FLUTE AND PICCOLO
THE great antiquity of the flute, and its prominence in Roman music, has been already described. It must be kept in mind, however, that the term flute, as used by the ancients, often included instruments with reed mouthpieces of various sorts, like our oboes, clarinets, etc.
In old times some of the flutes were held straight out from the mouth, and played by direct blowing into the tube. This type was known as the flute-a-bec, and afterwards called beak flute from its resemblance to a bird's beak. Sometimes such a flute would branch into two tubes, in which case one may have played a drone-bass accompaniment.
The use of the flute in the Grecian games has been already mentioned. Flute-playing was considered part of the necessary education of the rich Greek youths. Great flute-players grew very popular, and the account of their rivalries reads very much like the story of opera singers' disagreements in our own day. At one time Alcibiades checked the growing popularity of the flute somewhat, refusing to play the instrument because he feared that the large mouthpiece would spoil the shape of his mouth. His prestige was so great that he altered the fashion for a time; but some unknown flute- maker obviated the difficulty by producing a flute with a smaller mouthpiece than usual. Flutes were much prized, the most ornate ones selling for sums as great as three thousand dollars. The salaries of the best professional players were also very large. One of them, Nichomachus, earned by his playing enough money to buy an immense collection of jewels. Even theatrical flute-players were well paid, receiving more from the choregus (director) than all the members of the chorus. This must have been a comfortable salary; for the Athenians had a proverb stating that the way to ruin a man was to have him made a choregus.
Egypt had its flute music also. In the year 280 B.C., Ptolemy
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Publication information: Book title: The Book of Musical Knowledge:The History, Technique, and Appreciation of Music, Together with Lives of the Great Composers, for Music-Lovers, Students and Teachers. Edition: Enlarged. Contributors: Arthur Elson - Author. Publisher: Houghton Mifflin. Place of publication: New York. Publication year: 1927. Page number: 420.
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