Place MadeEurope; Norway; Northern Europe
DescriptionTechnical description: Body of flute made from plastic tube overwound with birch bark; duct made by inserting wooden plug in one end and creating a mouth-hole near the end of the tube and a window c|40mm lower down. Extension of wooden plug (102mm) decorated with burned and incised patterns; leather hanging-strap attached to top end of plug.
Other InformationGeneral usage of type: Acoustically classed as an `overblowing flute', it gives the natural harmonic series based on a fundamental corresponding to the tube closed at one end, with the player closing the lower end for the odd members of the series. The fundamental is difficult to sound, but modes 2 - 15 are commonly used (Egil Storbekken, Seljefløyta information leaflet supplied with instrument), and modes up to 20 are possible on some instruments.Traditionally the flute is made from willow bark, preferably Salix caprea (`Goat willow'). Around mid-May the material is in best condition; the maker selects a long straight stem without side-shoots, and by carefully tapping it all over he loosens the bark from the wood and slides it off. The wood is suitably carved and reinserted to form the windway, and the knife-edge or labium formed by a slanting cut.In Norway at least, making flutes in this way is still very much a living tradition. Several of the writer's friends gave quick demonstrations of the technique, each saying `When we were children my father always took us out in the Spring to make such flutes, and now I do it for my children the same way'.The basic construction technique covers an assortment of acoustical designs: small single-note whistles having pitch Helmholtz-determined by a cavity; larger ones having pitch length-determined by an open or stopped tube; variable-note versions controlled by a sliding piston after the manner of a swanee whistle; full `harmonic flutes'. The vital design elements which give the latter their wide range of overtones are firstly a high ratio of length to diameter, and secondly the crescentic form of the labium.Similar bark duct-flutes are still made and played in southern Italy, called Fragulu or Faraùtu (Ricci and Tucci 1988), and in Romania called Tilinca (Ledang 1989, see below). Transverse flutes without finger-holes, similarly overblown for a harmonic series, are known from Uganda, called Ludaya (Cooke 1971, Ledang 1969), while both transverse and duct-flutes have a very long tradition in Finland (Leisiø 1985).The instrument has been comprehensively studied from both acoustical and musicological aspects by Ola Kai Ledang (Ledang 1969). Bark flutes dry up after a short time and become unplayable, and it would be difficult for such an instrument to develop a musical tradition in isolation, but cultural association with the `Bronze Age proto-Germans' playing the bronze Lur has been suggested (Leisiø 1990, see below).The sound of a bark seljefløyte is more mellow than that of a rigid-walled flute due to damping of the upper frequencies. This modern reproduction uses plastic tube with an overwinding of birch bark to achieve a similar effect, while giving stable playing properties over a long period.
Notesr. parks, january 1991; p.r. cooke, 1993.
ProvenanceGift of R. Parks.