Going nuts over a flute

I had heard about it, but hadn’t seen it until now: apparently Lizzo desecrated a sacred, holy artifact of the Founding Fathers. That is, she played a flute once owned by James Madison. You can see it for yourself here…along with the over-the-top reactions of Ben Shapiro and Matt Walsh, who were outraged about something.

Don’t ever let them try and tell you that they aren’t racist. There is absolutely no other reason to be upset that a professional flautist played a flute while black that was owned by some guy who owned slaves in the 18th century.


  1. snarkhuntr says

    It’s intersectional hate – she not only has the audacity to be black, but she’s a large black woman. Three things each of which the right (and, frankly – a lot of the left) believe should compel her to hide herself away form the spotlight in permanent shame and exclusion.

    I’m not a fan of her music, but I respect like hell her tenacity and success.

  2. John Morales says

    As someone who has never heard of this relic or that rapper, the excitement factor is approximately zero.
    I can’t deny that it’s interesting in an anthropological sense, but.

  3. whheydt says

    I understand that, besides being a gift to James Madison from France, it’s made of glass. My biggest concern would be to sure it won’t get dropped.

  4. larpar says

    Fabulously flaunting flute fluency.

    The panelists are too young. Jethro Tull is “since” they were looking for.

  5. imback says

    Whoever that guy is on the left in that video was I think correct in that it’s all about domination with these nuts, believing if they aren’t dominating then they are being dominated. That may be at least part of the reason for their hate and bigotry.

  6. raven says

    I seem to be missing one of the key points here.

    So how was Lizzo’s flute playing???
    Good, bad, so so?
    Since this is about music, that should be the main question, right.

    Flute playing just isn’t what I listen to most of the time so how would I know.

  7. raven says

    Does Lizzo actually play flute?

    A classically trained flutist who began playing when she was in fifth grade and considered studying at the Paris Conservatory, she has woven flute into many of her songs, has played virtually with the New York Philharmonic, and her flute, named Sasha Flute, even has its own Instagram page.11 hours ago

    Lizzo Plays New Notes on James Madison’s Crystal Flute …https://www.nytimes.com › Arts › M

    Let’s see, a classically trained flutist who has been playing since the fifth grade,…plays a flute.
    So, what is the big deal here?

  8. says

    Here’s Lizzo’s NPR Tiny Desk Concert from 2019.

    The guy on the left makes a very good point at the end. The scenes of her at the Library of Congress are so nice. She loves music (reportedly majored in classical flute) and was excited about the flute and the other instruments as musical instruments. The people expressing their outrage about this can’t be. I don’t mean they’re fundamentally incapable of it, although some may be. But even if they could be theoretically, their view of the world is so distorted by their political ideology that they can’t in actuality. She’s a fat black woman playing what had once been James Madison’s flute. For them, that can only be a presumptuous, disrespectful, aggressive, and hateful political act. As he says, they style themselves the great defenders of “Western culture,” but they don’t appreciate elements of culture as anything other than instruments of power, hierarchy, and oppression.

  9. says

    I’m a little disappointed that Lizzo didn’t actually play a whole piece onstage. That would have made the crackers’ heads explode even more painfully.

    Also, I agree with larpar: at least one of them should have remembered Jethro Tull. Kids these days…

  10. chrislawson says

    SC@8– perfect description.

    Additional evidence: when when white quasi-conservative Kurt Russell accidentally destroyed an irreplaceable historic guitar for The Hateful Eight…not a damn peep from the so-called defenders of Western history.

  11. says

    SC @8: I remember that room from a tour I took of NPR HQ a few years ago.

    I love some of the comments below that video…

    how are they still building buildings when she has ALL the pipes?!

    Good thing she doesn’t have all the tubes, otherwise we’d have no Internet!

  12. says

    I don’t know who that is but I looked up some clips, and as a former flautist I judge her flute ability to be quite good.

  13. silvrhalide says

    @4 Well now you’ve done it. I want to hear Lizzo playing “Jack in the Green” and “Farm on the Freeway” with the members of Jethro Tull. But only if the lineup includes Dee Palmer.

    @10 I’m disappointed too. She played so beautifully in the first clip, now I want to hear the whole thing. Just a few notes onstage? Disappointing.
    And if that doesn’t make white supremacists’ heads explode, this will.

  14. Ed Peters says

    I agree with #1. Also, she is scantily clad, so much so I was surprised, but then I’m pretty out of touch with popular entertainment these days. Also, she wiggled her butt a little. I didn’t have any problem with it – it seemed fun-loving. Some are calling it twerking, but I thought twerking was what Brittany Spears (?) did (deep bend-over to prove she’s a lady?), which I considered burlesque and just plain sad.

    So to sum it all up, a confident, unapologetic, large, scantily clad, classically-trained, black woman flautist hits a few nice notes on a glass flute no one knew existed before this week, and wiggles her butt playfully. Normally I’d smile, be mildly appreciative, and move on. But because it melts all the right snowflakes, I’m loving it.

