Norbert Rodenkirchen (medieval flutes)

The transverse flute was a highly-treasured instrument in the Middle Ages. Of all medieval instruments the flute, a cylindrical wooden tube with six finger holes, is the most similar to the human voice. Through its intensive tone and sensitivity to slight modulations in breath pressure, it plays the role of mediator between man and nature, and in late antiquity it represents communication with the hereafter. Although the flute of the ancient Greeks, primarily associated with shepherds, was held in low esteem, the instrument, like the lyre, was prized by the Romans for the accompaniment of poetry. Pictures from Byzantium indicate that the transverse flute was a popular instrument at court, from whence it made its way to central Europe, where it remained essentially unaltered until the Renaissance. With the exception of early bone flutes, no transverse flutes from the Middle Ages have been preserved. They were similar in form to Renaissance flutes, but their design was less systematized (as iconographic sources tell us). Their finger holes must have been placed differently in order to accommodate Pythagorean temperament and the requirements of the medieval modes. Norbert Rodenkirchen plays on such a medieval transverse flute – reconstructed and built by Berlin-based flutemaker Neidhart Bousset and modified, optimized in close collaboration. Important iconographic documentation of the medieval forms of transverse flutes are found in the so called Codex Manesse and in the miniature illustrations to the Cantigas de St. Maria in the Codex El Sabio.