Flutes Offer Clues to Stone-Age Music

Posted by: Dave Douglas on June 24, 2009 @ 5:36 pm
Filed under: Music Technology, Uncategorized

From the Times.

At least 35,000 years ago, in the depths of the last ice age, the sound of music filled a cave in what is now southwestern Germany, the same place and time early Homo sapiens were also carving the oldest known examples of figurative art in the world.
Archaeologists reported Wednesday the discovery last fall of a bone flute and two fragments of ivory flutes that they said represent the earliest known flowering of music-making in Stone Age culture. They said the bone flute with five finger holes, found at Hohle Fels Cave in the hills west of Ulm, was “by far the most complete of the musical instruments so far recovered from the caves” in a region where pieces of other flutes have been turning up in recent years.


A fascinating development for human cultural understanding. However we did find a cosmicritic online, a Mr. E. Pleb Nista, who despite his “open ears” was unable to appreciate these ancient musical instruments. Everyone’s entitled to his or her opinion, we thought we’d share Mr. Nista’s, as it may be of interest. Greenleaf Music is truly grateful for all the feedback, positive and negative, online and off, for our releases.

Ornette Channelled Through Very Early Music
author: E. Pleb Nista

A 35,000 year old stone flute emerged from jazz oblivion today, again showing its true colors, playing a solo reminiscent of early Ornette Coleman. Mr. Flute trotted out some typically elliptical phrasing and off beat post-bop-isms in a piece enigmatically titled “Solo.”

Over many, many years of playing the flute has been unable to shake these influences and, even in a context as radically different as this series of “cave concerts,” was limited by its inability to sound like anything other than the aforementioned Coleman. Popping out one brilliant composition after another, followed by predictably fascinating rearrangements of composers spanning the past 30 millennia, Flute never failed to dazzle with his Coleman-inspired ramblings.

Though a great performance, which also featured a generous helping of each of the flute’s five holes, this return to the ice age sounded reminiscent of so much of the music we’ve heard since the days when mastodons roamed the earth. The stone-age flute is clearly a master, but leaves us asking the question, When will the next jazz giant with something new to say finally emerge from the pack?

The flute, reached for comment, remained stoic. “Hey, man, at least he spelled my name right! Those Cro-Magnons were a drag!”

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