Conch by E B White:
Hold a baby to your ear
As you would a shell:
Sounds of centuries you will hear
New Centuries foretell.
Who can break a baby’s code?
And which is the older-
The listener or his small load?
The held or the holder?
Last week I made a lot of seashell spiral flutes. All but a few played diatonic musical scales. Those few were somehow misshapen – they were elongated more than normal Terebra Turritella shells. I assume something in the environment caused this.
To the eye, these elongated shells are still pleasing to look at. But to the ear; they are not pleasing at all. When the five pitch holes are drilled through the shell they produce an ‘out of tune’ scale of notes.
A normal Terebra Turritella shell will produce pentatonic, diatonic and chromatic scales of notes when five pitch holes are drilled through whorls number 2, 3, 4, 6 and 8. The two half steps of the diatonic scale are in whorls 2 and 6. In fact, each of the five pitch holes produce sharps, flats and micro tones, giving the player the ability to play the chromatic scale of notes. Slight variations in the force of the breath make this possible.
The shape of the tube has everything to do with the range and sensitivity of the instrument. As it is the first conical helix shaped flute ever made nothing is known about it, scientifically, except what Rollins College Physics Dept has discovered, and they haven’t published their findings yet. (They’ve been studying the instrument for over five years.). More research needs to be done to explain why this instrument works.
A couple of years ago I recorded ‘Somewhere Over the Rainbow’ in a professional sound studio on a seashell flute in the key of B. The sound engineer added a reverb effect to the recording. He said it made it sound better. I’ve practiced more since then and can probably do better now.
The next time I record seashell flute music I’d like to be accompanied by other instruments. I’ve played with Native American Flute musicians. The two different types of flutes sound good together. I’ve also played with a steel drum musician at a farmer’s market I vend at. Again, the instruments sound good together.