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Continued from Correspondence 3.....

.Thurs, 22 Nov 2001, Michael John Finley <> wrote:

This thought occurs [about] an "extension" to the "flute," and assumes that the idea of using an extension required some sort of extra mental or technological leap beyond making a "simple flute." But this is actually a rather ethnocentric notion--- Our flutes are usually made in one piece, but there is no real reason why a flute has to be conceived this way. Neanderthal's instrument could equally well be called "a flute in two pieces," and maybe making it that way was at least as natural to Neanderthal as making it in one piece. Neanderthal was quite used to making compound tools --- e.g. a spear consisting of a stone point hafted on a wooden shaft. Maybe the "natural thing to do" for one with his/her technology and mind-set was to make the flute in two pieces. Maybe the real genius was the person who finally thought "hey, I can make both the part with the holes and the mouth piece in a single bone if I find one long enough!"
Two "just so" scenarios that would fit this hypothesis:
(1) Perhaps available materials in the Middle Paleolithic just didn't lend themselves to 1 piece construction. Never having seen either a modern flute or a suitable bear bone long enough, it never occurred to Neanderhals that flutes should be 1 piece.
(2) Maybe the flute was preceded by some sort of bone or wooden whistle. A Neanderthal genius noted that he/she could change the pitch of the whistle by sticking a hollow bone into the whistle, and that the pitch depended on the length of the bone. Next step was the discovery of a "variable pitch" whistle made by making holes in the bone. I'm not asking anyone to accept either of these stories -- they are merely plausible. The point is that they are just as plausible as the story that flutes are characteristically 1 piece items. We should drop all speculations that would make invention of an extension either more or less plausible than a 1 piece flute.
Of course, none of this removes the problem that we have only 1 piece of the 2 piece instrument (if that is what it is), which makes any conclusion about its nature more speculative than we'd wish. BUT we should NOT assume that a 2 piece flute is somehow INHERENTLY less probable or less likely to be within the capacity of Neanderthals than a 1 piece flute.
-- Mike Finley
Sat, 23 Dec 2000 Serge Laforest [] wrote:
"I will try not to sound too impolite.
"I agree with some of your critics in calling your approach 'amateurish'.
"You claim you yourself have made Irish whistle and simple flutes.
"I am amazed how totally it escaped you, the tremendous difficulty of getting the fingerhole placement right so the scale will be in tune.
"That simple diagram you have in your article claiming Re-hole should be 9/10th from the blowing end etc. is UTTERLY ridiculous. Those ratios are applicable only for when you cut off the tube at that particular spot, not for puncturing holes significantly smaller in diameter than the bore diameter. Tonehole diameter, wall thickness, and the interior bore shape are absolutely crucial in determining the pitch."
All of those criteria, you dismiss by simply saying something like - "the errors cancel each other and will not affect the end result much"!
Even for a perfectly cylindrical tube, if you puncture relatively small ( compared to the bore diameter ) holes where the acoustic ratios seem to suggest, so long as the wall is not paper thin, the resulting pipe will be out of tune beyond any hope of remedy unless you enlarge some of the holes twice or three times as large as others. Creating a pipe with fingerholes all more or less of same size is an art, and to accomplish this, the ratio of Do to Re etc. is merely the crudest beginning. You have to calculate all sorts of correction factors to make them in tune, and the most important variables in this calculation are : finger hole diameter, wall thickness, bore shape ( how much taper and where ), bore diameter and the bore length. All but the last one, the bore length, you seemed to have had the audacity to ignore and disregard in your original conclusion.
I do not argue about the possibility of the bone having been a flute. I just think the way you wanted to conclude that it played the diatonic scale was too naive and amateurish, like that of someone who never tried to hand-build a flute from scratch, calculating hole locations using Benade's correction factors, etc.
Sat, 23 Dec 2000, Bob Fink to Serge Laforest:
Dear Serge:
You wrote:
"I will try not to sound too impolite.
"I agree with some of your critics in calling your approach 'amateurish'.
"You claim you yourself have made Irish whistle and simple flutes.
"I am amazed how totally it escaped you, the tremendous difficulty of getting the fingerhole placement right so the scale will be in tune.
"That simple diagram you have in your article claiming Re-hole should be 9/10th from the blowing end etc. is UTTERLY ridiculous. Those ratios are applicable only for when you cut off the tube at that particular spot, not for puncturing holes significantly smaller in diameter than the bore diameter. Tonehole diameter, wall thickness, and the interior bore shape are absolutely crucial in determining the pitch."
