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by Ardal Powell

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Author's note: This article first appeared in The Flutist Quarterly 19.3 (Spring 1994). For the present version dates and page references for articles that were not yet published in 1994 have been supplied. Author-date references are to publications listed at the end of the essay.

TODAY'S FLUTISTS look back on Theobald Boehm's re-invention of the flute in the middle of the last century as a sensational triumph of scientific method in the then relatively new field of acoustics. We might be surprised to find that Boehm's inquiries were not conducted in a rigorous scientific spirit (Rockstro 1890, para. 911), but that he "finally called science to [his] aid" only in 1846 and began to study scientific principles of flutemaking and acoustics as opposed to simply pragmatic ones (Boehm 1871, 12). Since the waning of the seventeenth century, when science had first become a model for intellectual activity and worked its way into many aspects of life, the flute's design had been continuously subject to change in a number of distinctive and cross-fertilizing traditions. The rationalism which arose in the seventeenth century took two full centuries to work out its effect on the flute, and it has taken still longer to bring about the general acceptance of the Boehm flute and the relative uniformity in instrument and playing technique that we see today.


The first attempts to formulate "scientific" laws of tube acoustics and to apply them to the flute were made during the Enlightenment. Johann Heinrich Lambert's 1777 essay dealing specifically with the acoustics of the instrument of that period may perhaps have been written at the personal instigation of Frederick the Great, who was deeply involved with current ideas as well as with the flute. Lambert's paper attempts, in the classic manner so succesful with astronomy and physics, to deduce natural laws from practical experiment, using the tools of minute observation and mathematics. He gives a critical survey of previous work on acoustics by Euler (1725) and Bernoulli (1762), and makes precise measurements of his own flute, which produces a pitch of a=415.25cps, as opposed to Bernoulli's standard of a=392cps. He reports on basic experiments and calculations with tubes; gives precise details of lip placement (half the embouchure hole should be covered) so as to arrive at a mathematical constant for the end correction of the embouchure hole; and studies the effects of cork placement. Remarks on his own flute refer to the relationship of tonehole size to bore diameter, and the effect of undercutting the toneholes (see below). Attempts like Lambert's to describe the behavior of the flute in scientific language continued into the nineteenth century with works of Johann Heinrich Liebeskind (1806), Heinrich Wilhelm Theodor Pottgiesser (1803), and Karl Franz Emil Schafhäutl (1833), Boehm's teacher in acoustics.

Figure 1. P.C. Plumier minime, L'Art de Tourner en Perfection, Paris: Jombert, 1749, plate 1

But the work of Lambert and other theorists serves as a contrast to the lack of any significant technical information about woodwind instrument building left by the makers themselves. In this period Art, Craft and Science were not as distinct as they are today, and flute design was guided by a personal or regional concept of the instrument's sound and character, and by the current requirements of musical taste. Flute-makers in this period had no call to write down their design criteria or their thoughts about instrument-making. For most of the century, the practice of writing technical descriptions of design features in order to gain patent protection for them would have seemed absurd: the best protection was complete secrecy (Heyde 1993a, 599). But the ideas of the makers are revealed in the instruments they made. To equip ourselves to interpret these "documents", we should be aware of the tools and working practices of the times, and the circumstances and environments of the individuals concerned.1 Musical considerations naturally had a most important effect on instrument design, but are beyond the scope of this article.



The tubes of woodwind instruments were made on the lathe. This machine, which was driven by a treadle as early as the middle of the 13th century (McNeil 1990, 26), is a device for rotating, or "turning" the workpiece so that a hand-held chisel positioned by a toolrest can be used to make it cylindrical. Two driving mechanisms for the lathe were in use in the eighteenth century. A simple kind, in which a cord wrapped around the workpiece was attached at one end to the treadle and at the other to a springy wooden pole, allowed only a limited number of rotations in one direction before the tool had to be removed and the workpiece left to wind up the cord again by spinning in the opposite direction. A more sophisticated variety with a flywheel could maintain constant rotation in the same direction (Genta 1985). A machine with both a pole drive and a flywheel is shown in Figure 1, but the example in Diderot's encyclopaedia (Figure 2) is of the rather less advanced bi-directional type. Devices existed to regulate the tension of the flywheel's belt drive to adjust for changes in the air's humidity, and to alter the turning speed with the same treadle movement (Singer et al., Vol.5, 384). Still more sophisticated machinery for ornamental turning (Adkins 1990) existed throughout the period, but it was probably rare in instrument-making shops.