  15. birgerjohansson says

    “…the whole thing”
    While burning the confederate battle flag, and standing on the shoulders of a native american.

  16. says

    I had never heard of Lizzo before and I had also never heard of James Madison’s crystal flute before. I was far more interested in the latter, especially after reading up about it and learning that while the maker did create a number of glass flutes, this is one of the very few that’s higher quality leaded crystal. I was very disappointed that she didn’t actually PLAY it. She made a little trill, something I can do as a non-trained person. (My flute-playing wife, even less impressed about that – she was pretty eager to hear a tune played, even Mary Had a Little Lamb.) So, I’m disappointed in the big lead up to a 4-second trill, interested to learn about something new, worried it would be dropped, and utterly unsurprised that folks would be offended that Lizzo dared touch the thing.

  17. jacksprocket says

    Agree with Bee@ 10, she could have tried a bit more music. But she’ plays (probably) a Boehm keyed flute, and the Madison flute is an early Classical type with open holes- and a very different fingering. Also the embouchure (blowing) of the flute is probably like nothing she’s played before, and it’s impressive that she got a decent note out of it first go. I wouldn’t mind a blast at it in an Irish session though, where those flutes are still used- but it’s probably way out of tune.

  18. fusilier says

    As @8 SC (Salty Current) has pointed out, there’s an npr clip of her playing the instrument at the Library of Congress.

    Quite the talented lady.


    James 2:24

  19. ajbjasus says

    Not even trying !

    Ian Anderson played his flute standing on one leg. Wooo.

    My pall thought the records were made by a bloke called Jeff O’Toole.

  20. birgerjohansson says

    About racism, I found this today at Phys.org
    University of Riverside in California:
    Liking another group does not mean you dislike your own.
    “Whenever people like a higher-status group, it is not necessarily at the expense of the lower-status group”.

  21. says

    99.999999999 percent of the people upset about this had never heard of the Madison flute a few days ago.

    As for Jethro Tull I suspect Ian Anderson wore pretty much the same costume LIzzo did at some point.

  22. says

    Daily Kos – “World’s most famous flute player plays a flute. Conservatives explode in racist outrage”:

    It was a masterstroke by the Library of Congress, and current Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden, the first woman and the first Black person in the role: Educate the public about the large collection of historic flutes at the Library of Congress, and its role in preserving not just books but objects, by inviting Lizzo to play some of the instruments. And it worked. Before this week, did you know the Library of Congress had hundreds of flutes? Maybe three of you can answer yes to that.

    But of course conservatives had to make it all about themselves and their racism….

    Here’s a tweet from the LoC with just the short video of her visiting and playing the instruments there.

  23. consciousness razor says


    But she’ plays (probably) a Boehm keyed flute, and the Madison flute is an early Classical type with open holes- and a very different fingering.

    Nah, the fingerings would be very similar for the most part. Even flutes/recorders from the Renaissance or earlier are pretty familiar. Basically, if you can play a recorder, then flutes and saxophones are easy. Or better: they’re just plain easy, with regard to fingerings (other technical stuff, not so much). If that’s the baseline for “easy,” then clarinet, oboe, English horn and bassoon fingerings can definitely fuck with your head.

    Without keys, you do have the option to play some holes half-open in certain situations to improve intonation, to do some trills, and so forth. Generally speaking, open holes means very touchy, so you have to be ready for that of course. In any case, that sort of stuff would be useful to know in some cases, since it lacks keys which are there on more modern instruments to do the same basic things. (But those can be a bit like training wheels on a bike. Modern keyed and open holed instruments provide many of the same benefits and then some, without a lot of the downsides.)

    Besides, it’s always been my understanding that if you can’t (or don’t want to) use a particular fingering that some method book recommends, there’s always another one out there. So just fake it till you make it. This is the way. Half the audience is too tone-deaf to notice if a note here or there is slightly off anyway.

  24. consciousness razor says

    Reginald Selkirk:

    Crystal or glass? Glass is not crystalline.

    They mean lead glass: “commonly called crystal.” (Some history at the link.)

    Cheaper than I thought:

    Hall glass flutes – $65 – $135

    It does annoy me that they misspelled borosilicate.

    But … that’s not the same kind of glass.

    Does that matter for playing? I have no idea. I’m sure it affects the price.

  25. consciousness razor says

    Anyway, if you want a professional-level flute, it’ll cost you, although flutes maybe aren’t quite as bad as some other instruments.

    For example, this (sterling silver) Yamaha is going for $7,344.99 on Musician’s Friend. Of course, you could find good ones that are cheaper (and more expensive) out there. There’s really a pretty big price range to look at, like with cars or something.

  26. consciousness razor says

    I mean, you could easily spend several hundred dollars (a lot more than $135) just for the case.

