"History is freaking cool you guys!"
September 28, 2022 12:26 PM   Subscribe

 
I was just putting together a few links about this because I thought it was amazing!

For reference, the Dayton C Miller Flute Collection and the Washington Post article including a couple shots of her with the Madison Crystal flute
posted by drewbage1847 at 12:30 PM on September 28 [7 favorites]


Everything about this is good as hell. Everything.

Including the sound out of that crystal flute -- so many metal flutes are so fuzzy-sounding. The Madisons' crystal flute is different.
posted by humbug at 12:32 PM on September 28 [10 favorites]




Lizzo, and the flute. Both treasures.
posted by bz at 12:43 PM on September 28 [7 favorites]


This is so wonderful! I wished she could play a little more at the concert, but I completely understand why not. When I saw it, I immediately thought of the time someone attempted to perform live on a silver trumpet buried with Tutankhamun. It shattered.
posted by Countess Elena at 12:49 PM on September 28 [8 favorites]


The last bit of the video linked by Iris Gambol is just gorgeous. Lizzo's playing in a large gallery with good acoustics and seems to have really gotten the knack of getting the best out of the crystal flute in that clip.
posted by ursus_comiter at 12:58 PM on September 28 [14 favorites]


Oh fun.
posted by jacquilynne at 1:08 PM on September 28 [2 favorites]


This has been making me unreasonably happy.
posted by sciencegeek at 1:46 PM on September 28 [2 favorites]


I had heard of Laurent's leaded glass flutes, but I learned about the existence of the crystal ones today. How fitting that a priceless instrument owned by a slaveholder should be played in public for the first time by a glorious Black woman.

Despite the fingerings being the same as other instruments I already played, the transverse flute was the hardest for me because I have the dreaded "teardrop lip." And if you pick up an instrument and can't make any sound out of it - even a bad one - the frustration can be hard to overcome.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 2:30 PM on September 28 [27 favorites]


I’m so glad Lizzo is out there making the flute cool. I was a young flutist in the era of “This one time, at band camp…” This is much better!
posted by Comet Bug at 3:30 PM on September 28 [8 favorites]


That's amazing, and it sounded great, but I'd be terrified I'd drop the thing.
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 3:37 PM on September 28 [9 favorites]


I had heard of Laurent's leaded glass flutes, but I learned about the existence of the crystal ones today.

Laurent’s flutes en cristal are crystal in the lead glass sense, not the crystalline solid sense. That said, most of the Laurent flutes in the LoC collection are potash glass, not lead glass.
posted by zamboni at 3:59 PM on September 28 [4 favorites]


That was lovely, thank you!
posted by TrishaU at 4:06 PM on September 28


I work in a special collections library and I thought this was great. Carla Hayden has been doing such a kick ass job at outreach.
posted by mostly vowels at 5:04 PM on September 28 [11 favorites]


I work in a special collections library and I thought this was great.

Same here. This is such a great example of the axiom that collections are for use—this object was meant to make music and it’s so exciting to see it realizing that purpose.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 5:50 PM on September 28 [9 favorites]


This is what happens when you put an actual LIBRARIAN in the role. Unlike the professional academics before her, she actually believes in putting resources to use.
posted by nestor_makhno at 5:56 PM on September 28 [43 favorites]


I've been enjoying looking around Twitter and seeing people comment about how their kids/students mentioned that they hadn't heard of the Library of Congress before or realized that there's more to it than books[1]. It's been less fun watching people who'd almost certainly never heard about these flutes before this week pretending to be outraged by the idea of a musical instrument being played, as if that's not why they're culturally significant. LC has a musical instrument collection, many of which like the Stradivarius violins were donated on the condition that the instruments be played regularly rather than treated as museum items and I love the idea of so many more people being aware of the possibilities.

If you're ever in DC, check out the free concert list — the Coolidge Auditorium is beautiful, the acoustics are excellent, and it's an easy location to get to if you're anywhere near Capitol Hill. The American Folklife Center's concert series is also great. The Library's music channel on YouTube has many hours of old performances for people who aren't in the area or find attending concerts unrealistic (hi, fellow parents of small children).

