Cornelius Ward - The Flute Explained


We shall conclude with a brief recapitulation of the points of prominent importance, occurring in the preceding pages; and with one or two remarks, which could not with propriety have been introduced elsewhere.

The radical error of the ordinary flute consists in its excessive deviation from the true position of the apertures.

The supposed necessary adherence to the established system of fingering, in connexion with the preceding, renders the old flute absolutely incurable: the exhausted ingenuity of half a century having fully shown that improvements in anyone particular can only be attained at the expense of some other.

The old flute, therefore, has never gained the respect of the true musician:­ being incorrigible, it never can; it will consequently from the invention of a perfect substitute, speedily and inevitably sink into disuse.

The Boehm flute is free from the first named objection to the old flute. It is perforated with tolerable accuracy; but here its merits end. It cannot be used in accordance with its apparent design.

It requires numerous closed holes, cross-fingerings, alternating action, cramped and unnatural application of the manual powers, the frequent employment of harmonics, &c., &c.; with the necessary results of unequal power, varying character, and general inferiority in quality of tone.           

Its fingering, also, is in the highest degree immethodical, awkward, difficult both to learn and to apply, and deficient in many of the important requisites for skilful and refined performance.

The New Patent Flute is perforated truly, and in accordance with philosophical principles, both as to its bore, and its lateral apertures.

Its design, execution, and manipulation are strictly co-relative; that is to say, its mechanism provides the necessary means for reaping the full benefit of the scientific arrangement of its apertures.

Its fingering is systematic, regular, easy, and easily acquired. One hole is opened for a semitone, two for a tone, in regular progression; and every hole below that which determines a fundamental tone remains open.  

There are no cross-fingerings, no alternating action, no contravention of the mechanics or anatomy of the human hand.

This flute can be tuned with the most perfect accuracy to any desired temperament. All its shakes, major and minor, are in tune; and, as well as the turns, tremolos, glidings, or other graces, are performed with an ease and accuracy and to an extent hitherto unparalleled.

The necessity for varying, irregular action of the embouchure - that source of endless study and labour - is entirely abolished.

Its tone is powerful, brilliant, and mellow, throughout the extent of its scales; is of equal character and power under the application of equal action, and is produced with ease, freedom, and certainty.

Theoretically it results, and practically it has been most amply proved, that this flute presents facilities not surpassed by any other instrument for the ready attainment of a mastery in execution, expression, correct intonation, and all the requisites for the artistic performance of music, in a much shorter time than was required for the indifferent effects of the old imperfect flute.

In the mechanical construction, the choice of materials, and the style of workmanship, great attention has been paid to ensure delicate, certain, and permanent action; elegant appearance, lightness, freedom from liability to injury, and durability.

It has none of the long, unsupported levers or key-handles of the old flute; no wooden supports or projections, no pins, no joints to work loose, to require wrapping, or to cause the splitting of the socket. Its stopping is perfect, the motion of its keys certain and noiseless, and it is furnished with a tuning head of extraordinary accuracy and convenient application.

Any possible objections to the universal introduction of this instrument, can only be of very temporary prevalence.

The novelty of its fingering is only a temporary inconvenience. The loss of attainments by practitioners on the old flute is a temporary inconvenience; and any indecision as to the claims of this and other flutes, we unhesitatingly class in the same category, as of very temporary duration.

While, on the other hand, all the advantages realised, are important, solid, and permanent.

In the preceding recapitulation, our language may be considered strong and confident. But our strength lies in facts; our confidence in our conviction of the truth; and our justification, in the concurrent testimony of all who have become acquainted with the instrument; including among such very many of the first professors and amateurs, who are much better judges, and certainly more disinterested advocates, than ourselves. 

Independently of the obvious and admitted merits of this invention; various collateral advantages have supervened, which may have a very extensive influence on the future employment of the flute. To instance but one. The closeness of the finger-apertures in the patent flute is in itself, and directly, a most remarkable advantage; giving immense facility for execution, as well as great ease and perfection in the proper closing of the apertures; but independently of this direct result, a wide field is thereby opened out for the facile and practical extension of the flute scale downwards. 

Considering the extraordinary beauty and power attained in the lower notes of the patent flute, it is not improbable that it may hereafter be deemed expedient, for the production of new orchestral effects, to introduce flutes of lower pitch than those hitherto employed. Now, the closeness of the apertures in the patent flute, the absence of joints, and the arrangement of its mechanism, confer the power of accomplishing this desideratum, to a most extraordinary extent.

We mean to say, that henceforward, effective flutes can be made of the pitch of C, Bb or A, below the present flute, and yet be perfectly within the easy command of the fingers.

In a word, the above, and other collateral advantages, form a most grateful and unexpected, yet not unnatural reward, in return for the frank adoption and steady adherence to correct principle; a result as certain in flute making, as in any other pursuit.

The sensation created by the first private exhibition of the powers of this instrument, - the delight it has given and continues to give in the numerous private musical parties, and "concerts de société" in the metropolis, - the excitement and controversy it has originated among manufacturers and the profession, - leading to the tacit general condemnation of the old flute, - its adoption by many of the first-rate professors and amateurs, - the large number sold, be it observed, without advertisement, - these form unmistakeable proofs of its intrinsic excellence. 

If further proof be wanting, it will shortly be supplied by professors of great talent, who are preparing for its public exhibition in the season about to commence. Indeed, we have never yet met with one single disinterested objection to the instrument. To the old manufacturers, and to professors of hard-earned eminence, a few lingering regrets and parting struggles in favour of an old friend, may be conceded. We can even tolerate their  

" Thankful glance of parting praise."

But to what, we ask, does such praise amount? Why should they triumphantly point to Nicholson, and other great masters, except to give a well-deserved tribute to their unconquerable industry and musical talent. It proves nothing as to the flute. What they did, they did in spite of its defects: and how they did it, what toils they passed through, what incredible extent of irksome practice they endured, as a necessary introduction to even moderate performance, were all unseen, unknown, un-noted.

Had one small fraction of that time been expended on a more worthy instrument, a much more musician-like result would have been obtained, and the remaining portion of that most valuable commodity, time, would have been available for the general purposes of life, or for achieving musical triumphs never before anticipated from the flute. "Il Flauto Magico," would have been no misnomer. 

Do not let us be deemed speaking in the language of hyperbole. We can point to several flutists, who, with four weeks practice on our instrument, have acquired a skill and proficiency, previously denied to the untiring industry of forty years.

It has been our wish throughout this work to speak "the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth;" and whilst, in the fulfilment of this design, facts and proceedings within the legitimate range of our subject have been boldly and uncompromisingly called by their true names, we hope it will be found, that in no case have we gone out of our way, or introduced matter or observations irrelevant to the direct purpose of our undertaking.

But it is time we should conclude. Book-making is not indeed our forte so much as flute making; and we must apologise for numerous literary faults which we are conscious will be observed in the course of this little work. We trust, however, we have fulfilled the promise of the title page, and that our reader is to some extent in possession of data for forming an opinion as to the merits of our invention. If, when his opinions are matured by recourse to other sources of information, he should incline to test them practically, our experience warrants our promising, that, when in the possession of the New Patent Flute, he will be confirmed in the truth of our "explanation;" and we think will never find cause to regret having

" Paid too dear for his whistle."  

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