Pibroch on 30,000-year-old flute

I’d like to share my arrangement of Hiorodotra cheredeche (PS 126) for a prehistoric bone with four finger holes. The original is about 30,000 years old and was found in Isturitz cave, southwest France. It is made from the wing bone of a Griffon vulture – a Gyps fulvus ulna. Last May, thanks to the European Music Archeaology Project, I received a beautiful reproduction made by Jean-Loup Ringot. The bone was provided by Universidad di Valladolid and the Centro de Recuperación de Fauna Silvestre de la Alfranca, a Spanish wildlife protection agency that conducts post mortem examinations on vultures found dead.

This bone can be played either as an end-blown flute or, with a reed inserted, as a chanter. Playing it as a flute requires a trained embouchure and opens up the possibility of more pitches. I recorded this demo on 3 June 2015, a few weeks after receiving my reproduction:

Once I had figured out what pitches were available, I selected a tune using this map of the pibroch landscape. My arrangement has rather spread its wings since making this home recording on 4 June 2015. A commercial recording will be released in April on Spellweaving: Ancient Music from the Highlands of Scotland (Delphian DCD 34171).

I first encountered this marvellous bone at a conference in Berlin on 27 March 2015. This video captures my very first attempt to play it. The maker, Jean-Loup Ringot, is in the red shirt and demonstrates a Paleolithic bullroarer:

The original bone looks like this:

Isturitz bone

Here is a detailed archaeomusicological analysis.


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