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A Three-Piece Flute in Assisi

Author(s): Filadelfio Puglisi


Reviewed work(s):
Source: The Galpin Society Journal, Vol. 37 (Mar., 1984), pp. 6-9
Published by: Galpin Society
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/841135 .
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FILADELFIO PUGLISI"

Three-Piece

Flute

in

Assisi

OR almost five centuries the musical activities of the Basilicaof St.

Francisat Assisiwere conductedby its Cappella. In 1363 the organbuilder Friar Franceschino da S. Colomba was its master. The
Cappella's activities continued uninterrupted until the Napoleonic
suppressionof 1810.
The main treasureof the Cappella is the vast collection of musical
manuscriptsand printed music which still survives.1Happily, a small
group of renaissanceand baroque woodwinds has also survived along
with the books, and these arenow housedin the BibliotecaComunale of
Assisi.2
Among them is a flute, which, although anonymous, constitutes an
exceptional finding in Italy, both for its characteristicsand for being a
'first'. This flute is the only known surviving three-piece flute in a
historical Italiancollection with a general design connected to the socalled Hotteterretype of continentaland northernEurope.The obvious
question raised by this discovery is whether it is an example of some
establishedlocal tradition.
The instrument, shown in Pl. III is probably of boxwood, stained
dark brown, with a brass key and no maker's mark.
Although the general aspect of the turning is of the heavily
ornamented baroque type normally used on late 17th- early 18thcentury flutes and recorders, this specimen differs from the norm in
being a puzzling mixture, as explained below.
The turning just above the mouth-hole is in one piece with the
headjoint, a unique feature as far as we know (see Pl. III b). The true
detachable end cap is either missing or never existed. However, the
wood surfaceat the top of the instrumentlooks as if it had indeed been
protected by a cap until recently. A short convex cap would make the
upper end of the flute look much like other three-piece flutes (for
instance No. 670 of the Boston Museum of Fine Arts collection).
The headjoint socket and footjoint are turned in the style of the
recordersof the late 17th- early 18th-centuriesand are again probably
unique features of a three-piece flute (see Pl. III c and d). The
instrument therefore does not fit into the ideal line of development
tracedbyJane Bowers3for this type (but her argumentis basedsolely on
the external appearance of the turning). The bore is, very broadly
6

speaking, a little less conical than in other flutes of this kind, which is
probably the reason for the impression of 'open' sound which this
specimen gave when we tried to play it.
The mouth-hole is again singular, offering the aspect of a normal
renaissance flute embouchure, that is, oval, but with the main axis
acrossthe instrumentand very slightly rotated clockwise in respect of
the flute's longitudinal axis.
After some work with maskingtape for the temporaryrepairof some
cracks,it was possible to make the flute sound acceptably,especially in
the middle register.The pitch came to aboutA392 with the bottom note
D', and good intonation of the octaves. The sound was powerful and
quite 'open' but still mellow.
Dimenions: Fig. 1 shows the flute's dimensions, which are not
intended for reconstruction,being somewhatsketchy and approximate.
The Table shows the middle joint and foot joint bore, while the only
bore dimensions it was possible to get for the headjoint are shown in
Fig. 1.
The flute was broughtto my attentionby Mr. P. FanciullacciandMr.
E. Pacini, both instrumentmakersin Prato, Italy, and the photographs
were taken by Mr. M. Castellani, all of whom I would like to
thank.

TABLE. BORE DIMENSIONS (in mm.)

Bore diameter
Middle joint

15.0
15.5
16.0
16.5
17.0
17.5
18.0
18.5
19.0

Foot

16.2
16.5
16.7
17.0

Distancefrombottom*
23 & 37
58 & 61
69 & 76
87 & 91
99 & 118
177 & 223
276 & 278
290 & 296
308 & 323.5
38
47
50
74

*0.0 reference in the drawing.


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BIBLIOTECA COMUNALE
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3-PIECE FLUTE
ASSISI

BIBLIOTECA COMUNALE

FIG. 1.

06.3-r

Ucm

NOTES
'Claudio Sartori. La Cappella Musicale di Assisi. Milano, 1962.
2 The Group is composed of a dulcian, four cornetti (one of which is dated
1642), an anonymous baroque bass recorder and the flute described in this
article.
3 Jane Bowers, in Journal of the American Musical Instrument Society
AMIS, Vol. III, 1977, 5-56.

(b)

(C)

(a)n

PLATE III

TheAssisi Flute
the
and
instrument;
(a)
(b)
(c) topand bottomof headjoint; (d)foot joint.