Low Flutes
June 7, 2014 2:10 PM   Subscribe

From the alto flute, heard from time to time in Romantic classical music, to the hyperbass flute, which makes a sound like a star dying or being born, I give you: the low flutes.

Alto Flute

Bass Flute Solo

Bass Flute and Guitar

Bass Flute and Piano

Contrabass Flute Solo

Contrabass Flute Blues

Flight Delayed: an improvisation for contrabass flute

Beatboxing on the contrabass flute

Subcontrabass Flute part in the William Tell Overture

Beatboxing on the subcontrabass flute

Concerto for Hyperbass Flute (sadly only in Italian, but in many ways the music speaks for itself)

From the same artist, Alessandro Grego's 2001 "Perstistenza della memoria" for hyperbass flute, live electronics, and magnetic tape
posted by KathrynT (27 comments total) 83 users marked this as a favorite
Rautavaara's flute concerto has the soloist move among four different flutes, including the alto and bass.
posted by Wolfdog at 2:27 PM on June 7, 2014 [2 favorites]

This is a lovely post. Thank you KathrynT!
posted by winna at 2:28 PM on June 7, 2014

I thought the Bass Flute and Piano link might be the charming "Versatile" from Claude Bolling's First Suite for Jazz and Piano, but I'm glad it wasn't because I hadn't heard that David Bennett Thomas piece, and I like it. Thanks KathrynT!
posted by straight at 3:05 PM on June 7, 2014

Matthias Ziegler, bass and contrabass flute.

Extended flute techniques captured using five different pickups and mixed live using foot pedals.

Ziegler's catalog of extended flute techniques.
posted by nixt at 3:15 PM on June 7, 2014

In Claude Bolling's "Suite for Flute and Jazz Piano", Jean-Pierre Rampal plays a bass flute in one of the pieces. It's very strange sounding.

(Oops, duplicate comment. Sorry.)
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 3:33 PM on June 7, 2014

I played flute in high school and was so sick of having all of these ridiculous high frilly trilly parts. Then they switched me to piccalo because they needed one and I was the best flute player and agh. Just horrible. High trilly frilly flute on steroids.

Then I heard an alto flute playing jazz or something and was like 'that is what I want.' Unfortunately, they didn't need an alto flute so I was doomed to the piccalo. Of course, now I just want to try a contrabass flute.
posted by geegollygosh at 3:46 PM on June 7, 2014 [3 favorites]

So we don't restrict this to just transverse flutes, I have to throw in a sub-contrabass blockflute (aka recorder).
posted by Emanuel at 4:46 PM on June 7, 2014 [1 favorite]

Does anyone have a timestamp for when you can actually hear the hyperbass in the video? I skipped around and couldn't find anything, but I wasn't sure if my speakers just weren't up to it or if they were having trouble demonstrating it.
posted by tavella at 5:07 PM on June 7, 2014 [6 favorites]

In that 8+ minute video, I believe you get about 30 seconds of very unimpressive hyperbass flute, which is covered up by traffic noises and its own mechanism clicking and rattling. That starts at about 4:37.
posted by Wolfdog at 5:22 PM on June 7, 2014 [3 favorites]

This thread has got to be the first time anyone has referred to a piccolo as a "flute on steroids".
posted by Wolfdog at 5:23 PM on June 7, 2014 [1 favorite]

The first hyperbass video, I can only hear the instrument through headphones. The last two, it's more apparent.
posted by KathrynT at 5:37 PM on June 7, 2014

I'm slowly working on a piece for bass flute for a friend. I really love the deep tone. Thanks for providing some more reference tracks!
posted by lownote at 5:50 PM on June 7, 2014

I am probably overstepping the limits of my geek and music creds, but that Debussy theme on the alto flute reminds me of the Star Trek TOS love theme for Kirk and anyone he really wasn't supposed to touch.
posted by gingerest at 6:47 PM on June 7, 2014

In space, no one can hear you play the hyperbass flute.

Similar to how they can't hear you on Earth.
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 8:11 PM on June 7, 2014 [2 favorites]

Played flute from third grade thru senior year in HS. Got to try an alto flute for the first time my first year of undergrad. It was awesome, but the thing I remember most was how much more air it took to play.
posted by mon-ma-tron at 8:28 PM on June 7, 2014

I have a small mp3 collection of ride soundtracks from Disneyland - background music, full rides, ridiculous things like that because they calm me down and make me happy. People source them from occasional releases from Disney, make the recordings themselves, sweet-talk imagineers into giving them copies, whatever.

