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Thread: Flutes

  1. #1
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    Default Flutes

    It is just a flute. But then, that is a bit like saying a bike is just a bike.


    This flute was first made in 1904 by the English company Rudall Carte who were leaders in the manufacture and development of the flute from the early part of the 19th century to the 1950s.

    They were a flute manufacturing company but not in the way Colt, for example, was a gun manufacturing company. Rudall Carte did not have a production line. They employed a number of individual workers. Each worker was given a workbench and, if it was a wooden flute, a wooden body turned by hand by the company woodturner, some sheet silver and some silver rod. One maker was entirely responsible for one flute and was expected to shape all the keywork by hand forging from the silver raw material. Even the silver tubes for the keys were made by bending a sheet of silver around a mandrel and silver soldering a seam. The soldering was done using a gas pipe connected to the domestic coal gas supply with a mouth blown tube to add a bit of extra air when necessary to increase the heat of the flame. This meant that, although the flutes were made to a pattern, there were variations between instruments depending on the skill and inclination of the individual maker. The flute shown here was made by Henri Schumacher, acknowledged to be one of the best of the makers, who was French born and headhunted by Rudall Carte when the company was expanding rapidly in the 1880s.

    I said the flute was first made in 1904. In the nineteenth and early 20th century most orchestras in England played at the high pitch A=452. By the 1920s this had fallen out of use and the modern standard A=440 (or A=439) was adopted. This was little problem if you were a violinist or other string instrument player, you just re-tuned your instrument. Wind instrument players needed longer instruments to play at the lower pitch and that meant buying a new instrument.

    Rudall Carte offered the option of re-building one of their high pitched instruments to a lower pitch. This meant re-fitting all the keywork to new longer, low pitch bodies. As the holes were spaced further apart in the low pitched instruments the keywork had to be completely taken apart and re-spaced on new longer straps and silver tubes and steel rods. This was very labour intensive but as their way of flute manufacture was anyway extremely labour intensive, it was cheaper to have a high pitched instrument re-built to low pitch than to buy a completely new instrument. This flute was re-built to modern (low) pitch in the late 1920s which preserved Henri Schumacher's keywork to live another day.


    A comparison between a high pitched and a low pitched flute showing the longer body of the low pitched instrument and different spacing of the keys.


    I play this instrument almost daily and I can not do so without thinking of Henri Schumacher, about his life in France and London, and whether he knew that his work would give so much pleasure to someone nearly a hundred years after his death.
     

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    Default Re: Flutes

    That is a lovely story and I am a little smarter for it. Had no idea A440 was not always the standard. FWIIW my sis was going to be a professional (Flute) and studied in Paris with DeBost after leaving Rampal (he was such a perv). She later left that as a pursuit and now is in the entertainment biz. She is still a fantastic Flute player.

    In another life I played Bassoon! Go figure?

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    Default Re: Flutes

    Both of my kids played flute in the school band. I have to admit I was indifferent to the instrument until I had one in the house. Thank you for this.
     

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    Default Re: Flutes

    Amazing the craftsmanship that went into making that. It is a work of art.

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    Default Re: Flutes

    I am struck at how refined the mechanisms are given that it is a hundred years old. They had a very clear vision of what the instrument should be and how it should operate.

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    Default Re: Flutes

    Quote Originally Posted by Diablo de Acero View Post
    I am struck at how refined the mechanisms are given that it is a hundred years old. They had a very clear vision of what the instrument should be and how it should operate.
    The mechanism of the flute most widely played today was worked out and patented by Theobald Boehm in 1847. This has stood the test of time. When the flute I have shown was made, the Boehm 1847 system had been in use for over 50 years and is by far the most common flute system used today. There are other systems and inventors still come up with new variations. In the 19th and early 20th centuries, in England at least, there were many other options available and some of these flutes were still in use by professional orchestral players up to the 1980s. My flute is in fact a Rockstro's model but this is so close to Boehm's system there is little difficulty changing from one to the other.

    rc.jpg
     

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    Default Re: Flutes

    Berners Street is still going strong, even if this manufacturer is not. When my children were young one played the piano and the other the flute while I prepared breakfast. Thank you for the memories as it was a lovely start to the day.
     

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    Default Re: Flutes

    Quote Originally Posted by Too Tall View Post

    In another life I played Bassoon! Go figure?
    /thread hijack -

    Paul Hanson+Bassoon+Trane

     

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    Default Re: Flutes

    Quote Originally Posted by slwrnu View Post
    Berners Street is still going strong, even if this manufacturer is not. When my children were young one played the piano and the other the flute while I prepared breakfast. Thank you for the memories as it was a lovely start to the day.
    In the late 1950s and early 1960s some of the Rudall Carte workers left the firm and set up on their own or in partnership (The Flutemakers Guild) to continue making and repairing flutes. The most famous of these is probably Albert Cooper who died in 2011. He made flutes for many of the top professionals and also made significant developments to the headjoint of the flute and to the scale of the flute. He formed a partnership with the important USA flutemakers Brannen Brothers Brannen Brothers Flutemakers, Inc. | Massachusetts USA | Home who still produce Brannen-Cooper flutes and Brannen-Cooper flute headjoints so the spirit of Rudall Carte lives on in the USA.

    I was fortunate enough to meet Albert Cooper in the late 1990s before he became ill. My favourite picture of him shows him in his workshop. Obviously you don't need a tidy workshop to have a tidy output. But maybe for him it was tidy. There is a partly finished instrument propped up near the lamp.
     

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    Default Re: Flutes

    excellent bench. sometimes you need chaos to know where everything is.
     

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    Default Re: Flutes

    I really like that picture of that bench, and I am never showing it to my kids.
    Dan Fuller, local bicycle enthusiast

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    Default Re: Flutes

    In another life I played Bassoon! Go figure?[/QUOTE]

    At St.Olaf? We live pretty much “ across the street”. The music my kids are exposed to in this community is amazing!
     

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