The life and work of John Clinton, cont.
Some unanswered questions
The wonderful thing about research projects such as
this is that they never seem to end!
This one is no exception. Several
questions come immediately to mind, and we intend to pursue them as time
and opportunity allow. We
feel that the answers to these questions will provide further clarity
into Clinton’s thinking at the time in question. The main lines of
inquiry are as follows:
were the performance defects in the 1832 Boehm flute that Clinton wanted
to overcome, and how well did he succeed with the 1851 model?
It was obviously a perception of deficiencies based
on performance that drove Clinton to Munich and eventually to developing
his own flute designs. While he acknowledged the improved ring-keyed 1832 Boehm
flute to be a great advance over earlier conical-bored models, he
clearly felt impelled to promote further improvements along certain
definite lines (with which Boehm apparently did not agree), in
particular the conical bore. So his basic standard of comparison would
have been the 1832 Boehm. It has to be assumed that Clinton felt that
his 1851 flute (our present study) was a step forward from the 1832
Boehm in terms of performance. Otherwise,
why develop it? And
certainly, why enter it in the 1851 Exhibition? There must have been a basis for Clinton to hold such a view.
We have discussed Clinton’s developmental preferences at length above
– the issue is: how well
did these preferences stack up in terms of performance
against Boehm’s 1832 efforts?? Did Clinton succeed in developing a
conical-bore flute that was markedly superior to the 1832 Boehm in real
So a line of future research must be to examine and
test a playable example of a pre-1847 Rudall & Rose conical-bored
Boehm flute (of the type played by Clinton, in other words).
We will note the differences between the Boehm flute and the 1851
Clinton and attempt to extrapolate and (if appropriate) justify
Clinton’s thinking based on the changes made and the results achieved.
further improvements to his own flute was Clinton seeking in developing
the 1855 Equisonant flute?
showing of this particular instrument, Clinton had by 1851 produced a
very fine 8-key variant with most of the advantages kept intact and most
of the deficiencies overcome. So
what was left to do?? Why
did he end up not marketing this model and choose instead to continue
his research?? The answers
can perhaps best be sought by examining and testing a playable
Equisonant flute to see what, if any, improvements were actually
achieved between 1851 and 1855. We
hope to do this in the near future.
sound was Clinton’s judgement in putting his 1851 flute up against the
opposition in the 1851 Exhibition?
As noted above, Clinton’s entry of this flute in
the 1851 Exhibition was a giant leap of faith for which he must surely
have perceived a sound basis. After
all, the risks in terms of potential loss of professional credibility
were enormous. Clinton must have known this, and he must certainly have
had access to examples of all the then-competing designs.
He therefore had the motive and the opportunity to evaluate his
own design against the competition.
The fact that he went ahead with the entry clearly demonstrates
his belief that his new flute could hold its own.
How sound was his judgement in this regard??
We know the Jury’s opinion, but were they right??
The only rational way to answer this point is to apply the same
analytical techniques used on the Clinton flute to playable examples of
as many of the competing designs as possible to establish an objective
comparison, as well as seeking opinions on the relative merits of these
flutes from the player’s perspective. We intend to undertake this work as time and circumstance