How the Flute has developed throughout time up to the point of Boehm and his 1847 flute, due to technical advancements and different playing requirements
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How the Flute has developed throughout time up to the point of Boehm and his 1847 flute, due to technical advancements and different playing requirements The Flute has been for a considerable length of time one, if not the most popular of all woodwind instruments. Its small size and substantial range in tonal colours and pitch are just some of the things that mean it has a lot to offer even the most basic of players. However the flute that is played now is very different to instruments 300 years ago. It also can pride itself on being one of the oldest instruments, dating back to recorders and pre - renaissance times. The Renaissance flutes, were extremely different to modern flutes, not only because they were made out of wood, but because they only had 6 holes rather than the 16 holes/ keys which are found on modern flutes. They also did not have the lip plate. Unlike Modern flutes which are assembled from three main parts, renaissance flutes would be made from a single piece of wood, i.e. they would be one piece (see picture below). However, although rarely used in the Classical tradition within the west today, other than to create authentic performances of renaissance music, similar flutes are extremely common in Asia and India where they are famous with the association of snake charmers.
and the institution of new, rational and logical principles (cylindrical bore with large holes in acoustically correct positions, open-standing keys, and a sophisticated mechanism). This was not just 'evolution', but 'revolution'. The result was almost a new kind of instrument. In fact, it was argued by some that the character of the Boehm flute was different-that it was no longer had the charm or effect of the 'true flute'. There would be much resistance to it in some places and by some individuals. This revolutionary design change did not happen all at once. There were numerous experiments by Boehm and others over many years. Boehm freely incorporated available mechanical and acoustic ideas. But only Boehm had the courage to throw out the entire old system and start over-while at the same time having the engineering know-how to produce something that actually worked. One would not know from his published music that Boehm was anything but happy with the flutes of the time. But he, like others, was well aware of certain deficiencies of the simple system flute: the unevenness or inequality of tone, the occasional difficulty of intonation, and the lack of volume. It may in fact be the lack of volume that bothered Boehm most about the old flute. He performed in London in 1831 and his sound was compared unfavourably to that of the English virtuoso Charles Nicholson (1795-1837), whose powerful tone was said to resemble that of the organ.
it had to serve as a vent hole for the d'''). The resulting tone and sharpness of c''# remains one of the few defects on the Boehm flute. Otherwise, Boehm was pleased with the tone. It is flexible, but tends to be much richer, especially in the low notes, than the conical bore flute. The octaves will not be perfectly in tune on a completely cylindrical flute. For an extreme example of this phenomenon, consider the renaissance flute. Because of its small diameter cylindrical bore and small tone holes, the octaves are very narrow. The a'' and b'' are so flat when one attempts to play them by over blowing the first octave that different fingerings must be used in the second. It is true that with larger holes and bore, as on many cylindrical ethnic flutes, and with proper cork placement and perhaps adjustments by the player, the first two octaves are pretty well in tune. But Boehm had to make a flute to play three octaves, because that is what the flute music of his time required. Boehm's solution-to getting all three octaves in tune-was to put a taper in the head joint. This cannot be seen externally on a wooden head, but is evident on a metal head. Boehm's 1847 flute remains to this day the basis for all flute making techniques and design. This is unlikely to change anywhere in the near future.
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