Toneholes coul be drilled in the turned tube with a strap drill (Singer et al., Vol.5, 381, Fig. 207-8). By the second half of the century hand-braces with bevel gearing existed, so that a drill could be rotated by turning a handwheel at right-angles to the shaft of the tool.

Figure 3. Reamers for woodwind instruments (Diderot 1781)

Diderot's Encyclopaedia shows the reamers used to make the internal bore of an instrument section (see Figure 3), after a pilot hole had been drilled through the center of the billet. While it is sometimes possible to see marks showing that the bore was cut with a succession of short reamers such as the ones shown, some makers seem to have used a single-piece tool for each section of the flute (Tromlitz 1791, 26-7). The advantage of one- piece reamers is that mass-production of instruments with identical bores is made faster and more reliable. By minimizing variation this reduces the time taken to finish an instrument.

The process of "finishing" a flute involved using files and scrapers to shape and undercut the embouchure hole, and to complete the tuning by undercutting the toneholes, if necessary making small adjustments to the bore. As Lambert observed (1777) the amount of wood removed from inside each tonehole, and the precise shape of the resulting walls, is a critical factor in the tone and response of the instrument. Styles of undercutting range from the almost imperceptible to cases where so much wood is removed that the walls of the tonehole are invisible from the outside of the flute. But because even very small variations in undercutting can have such a large effect on an instrument's playing qualities, files and scrapers are not the most reliable tools for undercutting.

Figure 2. Wood turning shop (Diderot 1781)


An accurate and repeatable way to remove a determinate amount of wood is provided by fraises. These are small metal cutters passed up inside the bore and engaged by a threaded rod through the tonehole to cut away its underside. Various types were used by different makers. August Grenser used fraises instead of scrapers and files to undercut the toneholes of his flutes; others, among them John Just Schuchart in London and Paul Villars in Paris, used a combinbation of the two techniques. One of the most effective ways to achieve consistency and to speed up the finishing process is to develop an instrument design in which undercutting plays little part. By the time flutes with added keys had begun to be accepted, tonehole undercutting was almost universally much less than had been common on most one-keyed flutes. The change in undercutting style went hand in hand with a alteration in sound ideal, from fullness and resonance toward brightness and penetration.


A steady expansion in the mining of minerals other than coal and iron took place in Europe between 1500 and 1750. Metallurgy developed from an art dependent on trial, experience and rule of thumb into a combination of art and science involving knowledge of the principles underlying the behavior of metals.

The key of the one-keyed flute was usually made of silver, a metal produced in Saxony, Bohemia and the New World. The key was forged by hand out of a flat sheet, with flaps bent over to take an axle pin on which the key rotated. Keys made of brass, which had been developed commercially in the previous century, become more common on Continental flutes from the end of the period. The ancient process of investment casting of brass greatly reduced the work required to make keys, but it does not seem to have arrived in flutemaking until around 1800.

The key, with its leather pad held on with sealing-wax, was kept closed with a spring under its touchpiece. In clockmaking, the introduction of the balance wheel escapement by Hooke in 1656 made the production of reliable springs an urgent priority. Well- behaved clock springs were short-lived and hard to make, so that producing them quickly became a highly specialised art. We have eighteenth-century recipies for spring-making only from the end of the century (Leutmann 1772; Blakey 1780), when competition in the clock industry had become most fierce, and it was in these times that the Swiss watchmaking city of Geneva offered a prize to anyone who found a way to make springs of comparable quality to the British ones of crucible steel. This material, invented in c. 1740 by Benjamin Huntsman (1704-1776), the Doncaster clock- and instrument-maker, was made at his Sheffield plant under conditions of extreme secrecy. However it is a measure of the contemporary lack of concern for legal protection that he did not patent the process and it was later copied by others, though only after a monopoly of half a century.