I wish I had found an expert like you way back when I was first writing the essay. Even at this late date I still need the data you seem to possess, as I tried in 1997, for months, in contacting flute-makers, reading books, and so on, to make up for the lack of knowledge I had when I first tried to analyze the Neanderthal Flute. Few of the people who replied to me had answers to many of my questions, answers which I now hope you have.
Just a side point: Of course, I am an "amateur." I hope you realize so was Edison, Galileo, Einstein and most of the people whose ideas, however un-academically presented, made major breakthroughs in their sciences. I'm not comparing myself to Einstein, but my essay has had a major international impact. I hope you might recognize that "amateurishness" is not the issue -- only whether I am scientifically right or wrong should matter, especially to the many readers of the essay & debate.
Getting back to that, as I am seriously open to learning from your knowledge, I have some preliminary questions, if you'll be so kind as to answer.
* How do you define "in tune" in what I quote from you above? Are you talking about an exactitude within a hundreth of a Pythagorean comma? -- Or what tolerance do you allow?
This is important when dealing with ancient people whose raw material differs from one bone to another; and whose technical knowledge and measuring skills cannot be significant enough to withstand the standards of modern orchestral tunings [or to go beyond what you call the "crudest beginning" for tuning & placing holes]. It also gives definition your words "crucial to pitch" or to comments I made about what "matters" and "doesn't matter" regarding being "in tune."
* More specifically, regarding the 4 holes in the bone flute, which are all about the same diameter, how much pitch change (in terms of the percentage of a whole-tone) takes place if the hole diameter is 25% larger or smaller (all other things remaining equal)?
This is one point of data I have tried to discover for years. If I can get the specific answer (or educated opinion based on your experience) to that, I would have a lot that I'm seeking.
I'll ask other questions later, e.g., like about the 9/10th figure, etc., as we proceed, if you're willing to help me out.
Also would you be willing to have this correspondence placed in the debate section, as is, because readers learn more from the pros & cons -- which is why I like to publish my critics rather than my "supporters." The debate makes corrections that more closely cut to the truth of a matter, no matter how far off the original essay might be. I'm not interested in preserving my ego, but in improving and correcting my presentations to be more accurate.
Looking forward to your reply & help.
Bob Fink
Sat, 23 Dec 2000, Bob Fink to Serge Laforest -- postscript:
Dear Serge:
While awaiting your answers to my first few questions I thought I'd write and fill you in on why I wrote what I did. Looking more closely at your letter, I realize you may have rushed to judgement mistaking the purpose for which I made the "model" flute in my essay -- and "model" was perhaps a poor choice of words, misleading you.
The acoustic ratios I used in that model were based on the original findings from Helmholtz ("The Father of Acoustics") and, despite refinements since he wrote, they are ratios that are re-affirmed by others, including Benade. [More about your comments on ratios later.]
The modern craftsperson's bias of refined tuning of the scale is of course absolutely necessary if you want to craft a fine well-tuned instrument.
But we are not here concerned with making a modern flute, but rather: Imitating the making of a flute 5o,ooo years ago by an early human, who (if seeking to match a diatonic sound) would "tune" it only in the (as you put it) "crudest" manner. [I prefer the term "rudimentary."]
Thus I made a "model" flute as if  its tolerances could be no better than a crude bamboo cylinder, and as if I was stuck with using only crude flint tools for making holes. Applying any refined corrections or construction techniques too sophisticated for the time would have been a form of being ethnocentric.
Obviously, it's not enough to simply say "out of tune" or "in tune" without defining the tolerances for it that also would be relevant to that long-ago time.
You cannot write about a savage's flute and hole diameters, wall thickness, etc., as if they could have known nor have discovered the effects of these aspects on pitch (which I never denied do exist), considering how the bone's bore, flare, wall, and ancient hole-drilling accuracy itself varied widely enough to obliterate any noticeability of these effects from bone to bone. If you can't notice them, you can't discover them, and certainly not discover anything like Benade's refinements, which are designed for tuning only a modern & very standard scale. We don't even know if Neanderthals had language, much less algebra!!
We therefore can only use those ratios and effects that exist in nature, both now and also back then. We can only judge the pitch and "in-tune"-ness of the artifact by the "crude" tolerances that reflect that time, not ours (and by using the physiological averages regarding pitch perception of any non-trained human ear).