If you're going to be in Virginia, NAVCC campus has a full theater (the photo doesn't do it justice) which has film screenings year round. That campus is worth going to just to see it – that's Packard after the P in HP, who was a major film buff but also wise to the ways of government procurement: he bought an old Cold War-era bunker for the extensive climate controlled-archive space, bought everything the conservators asked for (the kind of things which would be challenging to get under lowest-bidder procurement rules), built a mogul's theater, and then donated the final campus.

Since it's timely, I should note that NAVCC is having their annual open house again on Monday, October 10th after a two year hiatus. Culpeper in the fall is not a bad holiday trip.

1. So much more — if you get a tour, people will point out random things like Walt Whitman's walking stick or Mayan poison flasks, and one time when I was down at the National Audiovisual Conservation Center we were checking out the collection of old projectors when one of the conservators came running up. Most of her colleagues were out that day and she had to tell someone that she'd been processing a batch of old film reels from a library in Brazil and had just found a uncropped version of Gone With the Wind which had been believed to be lost. The people who manage the recorded music collection that I've met are basically all music nerds living the dream — and the welcoming sort: “oh, you like NIN? Check out this soundboard recording which never made it onto their live albums…”
posted by adamsc at 6:40 PM on September 28 [47 favorites]


If you’ve ever been to one of her shows, you know know how much energy she brings to the stage, and I get why she didn’t play more, though we would have loved to see it. I love how much she’s using her platform to normalize body positivity and traditionally “nerdy” interests like band and history.
posted by KGMoney at 7:11 PM on September 28 [10 favorites]


I trust that having played the magical flute, Lizzo will banish the Queen of Night and usher in a new Age of Enlightenment
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 7:15 PM on September 28 [38 favorites]


OH

EM

GEE
posted by rrrrrrrrrt at 7:22 PM on September 28 [1 favorite]


LC has a musical instrument collection, many of which like the Stradivarius violins were donated on the condition that the instruments be played regularly rather than treated as museum items and I love the idea of so many more people being aware of the possibilities.

Harpo Marx willed his harp to the government of Israel under the same conditions - that it be made available for students at the state university to practice and play on.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 7:43 PM on September 28 [10 favorites]


I saw her interview with David Letterman for his My Next Guest Needs No Introduction series; she's been through some tough stuff. But right now, it looks like everything she does, she is just having a ridiculously huge amount of fun and it is wonderful.

Also "Good As Hell" inspired me to do the same and it ended up with me dancing to that song in the middle of a street in New Orleans with a woman dressed like a pink fairy on my 50th birthday and it was awesome
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:12 PM on September 28 [16 favorites]


This is what happens when you put an actual LIBRARIAN in the role. Unlike the professional academics before her, she actually believes in putting resources to use.
Seconding this, especially to note how similar in spirit it is to this part of the official blog post:
The Library’s vision is that all Americans are connected to our holdings. We want people to see them.
posted by adamsc at 8:57 PM on September 28 [5 favorites]


So cool! Here is an archive link for the WaPo article with more photos.
posted by ellieBOA at 11:57 PM on September 28 [1 favorite]


America at its best.
posted by From Bklyn at 3:28 AM on September 29 [2 favorites]


honestly this morning if you had asked me to guess why the Crystal Flute of Warren G. Harding was on everyone’s lips* I would have guessed “new National Treasure movie?” but also a Lizzo concert makes sense too

*no pun intended
posted by DoctorFedora at 3:49 AM on September 29 [2 favorites]


also now I know a second fact about Warren G. Harding beyond “he was president at one point”
posted by DoctorFedora at 4:05 AM on September 29


Warren G. Harding?
posted by Thorzdad at 4:20 AM on September 29


also now I know a second fact about Warren G. Harding beyond “he was president at one point”

I think perhaps you do not, since this was about James Madison’s flute, but if you would like a fact that will stick with you for a while, he nicknamed his mistress’s vagina “Mrs. Pouterson”.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 4:37 AM on September 29 [11 favorites]


Well now I know one more fact about James Madison, and also I remain net equal re: Warren G. Harding (“is different from James Madison”)
posted by DoctorFedora at 4:40 AM on September 29 [2 favorites]


My other takeaway from this (besides delight) is watching the usual suspects lose their freaking minds over the DEFILEMENT! and DEVALUING! of A PIECE OF AMERICAN HISTORY! that they had no goddamned idea even existed three days ago.

