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Definition: flute from Musical Terms, Symbols and Theory: An Illustrated Dictionary

a non-transposing wind instrument with a three-octave range beginning at middle C. Although classified as woodwind, the flute is constructed entirely of metal. It is cross-blown as opposed to vertically-blown instruments such as the recorder, or reed-blown instruments such as the oboe, clarinet and bassoon. The flute has a brilliant tone in its middle range. See also piccolo; wind family.


Summary Article: flute
from The Hutchinson Unabridged Encyclopedia with Atlas and Weather Guide

Side-blown woodwind instrument with a long history, capable of intricate melodies and a wide range of expression. The player holds the flute horizontally, and to the right, and blows across an end hole. The air current is split by the opposite edge of the hole, causing the air column inside the instrument to vibrate and produce a sound. The fingers operate a system of keys to open and close holes in the side of the flute to create different notes. The standard soprano flute has a range of three octaves.

The instrument originated in Asia about 900 BC. European flutes can be traced back to about 1100 AD, and include the military fife, developed by the Hotteterre family of instrument-makers into the single-key Baroque flute. Today's orchestral chromatic flutes with extensive keywork come from modifications in the 19th century by Theobald Boehm. Today members of the flute family are usually made of metal (even silver, gold, or platinum) rather than wood. They include the soprano flute in C4, the higher piccolo in C5, the alto in G3, and the bass flute in C3. The bass flute is a rarity in the orchestra but was much in fashion during the avant-garde 1950s as a concert instrument and an accompaniment to films of the nouvelle vague era.

The flute has an extensive concert repertoire, including familiar pieces by Johann Sebastian Bach, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, and the pastoral refrain of Claude Debussy's Prélude à l'après-midi d'un faun/Prelud to the Afternoon of a Faun (1894). Antonio Vivaldi wrote a number of concertos for piccolo, and Bruno Maderna has composed for alto and bass flutes. A noted current performer is James Galway.

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