I'm sure you'll agree one should not transport modern tuning tolerances onto an examination of the ancient past.
Keeping all this in mind, regarding mine or anyone's definition, of what "in tune" means, please note this is unavoidably a subjective or almost arbitrary matter:
As you probably know, many people with perfect pitch [PP] even find a perfectly tuned tempered scale on a modern piano absolutely and insufferably always "out of tune" -- and of course, it IS out of tune. That's what "temperament" means. But the "insufferableness" of it, of course, is not nearly as present for most people without PP.
Therefore, I had to assume Neanderthals, like us, were a population few of whom had PP, and whose tolerance of what we call "out of tune" would have to be considered at least as large as, or larger than, our average person's ears today. (About one Pythagorean comma before we can say it was "out of tune" for them, or for any average ear.)
Certainly, as we are musically trained people, their tolerance would be even larger than yours or mine. Indeed, modern people have even been long-trained and conditioned to well-tuned standard scales, unlike the ancients. Ancient peoples often had music (and rudimentary scales) for centuries without having any idea of a "standard" tuning for their scale.
So I limited myself to what Helmholtz and others have termed the most rudimentary and the most dominant aspect of pitch -- namely the placement of holes at the nodes representing the ratios of length on an approximately cylindrical tube, and, as you say, I took the "audacity" to dismiss the other effects being not as significant to the problem, settling for what is (again, as you say) the "crudest" form of tuning -- which, as you probably know, is all that could have existed back then.
Your comments are most welcome and challenging in a way that should be informative to any of my critics and readers. I await any specific data corrections that you may be able to demonstrate.
I already have copies of the Benade formulas on hand here. I just don't have any ancient Cave Bear cub femurs on hand so as to experiment and input their measurements into the Benade formulas in order to actually prove how significant (or not significant) a small change in wall thickness, or hole diameter, etc., would be, as a percent of a whole tone change in pitch. That specific information or opinion is what I seek from you if you already know.
The largest change in pitch that my own prior experiments have shown is that of location along the tube, all others being small enough to justifiably disregard as not significant -- not insignificant relative to modern tuning requirements, but insignificant only to what can be expected from a Neanderthal's tuning.
It is surprising how close to being in tune is the actual playing of the ancient bone in Slovenia, even without adding any extended length to the bone. These musical test results are recorded in an article in a recent book from the Smithsonian Institute, called the "Origins of Music."
You will find similar results from the 9,ooo year old still-playable flute found in China, which also is judged as (relatively) diatonic to most researchers, although a couple of its notes exceed as much as a quarter-tone off from any modern standard. See:
[ADDED NOTE: In looking at a 7-note scale in an ancient culture, can we only say they had an acoustically-based diatonic scale if their artifact instruments were in tune by an amount plus or minus no more than 100th of a tone? That would be an absurd conclusion, in that the ancients probably weren't capable of that kind of accuracy on an irregular bone. Nor do moderns, who can be that accurate, really care if we are, considering that we tolerate tempered tuning on keyboard instruments -- or worse -- which are not nearly that accurate. We must set a tolerance based on physiological averages for human ears to easily and consistently discern differences in pitch, and if the ancient scale is in tune within those limits, then it is fair to say that they "had the diatonic scale."]
Regarding the 9/10 ratio for "Re," that is based on Helmholtz' basic acoustic measurements, in which there apparently are two possible acoustical or natural "Re" tunings, one that is 8/9ths and the other 9/10ths. Which one to use [in relation to the Neanderthal flute] is based only the possibility that, like the ancient Greeks, the scale may have been played downward, using a flatter Re as a downward "leading tone." Thus I chose the 9/10ths ratio -- but that is just an educated guess, with very little else to support either one over the other ratio for Re.
Bob Fink
Sat, 31 Dec 2000, Bob Fink to Serge Laforest -- postscript:
Dear Serge:
More about the 9/10 "Re."
In reading your letter, I took your word that I had used the 9/10ths "Re." After three years since I wrote it, I didn't remember.
Now I realize, looking at all my writings on the Internet, that, after all, I never used any ratio in the published material for "Re" other than the 8/9ths ratio.
I *do* have notes at home in which I toyed with using the 9/10th ratio, and I may have discussed a "downward leading tone" with someone in the discussions -- but NOWHERE have I used the 9/10 ratio in any diagram or anywhere else!
So I am now truly perplexed as to where you got that figure?
