The sounds from Flax

30 mayo 2008

This article is intended to be a first approximation to the sounds that occur during the process of working with flax from his collection in the fields until the drafting of the final product: garments, fabrics, curtains …). Includes recordings from the processes of Mazen, espadelado, crawled, development of the Mazaroca, «Fiado na roca», and various shots of a typical loom working with flax.

Fonotopias from Galicia contry – Endangered sounds

Project partially funded by the Ministry of Culture and Sports, General Directorate of Cultural Creation and dissemination of the Xunta of Galicia.


The sounds from Flax


1.The production cycle of flax

The process of working with flax from his plantation to the development of garments and fabrics in looms included a range of tasks that had to be developed one after another. The first thing was to sow the flax plant. Then, once it had grown high enough, it was collected. After that, the «ripiado» was done. It consisted of separating the seeds from the stalk. The next step was the «mazado». Doing it, the flax plant was soft and docile enought to work with. Next to «Mazado», was the «espadelado» process. In it , flax was passed through a kind of wooden knife allowing separating the interesting part of the plant from which is not. Then flax was «rastrexado», passing it through a kind of comb that made the flax more silky. After that, the next step was the»fiado» of the flax. During «fiado» flax was coiled in a ball, wich was «debanado» to obtain the yarns to use on the Tex loom.

The objective of this work is not conducting a detailed description of the processes that Wrap the work with flax, but documenting, in a Phonographic way, the sonorities involved in them. For a detailed description of the work with flax, and each one of the tools used at different stages of transformation we suggest you to take a look at the wikipedia on


Processes involving working with flax had practically dissapeared. The feedstocks had been replaced with other ones, cheaper than flax. Also, the machinary had been replaced with other requiring less maintenance, and being more productive in terms of costs and production. Both of them were factors that made the flax work decline to a point that today is only worked as an artesanal product. Considering this, we can think of the sounds of the process of working with the flax, as endangered sounds, as they come from a way of work that is dissapearing.

3.Description of the recordings

The first thing to do with the flax once is collect, is the «mazado». This process consists on flattening flax until it becomes soft and easy to work with. In the recording, you could hear clearly the beating of the dry wood against the stone where the flax is. The wood makes a mid-frequencies populated sound, while stones produce a high-freq. rich sound. You could hear a very noticeable reverb coming from the room where the recording was made. Specifically, there’s a rebounded sound produced by that reverberation, and that is filling the soundscape on the bottom end of the frequencies. Also, you could hear the flax on the soundscape producing something like a pulling, dragging sound, populating the mid-high frequencies of the spectrum.

In this other shoot, closer to the wood mallet, reverberation is almost masked by the sound of the mallet blow itself. The rest of the sounds are the same you could hear on the previous shoot, but with the sound of the mallet blow much clearer.

On the swingling process, the flax is sharpened in order to extract the part that is used to produce the thread and the clothes. On the produced sounds, is very noticeable the sound of scratching the flaw when the «espadeleira» goes over it. Also very noticeable is the sound produced by the two sets of wood when they shock one with the other catching little or no flax in the middle.

On another shoot, taken closer to the swingling process, we can clearly hear the scratching of the swingler against the stems of the flax.

The «rastrelado» process consists on passing the flax through a kind of comb in order to made it more silky. Sonority from this process is prevailed by the high-frequencies produced by the flax passing through the nails of the comb. You can also hear some low frequencies produced by the wood of the comb, wich is acting as a kind of resonance chamber.

Making the «Mazaroca» is a no-sound process. You hardly can hear anything, and what you do, are the highs produced as the flax is winded to build the «Mazaroca».

Once the «Mazaroca» is built, the «fiado na roca» process comes. You can hear the wheel hitting arrhythmically the axis where it is fixed. Rubber from the wheel also makes very clear high-frequencies populated sounds. Also, in the beginning of the shoot, you could hear the roll of the «Mazaroca» while it unwinds the flax.

Sound harmonies Richness in a loom is very high. They pieces make sounds following the rhythm marked by the weaver. We can recognize the threads running from one side to another, the metallic rusts hitting by the woods or the crying woods on every hit that they must support.

From time to time, weaver must stop weaving and tight the cloths in the loom, in order to avoid the cloths loose strain and keep weaving.We can hear springs, levelers, irons and woods crying when the loom is asked to tight the cloths.

Another shoot from the loom where we can hear the woods sounding in every line that is weaved, and the running, from one side to another, of the thread managed by the weaver.

In this other shoot, we can hear the violence of the blow received by the woods on every line of the cloth that is made. Also, you can clearly hear the iron parts of the loom hitting among them filling the high part of the spectrum frequencies.

Another shoot from the loom, on a far perspective, allow us to hear, with a more noticeable presence, the sound of the woods hitting among them.

In this other shoot, we hear clearly the ball of flax managed by the weaver running mischievously among the threads on the looms guides.

In this other shoot, we can hear clearly the sound of the chains hitting while they made the threads tight.

Far away, sounds coming from the loom mix with the natural reverb on the room where the loom is placed. No sound is over another. A loom working, with all of its components sounding in harmony.

Every now and then, weaver must stop weaving, get up, tight the loom and go back to the seat.

Another far shoot, where wood sounds get lost in favor of the hitting of the metal pieces and the brushing of the threads in the loom.

Another shoot from the tighten process, where there’s a first attempt that does not convince the weaver. Threads must be well tighten so the clothes get very pretty.

4.Future works

Although we tried to record all the sound in the most compresive way possible, lots of nuances were lost. Interior activities on the process of working with flax would be complete and correctly recorded on this work, but the hypothetic social character of the sounds produced during the works with the flax, would not be reflected on the recordings presented in this work. It could be needed, in order to complete the work, to make some recordings on an environment where two or more groups of workers stay together working on the flax. Also, there are activities on the production cycle of the flax that were not recorded, specifically, the reaping, or the «mazado» on an exterior environment (the recordings of the «mazado» process here presented were made on a laboratory-non realistic environment).


For the drafting of this article we turned to the association of friends of flax, which have in the Vimianzo’s Castle a sample of all work being undertaken in the production cycle of flax. The recordings presented in this article were made in February 2008. Greetings go also to the president of the association of friends of flax in the province of Coruna, Ms. Carmen Ferreiro Riveiro, who was the one that weave, «espadelo», and «rastrexou» for us to collect the sounds of the whole process. Thanks also to the Provincial Council of Corunna and the municipality of Vimianzo for organizing the craft fair that was where we picked up the sounds presented in this paper.