Because a scantily-clad black woman dared to hold it, treat it with reverence, play it briefly and return it to its rightful resting place when done.

Yes, sewer-dwellers, display your asses to the world. The rest of humanity is marching forward and we have no time for your agonies.
posted by delfin at 5:28 AM on September 29 [26 favorites]


I saw some of those comments, and they chilled me, particularly the ones that said it was a "humiliation ritual" to demonstrate "nothing you care about has any value."

And of course: no. Like a lot of bigots, they don't realize that people do things for their own sake, for their own joys, never thinking about them at all. But the thing of it is, they do grasp something when they say that. They are right that nothing they care about has any value, that doing something like this is, in part, stepping up to say that she too is part of American history and has every right to enjoy what is good and fine about it.
posted by Countess Elena at 6:50 AM on September 29 [7 favorites]


if you would like a fact that will stick with you for a while, [Warren G. Harding] nicknamed his mistress’s vagina “Mrs. Pouterson”.

*INHUMAN ECSTATIC SCREECHING* My time has come!

...In 2001 I was both stage manager and historic researcher for a play from 1911 about congressional sex scandals. (It was awesome.) As part of that research, I had to look into "what other political sex scandals have actually happened," and we actually found more than we could use for what we needed, so I was able to pick the cream of the crop.

And y'all, Warren G. Harding was one of the best stories. The mistress mentioned above was only one of them - this was Carrie Philips, who was Harding's mistress for 15 years, starting when he was Ohio's governor and then lasting through his US Senate career. Harding's wife Florence found out and tried several times to break the two of them up; at one point, when Phillips came by their house, as she was walking up to the house, Florence stood on the front porch and threw furniture at her to try to make her leave. Literally the only thing that ended the affair was Harding's U.S. Presidential campaign - his campaign managers paid off Philips to move to Japan for the next four years.

But that just paved the way for another mistress, named Nan Britton. Harding started hooking up with Britton while also involved with Philips; he just kept things there more on the down-low. So Britton was still able to visit Harding after he became president - and several times they even hooked up in the Oval Office coat closet. In fact, no one knew anything about Harding and Britton until after his death, when after a respectful couple months, Britton finally visited the family with a nine-year-old girl in tow, saying that the little girl was Harding's daughter born out of wedlock. He'd been paying child support in exchange for her silence; but now that he was dead, maybe the rest of the family could keep the payments up? Harding's family said no; Florence claimed that Harding was infertile, because he'd had mumps as a child. So Britton wrote a tell-all book to raise money for the kid. ....And in 2015, Ancestry.com did some DNA testing with both families and proved that Nan Britton was right.

Someone brought this play to our attention shortly after the Bill Clinton/Monica Lewinsky incident, thinking "this might be timely...." and this research convinced me that compared to Harding, Bill Clinton was kind of a choirboy.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:58 AM on September 29 [39 favorites]


I love that the Library of Congress has a flute vault! It makes me wonder what other kinds of vaults they have...
posted by rene_billingsworth at 7:44 AM on September 29 [7 favorites]


LC has a musical instrument collection, many of which like the Stradivarius violins were donated on the condition that the instruments be played regularly rather than treated as museum items and I love the idea of so many more people being aware of the possibilities.

Many museums have musical instrument collections, and lots of them have to be played regularly, because most wooden musical instruments degrade if they're not played regularly - otherwise the wood will warp from disuse. Violinists in particular will refer to violins being "awake" if they get played regularly, because it's most obvious with violins, but all string instruments and woodwinds have this happen to some extent.

This mostly doesn't apply to crystal flutes and the like, but so what, it's still important. Musical instruments that aren't making music are tragedies. Even brass instruments - which have a shorter lifespan than anything else due to corrosion - should get played as they age, although their tone will definitely change over time.
posted by mightygodking at 8:20 AM on September 29 [9 favorites]


Tangentially related:

Over in AskMe someone asked for either Talking Heads or Peter Gabriel covers, and someone just dropped this bomb of a Sledgehammer/Good As Hell mashup.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:12 AM on September 29 [10 favorites]




Many museums have musical instrument collections, and lots of them have to be played regularly

It wasn't part of our permanent collection, but the museum where I worked once exhibited an 18th-century glass armonica, and it was played at regular intervals during its time with us. It was pretty amazing.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 10:32 AM on September 29 [4 favorites]


But that just paved the way for another mistress, named Nan Britton.