Can you enlighten me?
Sun, 28 Jan 2001 Serge Laforest []
Dear Bob,
I apologize for my tardiness in replying to your second letter. I was designing/constructing more flutes and didn't check my mail box regularly enough.
You're right in wondering about the figure. I believe it's a typo. I DID mean 8/9th for Re-hole etc. i.e. hole locations striclty following the ratio of the wave lengths, and I DO stand by my original opinion with this correction added, that is "It is too simplistic to believe that the hole arrangement following the sequence of the wave length ratios, 8/9, 4/5, 3/4, 2/3 etc. would result in the actual tone sequence of Re, Mi, Fa, Sol, etc."
As for your first letter, I chose not to reply as I wasn't sure what to make of your question about if I demand the exactitude within hundredths of comma in my tuning.
That level of precision, as far as my experience goes, is something purely theoretical and of no practical importance.
I believe now that you were probably defining one extremity in terms of what one could possibly ask for from tunung, and hoping that I would fall within the normal range, i.e. not that extreme. In case of any confusion, I state here that I normally try to tune within a comma using an electric tuner ( in other words, tempered scale ), and usually as small deviation as possible with no strenuous adjustment at the embouchure end, I'd say within ten cents. Only when the ergonomics demands it, would I allow the deviation of up to a comma, approx. 25 cents, and I add also that this is normally only for the notes using alternative fingerings. Whenever it's possible, I try to make plus-minus-10-cents-in-tune instruments which does not require blowing pressure adjustment to make them more in tune.
You inquired about what effect 25% increase in diameter would have, I wouldn't be surprised if the reason few people, from whom you requested this information, could give you a satisfatory answer is the same as mine. The formulae to calculate the correction factors, as explained by Benade, is a recursion process, approximating the ideal answer at each step. From my experience, it happens quite regularly, that one runs into a numerical problem, in which cases, the only thing I could do was to make a guess, what I consider to be reasonable, but with little scientific basis, and hope for the best. Most of the time, I had to significantly undercut, bevel, or thin the wall to bring it in tune, or make a second pipe anew altogether.
Because the formulae is recursive, as far as I'm aware of, there's no mathematically worked out formula to solve it the other way around, i.e. instead of solving it for the location, given the note, hole diameter etc., try to solve it for the pitch of the note, given the location ( the same ), hole diameter ( +25% ), other factors ( kept the same ).
To get some idea, albeit there's no guarantee that it would be representative of all the cases, is for you to choose the factors, i.e. wall thickness, bore length, bore diameter, location of the other holes, and calculate first for a hole with diameter, say 'D', and obtain the location for it, say 'x'.
Recalculate this time using 1.25xD, and see how far down the new location will be ( measuring from the blow end ). What this correction factor ( the amount by which we had to move the hole downward ) means(approximately), is that the pitch of the hole ( of the diameter 1.25xD at the original location ) would be as sharp as coming from a hole with the diameter D but further up the tube by that correction factor. So if we could identify the pitch of the note from a hole of diameter D but further up than the original by the correction factor, then we're done. Unfortunately, as I said earlier, I don't know how to solve the formula backwards, but what IS possible numerically, is to guess a few pitches above the original note, say 100cents above it, and calculate for its location. Do this for several guesses and compare their locations with what the original correction factor suggests, then you get some idea where the note from the hole with 25% increase in diameter at the original location falls.
You asked for my opinion based on my experience about the effect of the tone hole diameter increase. The following is my experience.
I've built flutes from as low as bass flutes in D ( whole step above the concert bass flute ) to piccolos in D ( the same as concert piccolo ), using bores as wide as two inches and as narrow as 1/2 inch, in lengths as long as 4 feet or less than a foot, wall thickness varying between 5mm and 2mm. I build simple flutes without recourse to keys, so the finger hole diameter has the definite upper limit of, say 14mm for them to be sealable by the pads of my fingers. This creates acoustic problems, esp. in the overblown register and hence the flutes using the bore diameter bigger than 11/2 inches cannot really play more than 11/2 octaves (because their tone holes are too small relative to the bore diameter ).
