The American Musical Instrument Society (AMIS) promotes better understanding of all aspects of the history, design, construction, restoration, and usage of musical instruments in all cultures and from all periods. In June 2022, their annual meeting was held at Studio Bell, home of the National Music Centre.
A Flute by Any Other Name: The Uncommon and Curious Dolzflöte
Patrick Connor Dittamo
Patrick Connor Dittamo is a PhD student in musicology at the University of Chicago. His research interests include performance practice and material culture in the medieval and early modern eras, and in the modern Early Music Revival. He holds a master’s degree in music history and composition from Kansas State University and a bachelor’s degree in music from the College of William and Mary.
The flute family tree historically has been many-branched and bountiful. It includes the dolzflöte, an uncommon European transverse-blown duct flute of the early modern period with a six-hole fingering system (also known as the zwerchflöte or f lûte traversière à bec), which left little impression on the historical record. It emerged sometime before the late sixteenth century, shared its name with an organ stop, seems to have paralleled the changes in instrument design of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, and fell out of use by the early nineteenth century, if not earlier. This paper traces the curious history of the dolzflöte, incorporating its limited iconography (including a recently rediscovered family of three seventeenth-century Dutch paintings), its appearance in inventories, and its description in systematic reference works, including Michael Praetorius’s Syntagma Musicum (1614–20) and Denis Diderot and Jean le Rond d’Alembert’s Encyclopédie (1751–72). In encyclopedias, a self-cannibalizing genre, the dolzflöte persisted long after its obsolescence, albeit in garbled form. In nineteenth-century German encyclopedias, the dolzflöte was often equated with the deutsche flöte and flute allemande, before being gradually supplanted by the transverse flute, a trend which elicited a terse protest in an 1835 entry in Gustav Schilling’s Encyclopädie der gesammten musikalischen Wissenschaften. As an instrument, the dolzf löte serves as a reminder of the complex diversity of early modern wind instruments; as a term, it adds yet another wrinkle to the complicated terminological history of the standard transverse flute and the recorder.