Rock Around the Croc: Flute Week

Welcome back, you freshly-sliced loaves of homemade bread filling a cheery kitchen with the aroma of mother’s undying affection. I’m your host, a guy who pretends to be a crocodile and know stuff about music, and today we’re going to listen to some stuff with flutes in it. So buckle up.

Recently I’ve been listening to a lot of flute music, and YouTube suggested Giovanni Paisiello’s Opus 23, six flute quartets. It turns out YouTube was right, because these are very pretty pieces and at over 50 minutes it’s a great collection to click on and leave going in the background.

I have a couple of comments here. The first is the difference between a flute quartet and a flute concerto. If something is called a concerto, it almost always means it’s a show-off piece for the named instrument (like the bassoon concerti from last two weeks ago), and the rest of the orchestra is there more or less as background. The string quartet really took off during the Classical Era for two reasons: the rise of an increasingly-monied middle class meant that more people could financially support smaller, private concerts (i.e. it wasn’t just the king or the duke who could pay for a full symphony orchestra who was listening to the music), and so music written for those smaller concerts came into demand. The second reason was the Enlightenment-era sense of egalitarianism, such that a quartet could represent different voices as equals in a conversation, each taking their turns and making their own contributions. A standard string quartet includes a first violin, a second violin, a viola, and a cello. But that formula allows for extreme flexibility, so you can write a trio or a quintet, or you can swap out one voice for another. So if you see something described as a piano quintet, it doesn’t mean you need to get five pianos on a stage, it means you have two violins, a viola, a cello, and a piano. With that in mind, you should have a very good idea what to expect when Paisiello writes a flute quartet: four voices, one of them is a flute, and none of those voices will consistently dominate the others in the piece.

The second comment is about the nature of music as a business. Giovanni Paisiello was a Classical composer, a contemporary of Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven, but nowhere near as famous; that, even though Wikipedia describes him as the most popular opera composer of the late 1700s. So what happened? The flute concerti give us a hint. They were likely composed around the year 1800 in Naples, and they were written with amateur performers in mind. This is music composed so that a man of middle-class wealth and taste can walk into a music publishing shop, buy something pretty but within his abilities, and take it home to play with his friends. That means radical experimentalism in chord progressions, dissonance, or structure are definitely out the door. It also means extreme virtuosity like that heard in Sibellius’ violin concerto is out not going to happen. And it all worked out well for Paisiello, because he was popular and financially successful as a result of his approach. But again, how many of you had heard of him before this? Not me.

I want to emphasize, I’m not saying one approach is inherently better or worse than the other. Sometimes, you really want the familiar, the safe. Music that is fun and moves your boots and doesn’t make you work to appreciate it. And other times, you want something new, something that goes in an unexpected direction and changes your viewpoint. Both are important parts of life.

Mozart wrote flute quartets, as well (as did many other Classical era composers), but today I’m going to feature a flute concerto to highlight the difference in form. Mozart wrote two flute concerti, one of which was actually a re-working of his early bassoon concerto, plus a concerto for flute and harp, and a piece he called an “andante for flute and orchestra.” Here’s the Flute Concerto No. 1 in G Major. Notice how there is a brief orchestral introduction, which then drops to a very minimal sound when the flautist comes in, and she’s clearly the star from then on.

Next up, here’s Pass the Mic by the Beastie Boys, from the 1992 album Check Your Head.

On their previous album, Paul’s Boutique, The Beastie Boys broke new ground in their extensive use of samples. For Pass the Mic, they used a six-second sample from Jazz flautist James Newton’s composition “Choir.” They had obtained a license to use the sample from Newton’s publisher (but without Newton’s permission or even knowledge), but Newton sued the group anyway. The argument, which is very weirdly technical, was that although they had a license to use the sound recording, Newton had the rights to the composition itself. The courts rejected that argument, saying that the six-second loop which was repeated over forty times in the Beastie Boys song was only a tiny part of the Newton composition, and therefore not subject to copyright (not any more than I could trademark the chord progression C-G-A-C, for example).

Newton lost the lawsuit, but I can still throw him some respect here. I’m not certain, but I think he’s the person who developed the technique of huming while playing, so he can get two notes at once:

Finally, the legendary Ron Burgundy on the jazz flute:

That’s it for today. Have a blessed and happy Sunday, you straight-out-of-the-dryer sweater-hugs of coziness.