I remember most vividly about the effect of the hole diameter increase in the mid range ( because that's the range I worked most on ), say, bore length between a foot and a half to 2 feet and a half, bore diameter between 14mm to 25mm, wall thickness about 3mm, the bell note around the middle C on piano, plus minus major 3rd. I drill the holes using a small bit of diameter 3 to 4mm and widen them afterwards using a knife, constantly checking for the pitch sharpening, using the tuner. In most cases, after I ream the hole with the knife for the first time, (effectively doubling the diameter to, say, 6 to 8 mm), I see the rise in pitch by anywhere between a semitone and a wholetone plus 50cents. After that, the rise slows down, and I cannot raise the pitch much more than by a semitone, even if I significantly bevel the hole.
I don't know how you wish to interpret this quite crude testimonial, but I'd say because the doubling ( 100% increase ) resulted in approx. a whole tone rise, at least in the beginning, it is reasonable to assume that 25% increase could change the pitch by 50 cents, a quater tone, at least, when the hole is rather small realtive to the bore diameter.
I read your reply to somebody, explaining how the acoustics can derive the major diatonic scale. I agree with your argument in general, however, I felt several points in it were misleading, though it may suffice as an explanation to a novice to the theoretical side of music.
In short, I do not believe the acoustics, the science of sounds, can derive the major scale (Ionian mode), independently of influences of culture, taste, etc.
And if you intend to contend that the reasoning you gave for this process of deriving the major scale "only using the acoustic principles" can give you the right to claim that the major scale is something independent of cultural influences and thus universal, I have to say, I completely disagree.
I do agree with you and in fact find your process of deriving the major scale out of overtones of Do, Fa and Sol, quite neat and elegant, let alone it being absolutely scientific and culture-independent.
[Ed: See (Natural bases of scales)]
What I DO find objectionable is to mask the fact that your choice of Do, Fa and Sol as the starting point notes is already influenced by your cultural bias. In fact, there's no basis at all for considering those three to be universally primary. For example, you could've chosen Do, Sol and La. This would give : Do, Sol, Mi, Sib; Sol, Re, Si, Fa; La, Mi, Do#, Sol. Using only the strongest overtones, we get Do, Re, Mi, Sol, La, Si. The only catch is that Fa will be weak and that Do# appears strongly, which suggests that this 'major-diatonic' requires to be harmonized bearing in mind the ambiguity of the 4th note and that the octave might not be exact.
It is true that the perfect 5th is considered most fundamental after octave by many cultures, but choosing the perfect 4th as the next most fundamental is, to my mind, not at all culture/taste independent [ the fact that the perfect 4th IS the interval between the second overtone Sol and the third, Do 2 octaves above the fundamental, is ONLY one reason to favour it over other choices].
As I illustrated above, it is possible to derive the 'major-diatonic' using three notes other than Do, Fa and Sol ( albeit imperfectly, from the stand point of someone wishing to harmonize using the [ European ! ] standard chordal progression of I, IV and V ).
An offshoot of this is that the reverse is also true. You illustrated yourself that by replacing two ( Mi and Si ) of the three weaker overtones ( Mi, La and Si ) by two of the next strongest overtones ( Sib, Mib and Fa ), you get a minor-sounding scale.
In effect, not only that there's no universal 'scientific' reason to choose which notes to be the most fundamental, there's no basis either to strictly correlate those chosen fundamental notes to a particular scale, unless you have a particular chordal progression in mind, which is BTW culturally influenced. This is just another way of saying the age-old fact that one could compose a minor sounding tune using a 'major' scale, or its opposite, compose something cheerful using the so-called 'minor' scales.
What would we get then, if we restrict ourselves only to the two most fundamental notes, Do and Sol and their stronger overtones ?
We get Do, Sol, Mi, Sib and Sol, Re, Si, Fa. I would take two first (different) overtones of Do and only one overtone of Sol ( because the reason Sol is considered to be the second most fundamental is that it IS the first (different) overtone of Do, and because the overtone series diminish in intensity the higher it goes ), which gives Do, Re, Mi, Sol.
This is the pentatonic scale from northern Asia ( with which, incidentally I'm familiar with, as I do throat singing a la Tuvan style ).
