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In his unpublished history, Miller wrote that, while during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries composers favored solo vocal and instrumental music, the composition of pieces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.
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