Vulture bone flute (vulture wing-bone, wood)

Vulture bone flute (vulture wing-bone, wood)
Vulture bone flute. Truel. Lydia Zarceño. 'Copyleft' Luis Á. Payno y Lydia Zarceño

Vulture bone flute (vulture wing-bone, wood)

To make a flute we need a more or less cylindrical tube in which a notch and holes are made.

Nature offers several materials for such a purpose, and human beings have always taken advantage of the opportunities around them.

Different kinds of plants such as reeds (Arundo Donax), trees and bushes with a soft centre which is easy to perforate like elders and fig-trees, and, also, of course, animal bones. Large birds’ bones were very popular, like those of the griffon vulture, whose habitat is always near to humans as it feeds from dunghills and rubbish tips.

The bone which is best suited for this purpose is the wing ulna, whose size and shape make it ideal for creating different kinds of flutes.

Although these creatures were not hunted, it was usual to find their bones in the countryside after a natural death. The bones were often clean and blanched by other carrion eaters and the effect of the sun.

Once the bone is well-cleaned, the tube is opened at one end, and a square or rectangular hole is made, bevelling the far edge. A wooden lid is also made to fit the hole, and the top of the lid is cut down into a channel or air-duct which is blown into to project the sound onto bevel to make a sound. The other holes, usually 6 or 7 are to get different notes using fingers.

Sound of vulture bone flute: click on black triangle