Now, we have a choice, to let in Sib ( the next overtone of Do ) or Si ( the second different overtone of Sol ). Choosing the former makes the scale sounds 'Mixolydian' as the leading tone to the tonic Do is a whole tone lower than the tonic, while the latter choice makes it sound more Ionian ( major ). I'm familiar with the Irish music where the Mixolydian mode, or the mode with the semi-flat 7th note ( called 'blunt' ) were/are once very popular and common. This fact plus the fact that the maqam "JiharKah" ( basically the major diatonic except that the seventh is half-flattened ) is one of the primary modes in the Middle Eastern Music, seem to give us the right to claim that at least in those parts of the world, the Mixolydian mode ( by choosing the third different overtone of Do, 'Sib', and the third different overtone of Sol, 'Fa' ) was more primary than the ionian, the major diatonic. Possibly, the pure Mixolydian appeared first, but the quality of its leading tone was uncertain due to human (this seems to be quite common, though I'm not sure how universal it is ) preference for the leading tone to be at least as close to the tonic by a semitone, and later, this preference forced the Mixolydian to become Ionian.
This is merely my speculation, BTW.
Perhaps, when you used the term "major"-scale, you were refering to the so called "major-sounding" scales in general i.e Ionian, Mixolydian, Lydian etc., and in that case, I feel less objection. [Incidentally, what you wrote as the "minor" scale resulting from substituting Mi and Si by Mib and Sib, is also, strictly speaking, not the natural minor, "Aeolian". It is Dorian, what you get when you play from D to D on the white keys of the piano. It IS considered "minor-sounding" by many. ]
Over all, when I used the word "amateurish", I was refering to what seemed to me to be the case: you are dealing with too many uncertainties. Scientific investigations are possible only when one could somehow restrict the number of variables by convincingly presuming certain of those variables to be irrelevant and focusing on only one variable at a time and do the experiment using 'controls' to compare and measure the effect of the change in this variable. I see three major variables in your investigation: the embouchure type, the overall bore length and the original ( pre-erosion ) hole size. [I would give you that much that the original wall thickness can somehow be estimated, and that the original location of the centres of the holes are reliably established]. You seemed to be attempting to concentrate on the third variable while neglecting the first two, which are, to me, much more important, in the given order.
Shakuhachis ( the Japanese end-blown flute ) are notorious for being able to 'bend' the pitch by the embouchure adjustment alone, by major 3rd ! The concert flute, on the other hand is more limited, perhaps a semitone and 50cents at the most.
I believe the effect at the embouchure end is the most deciding factor in the hole placement design. I can tell you many frustrations I expereinced trying to duplicate an in-tune flute by making an identical one but for a thicker lip plate. I subtracted the additional thickness of the new lip plate from the original distances of each hole from the blow hole, and thought that would work. I was totally wrong ! Because the blow hole is significantly narrower than the bore itself, the flattening effect of the additional thickness of the lip plate was considerably more than I thought. At the end I had to resort to 'trial and error' before I found the right location.
It might seem reasonable also ( once the embouchure type is ascertained ) to assume a constant pressure at the embouchure end, but it's not so simple here either. Perhaps not as much as for the double reed instruments, but the upper notes of flutes DO require faster air stream, even before we go to the over blown register, esp. when the tone holes come significantly closer to the blow hole. And this is why it is quite tricky to predict the scale meant to be played on an unknown flute. One could say, in case of that 9000 yrs old Chinese flute which was still playable, that assuming that the ancients constructed it to be played with more or less constant ( disregarding a minor, but steady increase in the air stream speed, which is quite naturally controllable for any competent flutist ) embouchure control, it can lead us to believe that so-and-so scales were played on it.
In the case of the Neanderthal flute, the uncertainties regarding the embouchure and the bore length, render the whole investigation, in my mind, a speculation at the best.
I'm not saying because it's a speculation, it's not interesting. On the contray, I find the whole story extremely fascinating, but I would not try to turn this 'speculation' into a rather far-fetched claim that the major diatonic, aka Ionian mode, is somehow THE logical scale for hominids, universally and independent of culture, taste, etc.
I feel I expressed too much of my criticism over your endeavour, I hope you don't take this in a wrong way ( BTW you're welcome to post this on your site, I just wasn't sure where to put it, that's why I'm simply using the 'reply'-function of Messenger ).
I may in fact have one good news for the cause of your speculation/investigation.
I think you might find it interesting, if you're not aware of it yet, to learn about the Basque fipple flute called "Txistu". It is less than 40cm and plays two octaves diatonically ( chromatics possible with half-hole-ing ), but it's played with the left hand alone since it has only four holes including the thumb hole ! The bell-note plus the four holes give Do, Re, Mi, Fa and Sol, which are in fact already in the overblown register ( similar to Arabic nays ), and for La, Si and the next Do, they play by overblowing the 5th above Re, Mi and Fa ( of course, this Do can be played as the octave above the bottom Do as well ), and we continue in a similar manner for another octave. Obviously, the higher one goes, more alternate fingering options. [Emph added -- Ed.]
