Deerpark’s Tom Patterson Discusses Music History | Origins of the Flute

The flute, explains Tom Patterson of Deerpark Middle School, is the oldest instrument in the world after the human voice and the drum.  Archeological finds from Europe and China have dated flutes back 35,000 years.  Of course, continues Tom Patterson of Deerpark, these ancient flutes were made of bone, either bird or mammal bone, and only played a few notes.  Deerpark’s Tom Patterson adds that by some historical interpretations, the flute is merely an extension of the natural human tendency to whistle.

Regardless of its origins, says Tom Patterson of Deerpark Middle School, the flute is an instrument that human culture could not do without.  For centuries the prehistoric bone flute continued to evolve with human civilization.  Deerpark’s Tom Patterson explains that humans eventually began carving flutes out of wood, though they were very short.  Over hundreds of lifetimes, continues Tom Patterson of Deerpark, the flute’s shape took on more standardized and artful forms, becoming longer, having more holes and a greater tonal range.

Tom Patterson tells his Deerpark students that the flute as we know it today is a relatively recent innovation.  For an instrument as old as the flute, a few hundred years is a short span of time.  Tom Patterson of Deerpark shows that flutes have been updated and modernized numerous times since 1300s.  Tom Patterson instructs Deerpark Middle School students that the 1700s and 1800s brought major, so-called modern, innovations to the flute construction, like linked keys, springs and pads.  Flutes became longer and thinner.  For a time, explains Deerpark’s Tom Patterson, flutes were made out of glass, then metal.

Ultimately, says Tom Patterson of Deerpark Middle School, in the 1800s Theobald Boehm perfected flute design.  Boehm was a court flautist and an accomplished goldsmith from Munich.  He invented an entirely new fingering system for the flute that is still the standard today.  Tom Patterson of Deerpark says that Boehm also developed new pillars, flat gold springs, and posts for the flute construction.  Boehm even built his own machine for perfectly boring holes in flutes.  Tom Patterson and the Deerpark Middle School Band students celebrate the long and colorful history of the flute, humanity’s oldest musical instrument.

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