Flute keys throughout the eighteenth century were usually sprung with brass. At first the spring was attached to the wood or ivory, with its free end in contact with the metal key. But a thin piece of brass let into the sides of the keyway had a tendency to work loose as the wood expanded and contracted, and because the keyway floor had to be lowered to accommodate it, and it exerted pressure on the sides of the keyway, there was some tendency for the wood to crack at that point. A more secure and lasting way to fix the spring was to rivet the brass to the touchpiece of the key, or sometimes to fix it with a tiny watchmaker's screw. With this method the spring hardly bends at all when the key is depressed (Myers 1980, 59-60), and because of the reduced mechanical displacement the spring feels less spongy and lasts longer. Though fixing the spring to the key seems to have been used on flutes as early as the 1730s in Paris, it did not entirely supplant springs set into the wood for at least half a century.

Leipzig virtuoso, teacher and flutemaker J.G. Tromlitz was an advocate of steel springs, whose action on some of his surviving instruments is more convincing than his description:

The springs beneath the keys are made either of brass or of steel. [Tempered] Steel or clock-springs are more elastic, and consequently better, than those of brass. They should not be set into the wood, but riveted to the touchpiece, and allowed to contact the wood. But since steel springs easily rust where they touch the wood, they must occasionally be cleaned and oiled lightly. . . Since a clock-spring has too little strength under the key, especially if it is long, you can put another, somewhat shorter one underneath it, so that it is stronger and more elastic than a single strong spring.(Tromlitz 1800, 138)

The invention of pewter plugs, cast to make an airtight fit in a metal bushing let into the surface of the wood, was intended to overcome the problem of leather pads which became leaky after contact with oil or moisture. They may well have been invented in England: the tin which along with lead was an important component of pewter had been mined in Cornwall since prehistoric times. Tromlitz calls the pewter-plug keys "Tacett" keys,2 and in 1794 J.F. Boie of Göttingen advertised flutes made "after the masterpieces of Grenser in Dresden and Potter in London", with the same "very little-known invention of the Englishman Tacett". 3 But just a few years later in 1800, Tromlitz, who found many faults with the device (Tromlitz 1786) wrote (Tromlitz 1800, 139) that pewter plugs had "been rejected for many reasons, and are now quite abolished"ÄÄa premature obituary for a material that continued to find favor, in London and Vienna at least, for many decades.


As the astronomer Copernicus wrote: "The shortness of life, the frailness of reason, and the dull routine of senseless activity do not allow us to gain much knowledge. And what we do learn we all too soon forget." Tradition records that the stonemasons who gathered to build the ancient Temple of Solomon were the first to form a corporation or society to preserve specialised knowledge and skills from one generation to another. In mediaeval Europe, the principal crafts likewise became organised into guilds, or self-governing associations holding the right to conduct a trade under legal protection from competition (Heyde 1993b).

Masters of a craft passed on their knowledge to apprentices, who learned by repeatedly performing simple tasks, and freeing the master's time to be spent where his skill was best put to use, in finishing and tuning instruments. After serving an apprenticeship, typically six or seven years, an apprentice might work in the master's shop as a journeyman, or "day-worker", until he was in a position to open his own business, or succeed to his master's.

By the beginning of the eighteenth century, trade activity in most cities was governed by guilds. In eighteenth-century Paris, two officers in charge of the Guild of Musical Instrument-Makers administered its rules, which included stipulations that only apprentices who had served six years under a Paris Master, fulfilled their duties, lived a moral life and paid their dues were entitled to work for a wage; and that a Master might take on only one apprentice at a time, until the apprentice had studied four years, when an additional one might be taken. Anyone who attempted to poach on the Guild's territory would be punished by law, though internal difficulties could also be caused by the strict closed shop arrangement.4

Guild organization differed from one city to another: Johann Christoph Denner, a Nuremberg maker who applied to the town council in 1696 for permission to make the new-style oboe and recorder developed in France (Nickel 1971, 204-5), was a member of the guild of Duck Call- and Horn-Turners, though his son Jacob was disbarred from becoming a master under the guild's strict moral code because of his "shotgun" marriage (Kirnbauer & Thalheimer 1995). In Leipzig, instrument making seems to have been a "free trade", and it appears there was no guild for woodwind makers at all. The activities of merchants like Matthaus Hirschstein and the city's annual trade fair provided an essentially continental market for Saxon wind-instruments (Heyde 1985).

The craft of woodwind-instrument making benefited directly, both in the development of materials and in workshop techniques, from the diversification and growth in demand for scientific instruments during the late seventeenth century. In this period these sophisticated precision tools began to be made by mass- production (Singer et al., Vol.4, 629).

Figure 4. Batch marks in a flute by F.G.A. Kirst (St Petersburg 1136)

In flutemaking workshops, mass-production techniques were used from the earliest years of the eighteenth century. Inventories of the Paris workshops (whose documents have been most closely studied in modern times) show that large numbers, sometimes hundreds, of flutes were in production at the same time. 5 Flutes from the workshop of Thomas Lot (fl. 1734- 1787), though not all identical in appearance, show very small differences in essential measurements over the large number of flutes that have survived, indicating that the same workshop standards for many stages of production were in force over several decades. Roman numerals carved in the tenon ends, ivory mounts, keys and keyways of flutes by J.J. Quantz, F.G.A. Kirst and August Grenser (see Figure 4) are batch numbers to help identify the parts during production, indicating that the instruments to which they belonged were made in a series. Surviving Quantz flutes are functionally identical, as are a certain number of those by August Grenser and many of Lot's.

The London makers of the latter part of the period not only had a progressive approach to the division of labor, but they also benefited from the British preeminence in industrial production of high quality steel for tools. Small files were mass-produced in Prescot and were readily available in London. Labor was divided not just within the workshop but farmed out to specialists, and so in this period a maker's stamp is no certain indication of who made which parts of the instrument; dealers and even teachers seem to have stamped instruments made by others with their own names. John Hale, (fl. 1785-1804) whose name appears on a number of surviving flutes (Young 1982), made keywork in brass and silver for woodwind instruments by Cahusac and Collier (Byrne 1964), flutes by Joseph Florio, Richard Potter (Waterhouse 1993, s.v. Hale), [Proser,] and one dated 1769 by Caleb Gedney.

Figures available from the clockmaking industry provide a clear illustration of the economic effects of the move from workshop to factory production (Landes 1983). In the last quarter of the century, Britain produced 150,000-200,000 watches a year, half the total for all of Europe. Small shops in the North of England made rough actions, and sold them in quantity to London shops for finishing. As a result, a watch movement that had cost œ20 a century earlier was now reduced in price to œ1. The boom in the flute's popularity in late eighteenth-century England would not have been possible without similar effects of increased production and falling prices--or without a surge in the size and prosperity of the upper middle class, associated with the success of the British navy and the expansion of British trade.

In 1796 a rare written mention of the mass-production of flutes occurs, in a piece of sales literature by Tromlitz:

Those who employ a number of people, and have their wind-instruments made by their journeymen and apprentices, can of course offer them cheaper than I, who do everything myself, and have to do it myself if it is to be what I advertise. Such factory-made instruments cannot possibly be what they should be; this is easy to understand, and yet there are people who think the opposite.

Tromlitz evidently considered the factory system to be normal among contemporary instrument-makers, a class from which he wished to exclude himself:

To classify me as an instrument-maker is not correct, for I am not one; I only make instruments as a scholarly musician and flute-player. I do not know any of the ordinary instrument-makers who works from principles, all just imitate, inside and outside Germany. Therefore such flutes are only usable in a few keys. (Tromlitz 1800, 133)


During the early eighteenth century the flute rose to be the most popular of wind-instruments. Its expressive potential surpassed that of the recorder from the first, but it was not as easy to play in tune, and the player needed a command of embouchure and breath control as well as tonguing and fingering. The inexhaustible diversity of surviving instruments demonstrates that makers were continually trying to increase and refine the flute's ability to be expressive. Changes in musical composition and performance made changing demands on the type of expressivity the instrument was required to produce. At the same time the flute was attracting a large number of amateur adherents, who required that it be made easier to play audibly and in tune. These are the major reasons for the constant experimentation of the eighteenth-century flutemakers.

The "baroque" flute had a conical bore as its distinguishing feature. It is the bore's degree of taper and how regularly or irregularly it contracts that determine the basic visual and acoustic proportions of the instrument: the length of the tube, and the size, position and undercutting of the toneholes. For at least the first sixty years of the eighteenth century all makers were experimenting with the bore, in conjunction with other aspects of the flute: the size, undercutting and spacing of embouchure and toneholes, and the materials and wall thickness of the tube. Even in the same city at the same period no theoretical standard existed for many important aspects of flute design: often makers had different approaches at various points in their careers, evidently with dissimilar results in mind. As a result the flutes of the eighteenth century, even before the addition of keys, are acoustically and functionally very diverse (Spohr 1992).

Two surviving instruments with slightly conical bore and a single key prefigure the arrival of the true conical bore: an anonymous one of unknown origin (Puglisi 1984), and one by Richard Haka (Amsterdam: 1646-1705) (Solum 1993). Of the true three-joint baroque flute itself we have two dozen surviving examples by makers from Berchtesgaden, Berlin, Leipzig, London, Nuremburg, and Paris (Powell and Lasocki 1995), each of whom had a strong personal style and very highly developed skills. Though the "Hotteterre" style instrument is generally cited as the archetype of the early baroque flute, it is by no means certain where or precisely when the three-joint instrument with a conical bore and one key first appeared (see note 8 below).

The process of designing wind-instruments is illustrated by a description of the development of the recorder and oboe in France in the 1680s, by the famous flutist Michel de la Barre:

...the Filidors and the Hautteterres. . . spoiled so much wood and played so much music that they finally suceeded in making [the oboe] usable in ensembles.6

The statement supports what we can learn by studying surviving three-joint instruments, which are quite different from one another: that each maker arrived at the design of his flutes by independent experiment.

In his autobiography J.J. Quantz describes the state of composition (outside France) for the flute in the years before 1720:

At that time there were few compositions written especially for the flute. One had to make do for the most part with compositions for the oboe and violin, which one had to arrange as well as possible for one's purpose.7

An obstacle to playing oboe or violin music on the flute was that the flute's low register ended at D'. Downward extensions of the range were hailed as a novel invention by London flutemakers John Mason and Caleb Gedney in 1756.8 But a response to their claims by another London maker, Charles Schuchart, shows that such extensions had been known to his father John Just in Germany before 1720. Independent confirmation that they were used in England is given by visitors to Pierre Jaillard Bressan's shop in London in 1725 (Byrne 1983), and in Germany by an illustration in Majer's 1732 treatise and a mention by Quantz (1752, 34). A sole surviving such instrument by Jacob Denner, with a low C but no C#, is in the Germanisches Nationalmuseum in Nuremberg; a second one has gone missing from the Berlin museum. Such lower extensions could have been quite widely practised, but did not catch on.9

Around 1720 the three-joint flute was divided into four. The long middle section with six holes was replaced by two shorter ones, joined by a tenon and socket in the middle, and having three holes each. Why, and precisely when and where this occurred remain uncertain. The event was first mentioned by Quantz, who wrote in 1752 that it had taken place "about thirty years ago".10 According to Quantz, the purpose of the division was to allow interchangeable middle joints, or corps de rechange, to vary the pitch of the flute, but this explanation has been questioned since 1791 (Tromlitz 1791, 25). A four-joint flute by Amsterdam maker Thomas Boekhout, now unfortunately lost, was catalogued in 1922 (Sachs 1922, 1.643), and since Boekhout's business shut down when he died in 1715, it is possible that flutes in four sections were made half a decade before Quantz, still principally an oboist at the time, got to hear of it. The division had the effect of allowing the maker greater access to the central part of the bore (Powell 1995): whether this was cause or effect, enlargements of the bore at the top of the heartpiece are found in some early 4-joint flutes, a further sign of experimentation.

The possibility of supplying corps de rechange to alter the pitch is first documented in a promissory note from the flutist Desjardins to the widow Naust dated December 30th 1721, referring to a flute with three "cors"(Giannini 1993, 9). At least two Paris makers were accustomed to making instruments for use in other cities where different pitch standards were in use: J.J. Rippert made instruments for customers in London and Frankfurt, with those made for LondonÄÄto supplement ones by Nicolas (Colin) Hotteterre already in useÄÄtuned to the higher pitch standard there (Giannini 1993, 44-46 n.11). As more and more establishments began to adopt the higher of two common chamber-music pitches (a=408-415cps) in preference to the lower (a=390-400cps), makers were faced with the problem of reinventing the instrument to work well at the higher pitch, or even to work well at several pitches. The earliest dated instrument with corps de rechange to survive to the present is one stamped "1736" by Charles Bizey (Paris: fl. 1716-1753) in the Germanisches Nationalmuseum in Nuremberg.

When changing the pitch of a flute by replacing the upper middle joint with a longer or shorter one, it was necessary to move the cork in or out in relation to the embouchure hole so as to keep the octaves in tune (Quantz 1752, 32; Tromlitz 1791, 32-38). The first mention of a screw device for moving the cork is by Quantz (ibid.), at which date he also refers to the invention of the foot-register "not very long ago" (op. cit., 33). Antoine Mahaut claimed that both were invented by Quantz's teacher, the Royal Saxon flutist Pierre-Gabriel Buffardin, not known as a maker himself (Mahaut 1759, 1). Tromlitz claimed to have made independent improvements in the devices, such as adding a gauge to the screw-cork to indicate its position, but he may not have been the first to do so. And the screw-cork and register were not in universal use: Thomas Lot (Paris: 1708-1786), whose workshop made instruments for countless fashionable and noble customers, as well as for flute virtuosi Blavet, Philidor, Piéche, Naudot and Wendling, (Giannini 1993) is survived by thirty-one flutes, not one of which is equipped with screw-cork or register.

Another innovation which did not gain general acceptance was the D# key. Quantz had such a key added to his flute while in Paris in 1726, and though he explains the reason for this in the Versuch, (Quantz 1752, 46), he appears to have been largely ignored, or misunderstood, ever since. Tromlitz, perhaps because he felt the principles of correct meantone tuning were so little heeded by most musicians forty years on, places greater emphasis on the subject, and gives us a more thorough explanation (Tromlitz 1791, 65ff.). The two-keyed flute was considered, at least by some, to be the most advanced and rational form of the flute late enough to be included in the Supplement to Diderot's Encyclopedie (Halfpenny 1956).

The headjoint tuning slide, a tenon and socket arrangement in the headjoint to enable it to be pulled out to lower the pitch, is associated with the name of Quantz. In fact it was not new in the mid-eighteenth century: a bass Renaissance flute by Jacopo Neni was made with a tuning slide quite some time before the conical- bore instrument was thought of (Young 1980, 30). By the end of the eighteenth century, Tromlitz thought it a very poor idea, as it would have the effect of enlarging the headjoint bore at the point where the tenon was pulled out, spoiling the flute's tone (Tromlitz 1791, 32). Late eighteenth-century English flutes by Richard Potter (1726-1806) and others commonly had metal-lined tuning slides in the headjoint, a device he patented along with the pewter plug keys, graduated screw-cork and register, and added keys, in 1785.11 Headjoints entirely lined with brass became commonplace, especially in England, before the end of the century, though German writers disapproved heartily on account of the hardening effect on the flute's tone. Fully-lined heads made it possible to make a tuning slide only as thick as the metal itself, which minimised the disturbance to the bore. Seamless thin-wall brass tubing became generally available about 1800 (Sydenham 1979, 68); even after this makers fabricated their own tubing by soldering a sheet of brass on a mandrel.


