Readers Recommend: Songs with Flutes, Pipes or Whistles – Results | pop and rock
Pipes, flutes and whistles, often haunting, sometimes contemplative, can accompany dancing or crying, are also undeniably phallic and perhaps the second oldest instrument known to man.
Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun, written in 1894, is Claude DebussyThe Impressionist version of Mallarmé’s poem where the flute plays most of the 12-minute melody. It is the most beautiful piece of music ever written for these ears and launched modern classical music.
Pan playing his flute: mischievous and sexual, fruitful and amusing, pre-Edenic and wickedly innocent. Ian Anderson updated Pan for the late 60s and Jethro Tullis a huge success living in the past left a lasting image of the flute as an attachment of an eyebrow-wagging jester on one leg.
Anderson was inspired by an all-time inspirational player Roland Kirk who blew through everything that was ever invented and is here in sensational shape, playing through his nose and mouth to his signature song Serenade to a cuckoo. The live version of the 1972 Montreal Jazz Festival is amazing.
He also plays the front row on quincy jonesis evergreen Soul Bossa Nova, recorded in 1962.
The undisputed champion of the Irish flute is 86 years old Mary Bergin, whose two albums by Feodóga Stáin are unrivaled in the genre. From the first, a template: Tom Billy’s / The Langstern Pony. His playing is so clear and clean.
Popular music experienced a phase at the end of the 60s/beginning of the 70s when it was de rigueur to have a flautist in its line-up: the aforementioned Tull, Van der Graaf Generator, Traffic, King Crimson, Curved Air , Focus, Audience, Nick Drake, Van Morrison, Caravan, Genesis, Quintessence and The moody blues all championed the instrument, often stopping a song midway through to introduce a flute passage, as in legend of a spirit, Moody’s anthem to Timothy Leary.
Herbie Hancock’s jazz standard Watermelon Man was inspired by listening to the Mbuti Pygmies play the single-note flute to a tune called Hindewhu on an ethnomusicological African LP, which nods to the Hancock-inspired reworking.
Tom Hark is a standard which finds its origin in the kwela music of the canton of Elias and his Zig Zag Jive flutes, front row of the indomitable Jack Lerole, heard here playing dominoes before a skiffle-like busk to a tune now chanted on football terraces after the Piranhas took over the hit in the 1970s.
Updated to the electric 1980s, kwela has its most muscular and thrilling manifestation in the music of Mahlathini and the Mahotella Queens to Thokozil. Irresistible.
There is neither time nor space to tour the world of flute music: amazing contributions from Romania, Brazil, Bolivia, Turkey, China and India have sadly been set aside for the double recorders of Brandenburg Concerto 4 1st movement, which is a simply stunning piece of music written by J.S. Bach in 1721.
Just room to insert a personal favorite from 1969 and wonderful woodwind player Dave Jackson here backing vocalist Peter Hammill at the start Van der Graaf Generator song out of my book.
And with that, goodbye to the wonderful world of flutes and pipes. I leave you with a slice of happiness from the Japanese master of the shakuhachi (or bamboo flute) Hozan Yamamoto, play here Komoriuta (Lullaby) with Utazumi Kunishige accompanying him on koto. Yamamoto passed away earlier this year, crowned with awards. His music will live.
The reading list
1. Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun – Claude Debussy
2. Living in the Past – Jethro Tull
3. Serenade to a Cuckoo – Roland Kirk
4. Soul Bossa Nova – Quincy Jones
5. Tom Billy’s / The Langstern Pony – Mary Bergin
6. Legend of a Spirit – The Moody Blues
seven. Hindewhu – the Mbuti Pygmies
8. Tom Hark – Elias and his zigzag flutes
9. Thokozile – Mahlathini & the Mahotella Queens
ten. Brandenburg Concerto 4 (1st movement) – JS Bach
11. Out of My Book – Van Der Graaf Generator
12. Komoriuta (Lullaby) – Hozan Yamamoto