There's one I have, and unfortunately, I'm not finding it online, but it's just a slow version of the main Haunted Mansion theme played on a bass flute, and it's gorgeous. All quiet and dreamy and making you think of whispering ghosts in foggy cemeteries.

The closest I can find is the Portrait Hall on Archive.org, which was done with an alto flute.

It's great to know what amazing sounds you can get from something I had always dismissed (due to only seeing the tiny shrilly ones).
posted by Katemonkey at 2:25 AM on June 8, 2014

posted by nameinuse2 at 3:41 AM on June 8, 2014

The hyperbass flute would need a hell of a spit brush.
posted by Sheydem-tants at 4:03 AM on June 8, 2014 [1 favorite]

Can someone help those of us who are musically kind of ignorant? I clicked through a couple links, skipping those that had 5 second ads first, and I heard: flutes.

I get that these are deeper than the stereotypical flute (I think), but I need context!

(and this is coming from someone who wants to like the post, and is trying to understand music better, but who doesn't quite get it)
posted by kanewai at 5:09 AM on June 8, 2014

KathrynT, you're my favorite person today. Thank you so much.
posted by Melismata at 5:58 AM on June 8, 2014

Thanks KathrynT
I am a low flutes specialist myself! I am a representative of the Dutch flute maker Eva Kingma

Here are some pieces written for me:
Subcontrabass flute in G

and an electroacoustic contrabass flute piece by my friend fl3m

Matthias Ziegler is a great mentor of mine. I first heard him in 1995 before Eva started making contrabass flutes(she only makes alto and below(to subcontra in G currently- double contrabass to come in a few years). I got my first in 1999 and then my second, completely quartertone(Kingma system) contrabass in 2001. they are very fun to play- and yes, they do take a lot of air, but it's slower air than what you'd usually use on a piccolo or regular concert flute.
posted by cherryflute at 8:05 AM on June 8, 2014 [7 favorites]

but I need context!

Ok, so wind instruments (any instrument powered by the player's breath) can play pretty high, with the upper limit of the high notes mainly limited by the player's ability--there are obvious practical, physical limits to this, but regarding the physics of the instruments, no upper limit.

There are, however, hard boundaries on how low each wind instrument is capable of playing. So to cover a greater range of pitch, each wind instrument has been developed over the years into a 'family' of instruments, with each family being essentially the same instrument scaled up or down for range/register. So we have the soprano saxophone, the alto sax, the tenor sax, and the baritone sax as four common saxophones that cover range among them from soprano register down to bass register--but they are all saxophones.

That brings us to the flute. Think of the flute you know as the 'soprano flute'. First we wanted a flute that was even higher (easier to hear outdoors in ceremonies and battles), so we invented a sopranino (higher than soprano) flute, called the piccolo. Then, a couple hundred years later, people experimented and invented a lower flute, with a groovy, velvety sound, called the alto flute. And so on, until you have all these different flutes covering all these different registers.

Pretty fun to have all these instruments, but in bands and orchestras you will mostly only see the regular ('soprano') flute and the piccolo. Occasionally the alto flute, mostly for solos. These bigger ones don't play loudly enough to be feasible in large ensembles, but are kinda cool.
posted by LooseFilter at 9:25 AM on June 8, 2014

This is a cool post. I played normal "soprano" flute as a kid, and graduated to saxophones because, well, chicks dig the sax. But that dude in the Alto video needs to stop jumping around. Drives me crazy. The Bass and Contrabass links make me want to go out and spend money - much coolness there.
posted by Nick Verstayne at 9:08 PM on June 8, 2014

The lowest note of a standard flute is middle C.
The lowest note of an alto flute is the G below middle C.
The lowest note of a bass flute is an octave below middle C.

After that I'm not so sure (also it's late and my brain is tired). In general, the bigger the flute, the lower the sounds it makes, just like organ pipes.

I play alto flute and I compose for it too, and this is a nice collection of videos. Great job KathrynT!
posted by daisystomper at 5:20 AM on June 9, 2014

All you flute players jonesing for an alto flute- the re-curved head joint is your friend. Not the most ergonomic of instruments.
posted by Coaticass at 2:00 PM on June 11, 2014

Kingma Flutes has a great straight-head alto flute that is very reachable(the Kingma-Brannen). I'm not a fan of the curve myself- it takes enough lung power to get around it- the curve makes it harder to project as much as you can with a straight model.
posted by cherryflute at 3:14 PM on June 12, 2014

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