So, I was just thinking, maybe, instead of having singing choirs in my culture I'm building, I should have woodwind choirs for the same purpose, Ceremonies. My Keplerians do have this tall, woody plant that is similar to bamboo and which grows in only certain parts of their forests(maybe it needs more nutrients than their tree-like plants, maybe the tree-like plants provide resistance from strong winds that could break the bamboo-like plants, maybe the bamboo-like plants are more sensitive to sunlight, who knows). So there would be these pockets of tall woody plants within their forests. And I was thinking that maybe at different ages, these plants get harvested for different ranges. Like this perhaps:

enter image description here

Note that that's the plant size for such ranges, not necessarily the flute design.

I based those numbers off of the roughly exponential decay curve for tall plant growth. Easily up to 2 feet in the first year but it slows down every year, such that the bass ones are harvested so rarely it amounts to about 1 every 1-2 generations. And maybe with this plant, the piccolo just is impossible to make because at the age where it is piccolo sized, it is too tender to be useful as an instrument. Whereas the Soprano one might be so commonly used that 1 generation easily goes through 40 of them. I also know from having studied how the orchestra is structured, that once again, an exponential curve turns up. So many more soprano than alto(easily a factor of 4 or 5), about half as much bass as tenor, and about the same amount of alto as tenor + bass. I even once saw an orchestra with 30 cellos and 200 violins. Yeah, that's quite the sight.

So maybe the ancestor of the Keplerian equivalent of the orchestra looks something like this:

enter image description here

As you can see, I have quite a few forms of percussion here. I have drums, instruments to shake, and blocks to strike against. This percussion provides the beat so that no conductor is required. The woodwinds is where the melody comes from. And as you can see, I have a Soprano:Alto:Tenor:Bass ratio of 20:6:4:2, not quite the factor of 4 or 5 that I see in the modern orchestra, but certainly a factor of 3. Now of course, if they harvest all the plants they need for the woodwinds from the forest, soon, the forest will be out of those plants and whatever animals relied on it for nutrition. So they are most likely already in the process of domesticating these plants so that they don't always need to go to the forest. As technology advances, they will be able to make more and more instruments including harp like instruments, hollowed out string instruments, and possibly even keyboard instruments.

But, what do you think? Am I missing anything? Is my ratio a good one? Could the flute choir actually develop as the predecessor of the orchestra and how would this affect how the orchestra develops in my culture?

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ What you have is a sort of de-composed pipe organ. Yes, a pipe organ can substitute for an entire orchestra. And composers did occasionally write great pieces for winds ensembles -- for example, Mozart's Gran Partita for twelve wind instruments and a double bass (which is anyway often replaced by a thirteenth wind instrument. The point is that a "flute" ensemble can work credibly; what I don't get is what you have against strings? $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    May 31, 2020 at 8:58
  • $\begingroup$ i feel like this thing exist in china, they use bamboo for flute and such, but iam not sure, and it not exactly like europe orchestra thing, if my memory serve me right. i assume this is before they know metallurgy right? because i think this musical instrument can be replace with metal material. $\endgroup$
    – Li Jun
    May 31, 2020 at 9:01
  • $\begingroup$ @LiJun: Woodwinds. Brass winds. Both families of instruments are in widespread use. $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    May 31, 2020 at 9:06
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Strange then that the archetypal instrument of the antiquity was the lyre... And that the entire western theory of music is based on the Pythagorean (that is, pre-classical Greek) observations of strings. (The original and most widely used instrument was and is the human voice. String instruments have the advantage that they don't take up the singer's mouth.) $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    May 31, 2020 at 9:30
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ The drawing has a bit too many high-register players and too few bass. $\endgroup$
    – user535733
    May 31, 2020 at 14:41

1 Answer 1


Not only plausible, but pretty much what happened in Occidental music.

The Occidental orchestra, of course, is built on the foundation of a string ensemble (violin, viola, cello, violone) rather than a flute chorus. But in earlier music, all instruments were built in consorts:

Flute consort.
Dulcian cconsort.
Trumpet choir.
Chalumeau consort.
Viol consort.

You can see that by Lully's time, the viol consort forms the foundation of the early orchestra and other instruments are added to it. Notice how the conductor looks down at he feet on every down-beat, in order to avoid Lully's Folly.


You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .