Dr. Julie Hobbs
When people speak, they shape their mouths differently for different languages. It follows, then, that there are inherent differences in flutists’ playing based on their native language. In the case of teaching syllables—syllables that the flutist “says” while playing in order to achieve a certain articulation or embouchure formation, such as “tu”—this can become confusing. Therefore, it is important for flutists to study the pronunciation systems of foreign languages, in order to know how to correctly produce teaching syllables used by flutists and teachers of other cultures. Flute pedagogy has a strong French tradition, and many modern day, American, English-speaking flutists still use translations of historical French treatises, so studying French pronunciations is a good place to start. The treatises used in this study are standards, including those by Jacques-Martin Hotteterre, Michel Corrette, François Devienne, Jean-Louis Tulou, Paul Taffanel, and Michel Debost. These publications span almost three centuries collectively, from the early 1700s to the 1990s, but regardless of the age or author of the treatise, the teaching syllables are almost never translated from the original French. Because of the lack of translation, American, English-speaking flutists pronounce the syllables quite differently from what the French teachers would have expected. This study seeks to use phonetics to compare the French pronunciation of these syllables to the English approximation. In addition to historical context and phonetic analysis, practical applications of these syllables to flute playing are provided, as well as some exercises for English-speaking flutists who wish to acquire these French pronunciations.
Zrull, Mary Margaret, "Applications of French Phonetics to Flute Playing: A Historical Perspective" (2018). Dean's Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Scholarship. 1.