Barrington Parapsychology Parapsychologie Mulacz



There was a time when I was firmly convinced that I was going to play the flute – that I had only to seize the opportunity, raise the flute to me lips, and out would come the purest tones.  I was going to master this instrument, bend it to my will, plumb its depths.  I believed this passionately.   At last the day came.  I took hold of the coveted instrument, blew across the hole in the approved manner – and nothing happened.  Just a breathy, wobbly sound that you could hardly call a note.

Not to be discouraged, I took it up a few weeks later and tried again.   No result.  I got a few friends to try.  They did no better.  Twelve students selected at random made the most pathetic sounds.

After a year or two of having a go, I began to wonder.  What ever made me believe that it was possible to make a musical note by blowing over a hole, when every real wind instrument is played by blowing into a pipe?  That is how a recorder is played, and I know that a recorder is real, because it makes an appropriate sound when I play it.

It all came to me as a revelation: the reason I can't play the flute is that the flute is unplayable.  No one, but no one, whatever they claim, can play the flute.  I know that some people say they can, and a lot of people say that some people can; but I know how utterly unreliable people (other people) can be in saying what they can do and what they have seen done.  There's only one person's experience that I am prepared to accept as credible, and that is mine.  And I've told you about my experience.

So how does it come about that a lot of credulous people – some of them professors and Nobel prizewinners – believe that it is possible to play the flute?

If you ask what they take to be good evidence, they may play you a disc of something known as the MOZART flute quartets.  What sort of proof is that?  How do you know that the sound you hear is not that of a recorder?  (Which I know is playable, because, as I have said, I can play it, after a fashion).  They say that the flute sounds different from the recorder.  Not to me, because flutes don't sound like anything at all.  This so-called difference is a figment of their imagination and a symptom of their deluded belief system.

Then they show me a musical score, with the word 'flute' attached to one of the staves.  That means nothing at all.  Originally there was a real instrument known in German as Blockflöte, and then this legend about blowing over a hole got going, and people made these things that became known as Querflöte.  So when you see 'flute' on the score that can mean recorder just as much as flute.

They also say that if you go to an orchestral concert you will definitely see two or three musicians holding an instrument sideways and blowing over a hole just when the sound of a flute is heard.  Well, I wouldn't rely on that sort of observation.  People at concerts are in an exalted state, and they sit at quite a distance from the orchestra where they don't have a clear sight of the players.  How can they be sure that what they hear really coincides with what they see?  I certainly wouldn't trust concertgoers to be an accurate observers under these conditions, especially if they believe in flutes.

One of my believing friends insisted on taking me to a concert where BACH's Brandenburg Concerto no. 4 was to be played, and she assured me that two flute players would come and stand out in front of the orchestra and play solo from start to finish.  So I went along – I try to be open-minded.  And what do you think happened?  Two recorder players came onto the platform!  Well, I wasn't at all surprised.  My friend, who was surprised, said afterwards that it was usually only in authentic performances you expect to see recorder players.  So she actually said it!  The only authentic performances are those where there is a real instrument being played, and other performances are spurious.

Then why is it that so many people believe in flutes? How is the illusion effected and perpetuated?  This comes about in various ways.  In my opinion the so-called flautists in orchestras and ensembles are holding a flute during the rests, and then quietly picking up a recorder when they have to play something.  They do this to make people happy, because people like to believe in flutes.

But I am a rational person, and when it's a matter of convincing people like me they have to get up to all sorts of manoeuvres.  One of my believing friends once brought me into an room where there were just the two of us and someone pretending to play the flute.  But what do I know about the conditions?  I don't know who was in the next room, or the next house, or in the road; there could so easily be someone playing a recorder while the flautist did the usual mime.  In fact, when I looked out of the window I actually saw a street musician.  It's true that he looked as if he had a guitar, but there's no end to the tricks people get up to in their determination to make other people believe in flute playing.

You may ask why there should be such a persistent myth to the effect that some people can play the flute.  I put it down to people's irrational yearning for something magical, something extraordinary, something outside normal life, something anti-mechanistic , something almost ethereal.  Now isn't conjuring a pure note out of a musical instrument by blowing over a hole all these things?  If you believe in that you could almost go on to believe in a disembodied state, or a universal mind, and all sorts of nonsense.

I feel that I've done my bit to examine the case for flute playing, and I'm not prepared to spend any more of my life following up absurd claims about blowing over holes.  Let other people do that if they want to waste their time.  Whatever they say won't make any difference to my opinion, because one thing I have learnt is this – there is no one (I mean no flute-believer) who can be trusted to tell the truth.  When it comes to designing a proper experiment they are, one and all, frankly, incompetent, and some (I name no names) just tell bare-faced porkies; but even when they're perfectly honest they're too prejudiced to be able to produce an impartial report.  I'm really the only one who can be relied on to do that.

I have to say that I get a very good audience response when I give talks along these lines.  I expect it helps that I believe every word I say, which makes it sound all the more convincing.  Anyway, it convinces me.  After all, the bottom line is that I have tried and I can't play the flute.  And you (if you're telling the truth) can't play it.  No one can.   And that's a fact.  So if any of you out there think you've seen and heard someone playing the flute, don't tell me about it.  I don't want to know.


The U. Nohoogh Scripts

Seated one day at the keyboard, musing upon the weirder aspects of psi-denial, the thoughts of U. NOHOOGH floated into my consciousness (or what I think is my consciousness, but may just be my memes) and words appeared on the screen.  I took the liberty of offering them for publication.

It has been suggested by some readers that I should confess my role as scriptwriter, and by others that I should claim my copyright.  As to the latter, I would not want to deny these scripts a wider circulation; I donate them freely to the world.



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