DIE ZAUBERFLÖTE (THE MAGIC FLUTE)
The flute was the first musical instrument used by man. In the Paleolithic era, a hollowed-out juvenile cave bear femur with holes made in the shaft served as the first flute and dated back to 43,000 years ago. Homo neanderthalis, our only co-existing relative, first discovered in the Neander Valley near Düsseldorf (also famous for their beer), still existed then and was likely the maker of these instruments. It is unclear if the first musicians were Neanderthal, hybrids, or H. sapiens. Regardless, I would like to think that the good Octoberfest beer contributed to the first concerts using the flute. The horizontal flute became popular during the Baroque era and was called the Querflöte (sideways held flute). The flute is classified as a woodwind but can be made from metal, bone, or even glass. The sound is created by air flowing across openings in the instrument’s shaft without a reed. The differential in pressure generates vibrations that then create the sound. The pitch can be changed by choosing at which openings the air is made to vibrate. The flute is first mentioned in the Sumerian language on Cuneiform clay tablets dating back to 2700 BCE in the Epic of Gilgamesh, a poem that talks of a flood wiping out all of humanity, a thousand years before the Bible mentioned that flood. The Bible, in Genesis 4:21, refers to the woodwind having been invented by a man named Jubal, and it is called the “chalil.”
Mozart, while in Vienna, wrote to his father in Salzburg that he couldn’t stand the flute. It was a much simpler instrument then but easier to play out of tune by the beginners whose fathers were the customers of Mozart, paying him to compose a piece for their daughters to play. Perhaps another experience that soured Mozart on the flute came from a harp and flute concerto Mozart wrote at the request of the Duke of Guînes and his daughter, who then conveniently forgot to pay him for it. Nevertheless, Mozart chose to write a whole opera based on a flute, The Magic Flute (Die Zauberflöte). The libretto was written by Emanuel Schikaneder, intended for family audiences of the working Viennese class. Despite its being based on an allegorical fairytale with a hidden meaning on politics and morals of the time, its theme is the age-old battle of good against evil, light against darkness, and love against hate, with many Masonic references in both the story and the music as both Mozart and Schikaneder were Masons. Zorastro, the leader of the good forces, embodies honor, and wisdom in contradistinction to the malevolent Queen of the Night, said to be the caricature of Empress Maria Theresa, who banned Freemasonry in Austria. The Queen of the Night’s main aria, probably one of the most challenging yet impressive arias in Opera, exudes evil, “In my heart boils hell’s revenge!” she spews forth in staccato coloratura style. It would be the last Opera conducted by Mozart as he died on December 5, 1791.
My sculpting features a vertical flute. The hands were modeled after Chelsea, my youngest granddaughter. A feather pen is on the sheet music with an ink well in the back. The sheet music is the Sonata in A Minor (K.310) that was written in 1778, the year Mozart went to Paris with his mother, Anna. This is only one of the two Sonatas he wrote in the Minor Key. That Key is reserved for somber music, and it is fitting for this A Minor Sonata as Anna died from a sudden illness. The A Minor Sonata sheet music serves as the base of the work. It is in the actual handwriting of Mozart and is signed by him. Rumor has it that he rarely corrected any of his writings, and if a sheet of music accidentally dropped to the floor, he would just write another version on a new sheet of music rather than pick it up. I am not sure that I actually believe that, but in this Sonata, you can tell just by looking at the flow of the pen he just copied what was already written in his head.