The flute is one of mankind’s oldest instruments, and in one form or another it’s been known to virtually every culture around the world. The modern flute used in Western classical music is known technically as a “transverse” flute because the player holds it out to one side and blows across a hole in the side of the instrument. Other flutes, such as the recorder, are “end blown”—the player blows directly into an opening in one end of the instrument.
Transverse flutes were known in Europe from medieval times, but up until the late 1600's their tonal and technical capabilities were very limited. Most composers still preferred to write for the recorder, which had a sweeter sound and more accurate pitch. In the 1700's, though, French instrument makers made a series of important improvements to the transverse flute, and by the middle of the 18 th century the transverse flute had generally replaced the recorder.
A Minute with Miles – a production of South Carolina Public Radio, made possible by the J.M. Smith Corporation.