The history of lower extensions to the flute's range and of the D# key shows that the addition of keywork to the flute did not present any technical obstacles which might have prevented still further keys being added as far back as the 1720s. 12 But we have no evidence that any attempts were made in this direction, except for the use of open-standing keys on bass flutes to enable the player to reach the very widely- spaced holes (Smith 1979, 4). Instead makers seem to have been concentrating on finding exactly the right combination of bore, wallthickness, tonehole spacing, size and undercutting, to produce the results they wanted. They must have believed that a solution to the few outstanding problems of the flute existed in Nature and that such a solution, though it was too complicated to be advertised by any natural law such as the ones Lambert was seeking, could be found by experiment. This view was still held as late as 1811 by a man who was a both brilliant inventor and had, ironically enough, become famous for his keyed flutes. Saxon court instrument-maker Heinrich Grenser believed that "the greatest art consists in building flutes on which everything may be done without keys":

"Not in the multiplication of keys, no, in the utmost simplicity of the flute, without sacrificing anything to fashion, must this beautiful instrument be brought to true perfection."13

The addition and acceptance of additional keys was a complicated and gradual process, an accurate history of which can only be approached when the history of the one- and two-keyed flute is better understood than it is today. Many professional wind players avoided the new keys until the ends of their lives. They met with resistance for many reasons (Burgess unpublished): they do not make more slurs possible; they leak, and can be hit by mistake; they may be useful for solos, but orchestral parts are too easy to require them; and finally--and this is a point which reminds us that the flute is only a utensil for making music of whatever kind--the player's technique must be of a level that makes the instrument itself seem insignificant.

Ardal Powell is a partner with Catherine Folkers in Folkers & Powell, makers of historical flutes, and editor of the baroque flute newsletter, TRAVERSO. He is a 1993-4 Fellow of the National Endowment for the Humanities' program for Independent Scholars. His study project is entitled "The Keyed Flute: Tehcnology and Musical Style in the Late Eighteenth Century."


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Lambert 1777           Lambert, Johann Heinrich, "Observations
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Landes 1983            Landes, David S., Revolution in Time:
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Leutmann 1772          Johann Georg Leutmann,                     
                       Vollständige Nachricht von den
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                       Theil, Halle, 1772, Pt.2, Ch. 10
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McNeil 1990            McNeil, Ian, ed., An Encyclopaedia of
                       the History of Technology, London and
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Mahaut 1759            Mahaut, Antoine, Nouvelle Méthode
                       pour Aprendre en peu de tems a Joüer
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                       Eileen Hadidian.
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                       University Press, 1989
Majer 1732             Majer, Joseph Friedrich Bernhard Caspar,
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Myers 1980             Myers, Herbert W., "The Practical
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Nettl 1951             Nettl, Paul, Forgotten Musicians,
                       New York: Philosphical Library, 1951
Nickel 1971            Nickel, Ekkehart, Der
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                       Reichsstadt Nürnberg, Munich:
                       Emil Katzbichler, 1971
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1Examples of the need to understand contemporary tooling and methods in the study of historical woodwinds are found in Karp 1978.
2Tromlitz 1786, referring to Joseph Tacet (?-1801), London flutist.
3Solum 1993, 64, claims Boie invented the pewter plugs. This seems to rely on Rockstro 1890, para. 384, where the assertion is made without citing a source. Boie's own attribution to Tacet would seem to dispose of any possibility that he may have invented them himself.
4Statuts, ordonnances, lettres de création, arrests de sentence de la communauté des maistres faiseurs d'instruments de musique. De la ville et faubourgs de Paris. Paris: Grou, 1741. Extensive documentation of Paris guild activity is in Loubet de Sceaury 1949. See also Sentence de Monsieur le Lieutenant General de police, rendé en faveur de la communauté des maŒtres faiseurs d'instrumens de musique. Contre la communauté des maŒtres tabletiers. Du quatorze juillet 1741. Gilles Lot obtained judgement in a 1752 lawsuit against Charles Bizey, Thomas Lot, Paul Villars, Denis Vincent and Jacques [de] Lusse, master instrument-makers, who had conspired to prevent him being admitted as a master. G. Lot's qualifications were: he had served 5 years as an apprentice with Thomas Lot, his cousin, one year with Bizey, then worked for Leclerc and married his daughter (Pierre 1893, 40-60).
5Inventory listings are given by Marcelle Benoit and Norbert Dufourcq in various volumes of "Recherches" and in Giannini 1993
6"Mémoire de M. de la Barre: sur les musettes et hautbois &c.", cited in Prod'homme 1912, 244. The wind-instrument playing families of Philidor and especially Hotteterre are still given credit by most modern writers with having invented the conical-bore flute at about the same time as the oboe was developed, largely on the strength of de la Barre's testimony. But we are to rely on his statement at all we must actually rule out this possibility, for it continues:

