, flauto dolce, or “sweet flute,” and made it natural for Baroque composers such as Telemann and Vivaldi to use them to mimic bird-calls. In this “Record” section each image is suffused with a contemplative air that echoes the softness of the instrument, the gentle warbling indicated by early definitions of the verb “record,” and the quiet murmurings of the “praiseworthy nightingale” depicted in Martin Engelbrecht’s engraving, Flötten, Hautbois, Flachinett, Fagot, und Clarinett (Flutes, Oboe, Flageolet, Bassoon, and Clarinet).
Miller’s Bassano tenor recorder in C is likely the oldest instrument in his collection. Dating from the early to mid-seventeenth century, it was made approximately one hundred years after the appearance of the earliest books giving definite information about the construction and use of musical instruments. By 1707, Jacques Hotteterre had published a tutor for the recorder, oboe, and transverse flute. This Principes de la Flute Traversiere was the earliest known book of instruction for the transverse flute. Hotteterre’s publications and reputation as a performer helped the transverse flute displace the recorder in artistic music, although the recorder has enjoyed a modern revival.
Chiefly of songbirds
To practice or sing (a tune) in an undertone; to go over (a song or tune) quietly or silently. To sing (a song or tune); to sing of or about, render in song.
To sing, warble.
A flute may warble in the contemporary comical sense or may warble resoundingly, with all the dignity and majesty appropriate to the presence of a saint or an emperor. Depictions of flutes warbling in this latter sense are depicted in scenes shown in Das Weisskunigs Erfahrung in Mummerei (Of the White King’s Introduction to Mummery), from the Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian I’s autobiographical and allegorical Weisskunig cycle, and the Triumph of David, taken from the Encomium Musices (In Praise of Music) collection of musical scenes in the Bible. This “Warble” section illustrates the emergence of transverse, or side blown, flutes in a wide range of surroundings.
Michael Praetorius’s 1619 work, Syntagmatis Musici Tomus Secundus De Organographia (Second Volume of Musicology on Instrumentation) reproduced on this wall), includes the earliest extant representation of a transverse flute made in two pieces. Later in the seventeenth century flutes were made of three or four pieces, and still later of five pieces. The jointed flute was adopted for several reasons: for convenience in manufacture, for portability of the instrument when packed in its case, and for the purpose of adjusting the pitch.
To sing clearly and sweetly.
To twitter, as a young bird; to make uncertain attempts at singing; To express or celebrate in song or verse; To resound, to proclaim by flourish of trumpets.