  27. jacksprocket says

    “Nah, the fingerings would be very similar for the most part. Even flutes/recorders from the Renaissance or earlier are pretty familiar. ”

    For the most part, in straight keys, maybe almost, but beware of f sharp/natural (talking bottom 2 octaves here for simplicity). The sharp/ flat key presses are absolutely different, apart from e flat and g sharp. In any case, unless it’s been kept in playable condition, the pads on the keys will be dry and a poor seal, resulting in whuffly notes. It looks like she anticipated that, hence the rather disappointingly unambitious performance. But imagine if she had been adventurous, and the tune didn’t come out properly… just think of the crowing claque then. On balance, she probably did the best available without a day’s preparation.

  28. larpar says

    jacksprocket @ #35
    Did you watch the entire clip? She played an entire song when at the National Archives.

  29. silvrhalide says

    @36 and it was beautiful. I had no idea prior to this that she was that good.

    @26 why, does she play bagpipes too? Pibroch always sounded more like the rock guitar version of Scottish bagpipes.
    How about Witch’s Promise?

  30. seachange says

    @22 the clip that @8 gave is not national archives nor did saltycurrant say that. The flute section of that clip is after 13:40 and it’s a typical steel keyed flute and she plays it for about twenty seconds. The original clip showed by PZ does show her playing a whole song, but of course it is ruined by barbarian clueless brutal thugs who think their worthless velar flappings have more value than yellow matter dogshit. Me, I’m curious where they got that clip from, because I would like to hear an unpoisoned version.

    She plays about thirty seconds at the library of congress on a plexiglass flute. That’s the closest I could find to a whole song on a clear flute. I’m not saying that there isn’t anything like that out there, but that I didn’t find it.

    She is a very very good flute player and knows how to handle the instrument. This is not hard to find out at all.

  31. seachange says

    I didn’t find any pictures of Ian Anderson playing flute shirtless or in shorts. I have dissappoint.

  32. says

    I’m confused now. The video I linked to @ #27, tweeted by the Library of Congress, shows her there playing a song that’s about 50 seconds long. Is that not the crystal flute? (It’s beautiful regardless.)

  33. Matthew Currie says

    She’s obviously a pretty decent flute player, and in the beginning of the Library of Congress clip the first thing she played a few bars of was Poulenc’s flute sonata,and she gets points for that.

    I find the right wing reactions amusing, and though I’m no great fan of Lizzo in general, I hope she continues to cause consternation to bigoted and racist busybodies for years to come and dances on their graves.

  34. says

    The LoC has a number of instruments, and a video “Comparison of performances of Bach’s Chaconne on five violins” by Nicholas Kitchen. Pretty much inarguable that the Brookings Amati positively sings and the Betts Stradivarius is tinny trash.


  35. seachange says

    @41 saltycurrant


    The poster I was replying to quoted you as post #8. You linked to a video there which was not it.
    The link you did in 27 has her doing just two notes? Hard to tell for sure since that page has a lot of jumpy content and this triggers my seizures. I loaded that page walked away and came back to it and it was still boingy for me. I tried quickly the video that had her looking dressed in clothes instead of dressed in stage costume, and two notes was it, then I closed that page.

    In between me posting that I have found that Wonkette has the uncontaminated version of her in her black top and black jeans playing the tune, like you both said. It also has the one with her playing the plexiglass flute, that’s a few seconds longer than the one I found myself.

  36. says

    seachange @ #47:

    the one with her playing the plexiglass flute

    ? Where are you getting plexiglass? Did you read this somewhere? Why would they have a plexiglass flute at the LoC?

    There are several videos:

    The one I linked to @ #27 (also available at the DK link I posted @ #27), which shows Lizzo at the LoC playing a few flutes, including what appears to be an approximately 50-second song in an atrium on the Madison crystal flute.

    The one in the OP, which contains both the video from the LoC and the clip from her concert (wherein she plays a couple of notes on the Madison crystal flute while doing a mini-twerk), in the midst of a bunch of commentary.

    The one I linked to @ #8, which is her NPR Tiny Desk Concert from 2019 and is unrelated to the recent events (except that, IIRC, she plays a flute in it).

  37. StevoR says

    Apologies if already linked upthread but some good reading and info on Madison and slavery here :




    Excerpt :

    On Saturday, standing amid the sprawling hills of the onetime 5,000-acre plantation, Kearse recalled a question she has struggled with for decades: Madison “truly was a great man. But was he really good? What I finally decided was ‘no.’ This was a man that owned people.”



    WARNING : Slavery and sexual abuse incl incest references there.

    Painful historical reality that shoudl be acknowledged not ignored.

    Hope these are interesting / useful here.

  38. StevoR says

    PS. Also probly unsurprisng but as a Euriopean heritage Aussie withonly a vague knowledge of American history this is the first I’ve heard of Madison’s glass flute too. Nor do I hd much reverence for it other than ist a jkinda intresting historical artefact that was clearly cleverly made with uimpressive craftsmanship and why shouldn’t whoever wants to play it as long as they are careful not to damage it? Which Lizzo clearly was careful to look after it so no probs.