From that time on, bagpipes were left to shepherds; violins, recorders, theorboes and viols took their place--for the transverse flute did not come along until later.

Thus de la Barre did not credit any member of the Hotteterre family with introducing the baroque flute, and does not himself seem to know where it came from.Quantz (Quantz 1752, I.5) merely guesses that the flute underwent the same changes as the oboe and bassoon at the same time and place; and he only guesses after admitting that "who its originator was cannot be fixed with certainty, although I have spared no pains to discover reliable answers."
7"Herrn Johann Joachim Quantzens Lebenslauf, von ihm selbst entworfen", in F.W. Marpurg, Historisch-critisch Beyträge zur Aufnahme der Musik, I (1755), 197-250. Translated in Nettl 1951.
8 Byrne 1965. Toff 1979, 25- 6, mistakenly asserts that Florio, Gedney and Richard Potter revived the lower extension "in about 1774". This piece of conjecture seems to have originated with Baines 1966, 294. But it is contradicted not only by the Mason and Gedney announcments of 1756 cited in Byrne 1965, but also by the existence of the Gedney flute dated 1769 mentioned above and in Bate 1969, 97.
9 SeePowell and Lasocki 1995. 40% of the German 3-joint flutes surviving to this century had a C-foot. An advertisement appeared as late as 1748 for what seems to be a flute with a C-foot: "A Denner traverso in ivory, with gilded keys [sic], can be had together with its case lined with red cloth" (Kirnbauer and Thalheimer 1995). In the thinly veiled piece of sales propaganda headed "Newly invented means for the improvement of the flute" [Neu erfundene Vortheile zur bessern Einrichtung der Flöte] in Tromlitz 1786, Tromlitz says he used to make foot extensions to low C twenty or thirty years before, but gave up as they did not become popular in Germany owing to their detrimental effect on the flute's tone.
10Quantz 1752, 31. Quantz has been followed by nearly all subsequent authors.
11Rockstro 1890, para. 473. Almost certainly, none of these was Potter's own invention.
12Halbig 1924. On p.43 Halbig cites a Sourdeline depicted in Mersenne's Harmonie Universelle II, Proposition XXX, 293ff., having an extensive system of closed chromatic keywork. A similar system was used on the musette, popular at the French court in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Smith 1979 points out that the Hotteterres were making heavily keyed musettes at the same time as they were (supposedly) contributing to the genesis of the baroque flute.
13Nicht in der Anzahl der Klappen, nein, in der möglichsten Einfachheit der Flöte, ohne Eleganz etwas aufzuopfern, muss die wahre Vervollkommung dieses schönen Instruments gemacht werden. H. Grenser, letter to Allgemeine Musikalische Zeitung 46, 13 November, 1811, col.775.

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