Pushing this idea to its extreme, one could imagine a flute with only three holes, which plays Do, Re, Mi and Fa as the first overtones, Sol, La, Si and the next Do as the 5th above Do, Re, Mi and Fa, etc.
The only requirement for such a flute is that in order to facilitate the overblowing ( remember, the bottom octave is already played by overblowing ), the bore diameter has to be small in comparison to its length, and possibly, some internal webb-ing, as in nays made from reed, which may function as wave guides to facilitate higher notes.
I have no idea how narrow or wide a typical bone can be, but if it's possible to assume it be narrow enough, perhaps, you can dispense with the idea that the bone fragment under consideration had a further extension with more holes on it, which idea, I must admit, seems like presupposing a tad too many if's.
From the picture of a Txistu that I saw ( I never played one and haven't built one yet either ), the three finger holes seem to be located fairly close to the bell-end while the thumb hole was relatively further up. So, even if it's possible to assume that all the holes are concentrated near one end, one probably still need some extra length to connect that portion to the blow-end. Again, the missing tube. The difference this time is, as I said above, we don't need to assume that this missing tube also had holes, it could be just any tube of the right diameter and length. This assumption seems to take less effort to swallow, if one wants to 'speculate' !
Good luck with your research ! -- KS
Sun, 28 Jan 2001, Bob Fink to Serge Laforest
Dear Serge:
Thank you very much for your very informative reply.
I honestly bow to your knowledge of this subject, and if I ask sometime in the future a few questions about the effects that a thumbhole can have, I hope that you will have the time to reply.
In the meantime, just a few points, based on what you wrote.
My only actual "conclusion" in the Neanderthal Flute Essay was that the hole spacings of the 4 holes were "consistent" with those that might be found on a diatonic flute -- and I grant all the rest was speculation -- I prefer "educated guessing."
However, I have concluded that the major, minor & pentatonic scales have a natural foundation, but not from the evidence of only the Neanderthal bone, but from a whole host of other matters, from acoustics, history of musics, to the latest 9,ooo year old playable flute from China, as well as Prof. Anne Kilmer's interpretation of the most ancient known song as diatonic.
I came to write the Neanderthal Flute Essay already holding this bias. Lacking any other explanation (by anyone) for the hole-spacings on the Neanderthal bone, its ability to suggest a diatonic scale series was a good fit to prior information and to my bias, which I didn't try to hide in the essay text.
There is one clarification: My assumption that an extension might have existed to this flute did not include assuming it had extra holes at all. Simply that an added mouthpiece might have been more comfortable than that larger bone's end, and long enough also to bring it closer in tune (if) the holes were "meant" to play a do-re-mi-fa series.
I accepted in the essay that it could have been a short bone with a 4 or 5 note scale. I am no paleontologist, so I hesitated to conclude anything longer.
There is evidence that the length of the original juvenile cave bear femur bone might have been longer than its discoverer, Ivan Turk, has concluded. Several museum experts much earlier independently confirmed for me (before I wrote the essay) that the bone could have reached the required length (appended). Whether to assume an extension, or not need to, depends on whether they are more right than Turk.
There is an inconclusive opposing "hole" that might be a thumbhole, and what a flute player could do (to play a diatonic series) on a short bone, using a thumbhole, I know nothing about (yet).
Best wishes, and thanks very much -- Bob Fink
======================APPENDED ( from April-May, 1997)
From: Boylan P., "Since [my letter] of 11 March, I managed to work on quite a few immature cave bear bones in the collections of the Zarodny (National) Museum in Prague and there's no problem about getting your required length [37cm] so far as I can see from various bones from the same region."
From: treasure@CTCnet.Net Organization: Treasures of The Earth Ltd. "Thanks for the clarification [of me offering Jay the width dimension]. Yes, a juvenile bear femur could be 37cm or longer." --Jay (Treasures of The Earth Ltd.)
From: Wm Nolen Reeder, wreeder@Traveller.COM "According to both our mammal curator and our director, the femur of a black bear cub (less than two years old) would easily be long enough. A two year old cub is about two thirds grown but still remains with the mother so therefore is still considered a cub." --Wm Reeder, Birmingham Zoo Webmaster ==================================================
Updated evidence that flute was made by Neanderthals
The Validity of Ethnomusicology
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