Can you explain what an ocarina is and give us a brief history of the instrument?
Okay. Briefly ocarinas are vessel flutes, which separates them from most of the other flutes in that air oscillates in an out of a hollow chamber instead of in and out of the ends of a long, narrow tube.
The fact that they (ocarinas) use a shorter fatter chamber instead of a long, narrow tube is what allows them to be so compact. It also explains why they can be made in so many different shapes. I mean, they arenít limited to a basically tubular shape. Also, most vessel flutes use a windway similar to a recorder or tinwhistle, although China has a traditional form of vessel flute that uses an embouchure hole like a modern concert flute.
I have a fascinating article about pre-Colombian meso-American clay flutes --many of them were ocarinas-- and they took all kinds of different shapes and chamber configurations. So Ocarinas are very ancient instruments, native to pre-Colombian South and Central America, Mexico, ancient China, and other parts of the world. In fact, ocarinas may be among the most ancient of flutes because they were originally made from low fired clay, perhaps an outcropping of pottery making. Actually, Gemhorns, which are early renaissance instruments made from animal horns, are also a type of vessel flute as well.
You see, the word "ocarina," which means "little goose" in Italian, was first given to a certain type of ocarina played by street ensembles in Italy toward the end of the 1800s. Today, it seems that the meaning of "ocarina" has been extrapolated to include most vessel flutes.