Monday, 2 June 2014

Cruinniú on the Radio

God! What's come over me...three posts in one day!
There was a nice little mention for the Cruinniú on an RTÉ Radio program called Sunday Miscellany on Sunday past. You can listen to it on the Radio Player, it's about 40 mins into the program.
 Just one point, Cruinniú na bhFliúit runs from the first, not the third, Thursday after Easter each year.

The Ivory Ban

There's been quite a bit of caffuffle about this recently, but I've been trying to find out a few hard facts about it, since it affects me both as an instrument maker, and a musician who travels with instruments that might be affected.
Basically the US Government is on the point of introducing legislation which will control the movement of certain animal and plant products in and out of the country. ( and within the US, in some states, the right to trade in such materials )
These are basically materials derived from species that are listed under CITES...Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species.   
Of course the basic idea behind this legislation is sound and morally unimpeachable. We must protect all species that are endangered, especially those that are being exploited for monetary gain.
The problem arises, for musicians in the way this new legislation might be interpreted.
From the flute players point of view, the two materials which may give difficulty are ivory and rosewood, and it doesn't require that the whole instrument is made from rosewood or ivory... a small piece of either, even as inlay, incurs the ban...the ban being that unless you can prove that the material in question is antique ( over 100 years, verified imported through certain ports, and authenticated by a qualified appraiser), or that the material was legally acquired before a certain date ( for ivory it's Feb 26th 1976 ) then you cannot import or export the instrument to the US, and if you can't meet these criteria then there is a possibility of the instrument being confiscated and destroyed.
You can find the relevant information as put out by the authorities here, and if you google it, there are lots of discussions on music blogs, discussion boards and lists ongoing.
The solution to this is that one is supposed to be able to get a passport for individual instruments, which will allow a musician to travel with an instrument made from or containing the banned materials.
Forms for the passports are available here.
If you read the above links, there are lots of issues that remain unclear. It seems that you may need a separate passport for animal and plant material...they don't seem to have taken into account that they will occur together in many instruments. Verifying that it is antique or pre CITES would seem to be very difficult, many people would not have the relevant documentation, even if it existed, and who is a qualified appraiser? Also the forms seem to be set up for US citizens and no one else.
I E-mailed them at the contact provided seeking clarification a few weeks ago but got nothing back.
Finally, I think what frightens most musicians is that it will be the customs officials at the point of import who will decide if an instrument is legal or not.
 Can you tell the difference between the twenty of so species of rosewood, only one of which is banned? I can't, and I'm working with such timbers for the last 35 years. Can you (or they) tell the difference between elephant ivory, which is illegal, and mammoth ivory which is legal.
Until a few days ago I couldn't do that I can! Have a look here.
For the moment, I'd advise anyone who has any instrument which might possibly incur the ban to leave it at home, until this gets sorted out, and I greatly fear that it is going to take the loss of a very valuable and possibly historically important instrument, to get to that point.
Of course, as traditional flute players playing mainly modern instruments it's not as relevant to us as it is to pipers...they're in big trouble.

More RTTAtuner

A bit more about the RTTATuner which might be of use to readers. Dan mailed me the other day after seeing the last blog with a few tips about using the tuner for flutes which in thought I'd pass on as hopefully being of use to all flute players.

"...................... an updated version of the RTTATuner app is now available, with an added “export” function. It exports an expanded view of the tuning display, showing all the octaves that you normally might have to scroll to get to. Text is also included in the export, in case you need to cut and paste the results into another program. Another things it improves on is that it stops the iPhone from going to sleep while recording. I’m about to announce it on some of the newsgroups.

I also wanted to give you a “heads up” about something. In your blog, the screenshot shows four octaves, starting with octave number three. I’m assuming the flute is a standard “D” flute and not for example a cannon going down to low A… The convention I use for octaves (there are a couple of different ways of numbering them) is that D4 is low D on a flute. So here’s what I’m seeing in your screenshot: an octave, from low D (D4) to middle D (D5), was played on the flute. The tuning is excellent and consistent. There are also some notes apparently registering in the 3rd octave. They must have been something else - I find that the male voice kind of spans a lot of the third octave, or maybe some outside noise of some kind. You can see from the thickness of the bars that there is a lot more variation in the pitch than was picked up in the flute itself; the noises were less “musical".

Why did this happen, and what can you do about it?

Firstly, the “min clarity” setting should be on 0.90 or 0.95. The higher it is, the more “musical” the tone needs to be before it is registered. I think I had 0.9 as the default. If you go much lower than that, then the program starts picking up random hums and noises, and registers a lot of notes that weren’t played, especially in the lower octaves. 0.95 should work OK with the flute, and I think might then filter out any talking, etc.

Secondly, for flutes, you can set the “Min Displayed Octave” setting to 4 and “Max Displayed Octave” to 6 - in which case all that extra noise won’t be picked up anyhow because octave 3 won’t show up.

Thirdly, you can set the “Min Readings” setting to 10, or even 20, or more - this will require that a note needs to register a fair few times before it shows up on the display. It stops little “blips” from showing up e.g. if you do an ornament or something.

Fourthly, you’re obviously better off avoiding noisy environments.

Finally, you’re better off it you don’t leave the thing running: press record, play something, and then press stop.

I just wanted to clarify this, as I don’t want any flute makers to be given the wrong idea! I’ve tested the app using an iPhone 4, iPhone 5S and iPad - all work pretty consistently, no problems and I’m happy with the results. If you find that you can’t get it to work well, I’d start worrying about the mic on your phone, I guess… But from what I see, the app does pick up the flute nicely, it’s just picking up other stuff as well, in that particular screenshot.

I'm wondering about what Dan said about the third octave notes being "something else". I think there my be a possibility that they may be overtones or other harmonic components? I'll find out and report back.