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Stones flute  – BioContact

The passion and love for the flute led to interpret what the Etruscan civilization has documented through a major incision, famous image for flutists and for all fans of this culture. This important effigy, carved on a Etruscan cinerary urn of the second century BC, kept at the Antiquarian Volumni Hypogeum, in Perugia, depicts the image of a flute player and has been studied by many historians and organologists, especially Eugenio Albini, who in an article published on “Vatican in Illustration”, year VIII, No. 15, Vatican City, 1 to 15 August 1937, p. 670. stated that: “From the way as the fingers close their holes everyone divines how to get the natural scale” (RE major).

My considerations are not debating whether has existed between the Etruscans a flute with 6 holes, whether they did use of it and for what purposes (and of the rest we have no documentary evidence of this), but my focus is the only document of that period, which is related to my analysis that differs from the point of view expressed by Albini. I certainly do not have the intent to assign the term “Etruscan” to this instrument, but I think more realistic words should be given, such as “flute of the Etruscan period”, since the documentary representation is placed in this historical context. My investigation and the results received are only referring to an “interpretation” from a technical-instrumental point of view. The significance of this result assumes a significant aesthetic value that leads to a debate on the use of this flute, on how to use it, on the expressive and communicative potentialities of this instrument. We know nothing of the instrumental performances of the Etruscan period, of their harmonic mode, of the tonal structure, but we know the important role that music had on many ritual occasions.

I reviewed the representations seeking out contexts and situations, and I breathed the atmosphere of places, I considered the expressive potentialities of the instrument, I lived the evocative sounds of the flute between myth, legend and history. From all these aspects derives the music I composed to interpret the sounds of a civilization still so mysterious. Each composition expresses a situation or a context in which the flute in alabaster is the protagonist and “singer” of the symbolized circumstance. Some titles of compositions are emblematic: Song of Sleep (inspired by Etruscan cinerary urn), The Nightingale, The dream of a virgin, Hunting scene. The performances are played primarily by the flute in alabaster of Etruscan inspiration. Some songs are accompanied by an exclusive model of harp specially constructed, accompanying melodic and textual content.

The first run of the show “Timeless Words and Music” was held at the Museum of Antiquities in Turin in April 21, 2002 at the IV National Week of Culture.

This research is published in the book “The Flute in Italy”, edited by Claudio Paradiso, published by the Printing Office and Mint and presented at the National Academy of Santa Cecilia in Rome.

The flute was built by Giorgio Pecchioni.


The idea

Early Early examples of the transverse flute in works of art include two well-know Etruscan relief, dating from 2nd and 3nd centuries BC, clearly show flutes. In particular a relief on an urn in  the tomb of the Volumni near Perugia, studied by several organologist, reproduces a flute being played tranversely; according to the famous scholar Eugenio Albini, from the way the fingers are used one can infer that the player is trying to archieve the basic scale on d’ (Illustrazione Vaticana, anno VIII, n° 15, Città del Vaticano, 1 – 15 agosto 1937, pag. 670) While this exemple scarcely allows us to construct a continuous history of the ancient transverse flute it does suggest that the instrument was played by Etruscan and that impressed me very nuch. I have started to wonder how the played it and how the sound was like. The only way to find an answer was trying to make an instrument as similar as possible to the one used by the Etruscan made of alabaster with four hole. This type of instrument enables the player to obtain great tono qualities.


There are many gaps in our knowledge of this instrument and nothing is know about Etruscan music. However, we know a lot about the role played by music in rites. To pursue my studies about the Etruscan music I visited the places and tried to render those atmospheres in my music. Each composition refers to a situation in which the flute made of alabaster acts as the only protagonist and “bard” of a given simbolic context: The Song of Sleep, ispired by Etruscan cinerary urn. A Virgin’s Dream, A Hunting Scene

Most of performances are played by the transverse Etruscan flute only, but some of them are accompanied by a unique model of zither a reproduction of one the most important string intrument of Greco-Roman antiquity similar to kithara used also by the Etruscans, who decipted it very frequently. Like the Lyre it was distinguisched from most string intruments by the absence of a nek. Instead it had two arms rising vertically from its sound-chest which were crossed by a yoke near their upper extremities. The zither differed from the lyre in Greco-Roman nomenclature in thet its sound-chest was constructed from wood, while thet of the lyre was originally a tortoise-schell. Togheder with the lyre it was udes for pubblic festifals. Setting were made of such Latin poets as Catullus and Horace to be accompanied by the Lyre or kithara.The compositions will be accordingly.