I first heard about Nan Britton and Warren Harding when I read an anthology of Dorothy Parker's book reviews many years ago - she reviewed Ms. Britton's book, The President's Daughter. This book was so controversial that - according to its Wikipedia page - the New York Society for the Suppression of Vice seized all printed copies and the zinc printing plates. (The Internet Archive has a copy of the book available to members for one-hour borrowing.)

Back to Lizzo: I didn't know that she was a classically trained flautist until now. This is all kinds of awesome.
posted by tallmiddleagedgeek at 10:46 AM on September 29 [3 favorites]


❤️ ❤️ ❤️ Lizzo ❤️ ❤️ ❤️
posted by bitteschoen at 11:53 AM on September 29 [8 favorites]


Funny how my Google feed on my phone just turned up this story where Lizzo is mentioned tangentially but in a way that's amazing in itself:

Bride carries on with her £12k wedding even after her groom is a no-show

...She entered the party singing along to Lizzo’s Good As Hell with her bridal party, punched off the top tier of her wedding cake, and spent her first dance with the groomsmen...
posted by bitteschoen at 12:00 PM on September 29 [9 favorites]


@Mobute: "I hope Lizzo digs up Thomas Jefferson and plays his ribs like a xylophone"
posted by JoeZydeco at 7:49 AM on September 30 [11 favorites]


This post is yet another one of the little gems that makes Mefi such a great site.
posted by interogative mood at 8:09 AM on September 30 [2 favorites]


...and here's the About Damn Time/In the End mashup.
posted by and for no one at 5:30 PM on September 30


I love that the Library of Congress has a flute vault! It makes me wonder what other kinds of vaults they have...

Like, if they had a similar collection of poles, that would really be something.
posted by notoriety public at 11:42 AM on October 1 [2 favorites]




McSweeney's offers us a template for the backlash:

I can’t believe they let Lizzo [play a flute owned by James Madison / twerk even though she’s not skinny / continue to exist as a Black woman].

I found this event [triggering / in violation of my need to only ever see thin white women on my timeline]. As someone who spends a fair bit of time yammering on about our nation’s heritage, it deeply offends me that [Lizzo seems to care about our nation’s heritage / a Black woman is now the Librarian of Congress].

posted by TwoStride at 9:46 AM on October 2 [3 favorites]


Some additional information, and responses, on Twitter, that I Feel The Need to Share

@bdk1521 shares a screenshot of a texted conversation with a musician friend, highlighting more facts about Lizzo's performance that make it even more badass.

@SOCthoughts Give Lizzo the Green Ranger's Dagger Flute next. Let her summon the Dragonzord.

@kennykeil Lizzo plays a flute and one day later everyone's an expert on flutes. They should keep handing her instruments until we accidentally bring back music education
posted by Mutant Lobsters from Riverhead at 5:13 PM on October 2 [5 favorites]


@JenAshleyWright: "A lot of people jealous that @lizzo can play the flute, when they can only dog whistle."
posted by gwint at 7:25 PM on October 2 [9 favorites]


Oh, that "musician friend" tweet Mutant Lobsters from Riverhead linked is marvelous (threadreader for screenshot):

A little bit more about Lizzo and the crystal flute: normally she plays the modern Boehm concert flute, cylindrical bore, pitched in C with the keynote played with seven fingers down and extensive keywork for the accidentals. The Laurent crystal flute is a pre-Boehm simple system instrument, pitched in D, tapered bore, keynote played with six fingers down, only a few keys. Their playing characteristics are therefore markedly different, to the point where they are not at all interchangeable; imagine for instance handing a 16th century vihuela to a modern guitar player.

I play simple system and am totally useless with a modern Boehm flute, for the record. In the footage from the Library of Congress, Lizzo clearly demonstrated that she knows her way around a simple system flute and has almost undoubtedly studied historical performance. The people who are complaining are ignorant dunderheads.

posted by Iris Gambol at 7:32 PM on October 2 [6 favorites]


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