  1. Sorry to interrupt this excellent musical interlude, but are most souvide contraptions similar, in other words, can a $68 dollar (regularly $89) souvide work as well as a $129?

  2. Mine cost that much and seems to work fine. I check it with the thermometer occasionally but it always is within a degree or so.

    Sous vide Experiments

    Shortly after we bought ours, this brand seems to have disappeared off Amazon. Hope it wasn’t a safety issue.

  3. Not sure why wordpress decides to present the link that way. Click the title to go to the article, not the blog name.

  4. Reviews of other brands linked in the article. This reviewer is a little too gabby for me but they eventually get to the point.

  5. wakey wakey

    I played the flute. I still have it around here and every now and then I get out and fiddle with it.

  6. We have a big sous vide vessel we made from a food safe heat resistant plastic container with lid. The sous smart machine goes through a hole we cut in the lid and clamps to the side of the container. Works well and prevents the water from evaporating away during the cook. We marked the container with minimum and maximum water lines to correspond with the ones on the machine. I keep an eye on that so I don’t swamp the machine as the water level rises while adding food to the container.

    I like being able to clamp it into a little insulated cooler I use sometimes too. Holds the heat and saves money. I think a lot of the ones on the market now have no clamp, but a magnet in the base for standing inside metal vessels.

  7. Cross-Sous-Fit-Vide

  8. Merry Christmas Trump Nozzles! Fun fact I learned the other day: one of the guys from Deep Purple said that the opening riff of “Smoke on the Water” is an embellished backwards version Beethoven’s opener for his 5th.

  9. Thank you, Lauraw!

  10. Making turkey broth in the pressure cooker/canner. Grey Sunday Laziness is overtaking me and there’s a very good chance this will all be just a giant vat of soup at the end of the day, instead of all the other stuff I had planned.

  11. I just basted my turkey

    Not a euphemism

  12. I just basted your mom.

    A definite euphemism.

  13. Your mom prefers the dark meat

    with extra gravy

  14. 50 degrees today with a few sunny areas breaking through the cloud cover. Enjoying one of the last few days for an outdoor cigar this year

  15. Ouch!

  16. I bet I know the very first rule at drive thru zoo.

  17. Carin, I played flute, too. I never had great tone, I blame the braces. But I did get to play “Stars and Stripes Forever” on piccolo and this on flute:

  18. You don’t talk about drive through zoo?

  19. Sunday votes have put Nata the rooskie up top.

    Next week we will pick our 4th and final contestant, then have a championship.

    Don’t forget to email leon if you want in on Secrete Sanda.

  20. It’s not Thanksgiving without some family drama, and apparently this year is no exception. Nephew’s wife has repeatedly accused him of being unfaithful until he finally had enough and bugged out. (I am certain he was faithful when all this started, but he might very well be fooling around now.) He had recently gotten a promotion to another city, and they were renting their old house. He didn’t know if the new situation was going to work out, so it made sense. With the divorce, they are selling the house and splitting the proceeds. He first offered it to the family renting it with a 6% discount on the asking price to not have to deal with a real estate agent, and they declined the offer. Nephew must have found a helluva good agent or the market is better than I thought, because it sold in the first week for the asking price. Now all of a sudden my nephew is the bad guy for kicking the renting family out right before Christmas. I’m sorry, but you had your chance to stay. The one who is screaming the most is the soon-to-be ex-wife, and I’m like, you started all this shit.

  21. Mrs. Pendejo was a good flute player in HS. Sadly she discontinued using her talented lips to create sweet, sweet music shortly after we got married.

  22. Scott is funny. I just hope the tigers don’t get Harambe’d. Roamy, with all of the rent scofflaws, I hope the sale goes through.

  23. Oso, tell me that you had Mike White for QB this week.

  24. Tua.

  25. Tampa and Ravens cost us in our parlay. Dan won with his MI points.

  26. Phlegm factory FTW. Watching Christmas Vacation

  27. This week is gonna be awesome. Guys and gals, LOVE YOUR LIFE.

  28. You won’t be able to as much as Pupster does, but try real hard to get close!

  29. I don’t have a persimmon *tree,* but my sister brought me some persimmons.

  30. What’s a persimmon

  31. Doctors encourage regular physicals.

  32. Have we had a persimmon-related derp yet?

    Danny eats rancid persimmons is one I can think of right off the bat but it seems kind of JV/amateurish compared with the derpmaster’s output

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