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Siccama!

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  • Terry McGee
    Hi all If you ve read Rockstro, you may remember his poisonous references to Siccama, which have continued to be regurgitated by modern writers, rather like
    Message 1 of 11 , Nov 1, 2003

      Hi all

      If you've read Rockstro, you may remember his poisonous references to Siccama, which have continued to be regurgitated by modern writers, rather like his references to Clinton.  So it's interesting and refreshing to discover a document, previously (to my knowledge) unpublished which amply illustrates that Siccama's flute was highly regarded at the time.  An example of the many testimonials included:

      Flutonicon, for March, 1847

      "We have taken four months to examine this instrument, because our judgement should not be hastily formed.  We have played upon it with renewed, and consequently, renewing zest - and every time we take it up, we wonder over and over again, how it has been that flute-makers have overlooked, or rather not seen the very thing that Mr. Siccama  has accomplished.  Now, it is done, everybody can see how it is accomplished.  Yet that nobody did see it but Mr. Siccama, is quite certain.  See the clumsy though ingenious complexities of Boehm in his attempt to gain the same end.  See the keys, the wires, and the new and complex contrivances, which this latter gentleman exhibits in the Boehm flute.  The remedy being actually worse than the disease.  For the tone on the latter is lost in order to gain perfect intonation.  The tone on the Boehm flute is tubby, unvibrative and unresonant.  Our purpose however is not to praise Mr. Siccama 's flute at the expense of Mr. Boehm's, but it is hardly possible to speak of this new invention without adverting to the other.  It is done here in no invidious sense, but simply to illustrate our meaning.  A complex machinery to affect a simple end always excites our suspicion that it is not the best way.  Nature is touched and sounded by primitive means oftener than by abtruse ones.  If we look at these two new inventions - with this idea a priori, to guide us - the rare simplicity of Mr. Siccama's flute is at once apparent."

      I've reproduced the document at:

      http://www.mcgee-flutes.com/Sicc-1851.htm

      Terry

                        Terry McGee

               61 Calder Crescent, Holder ACT 2611 Australia
                Phone +61 (0)2 6288 8006, Fax +61 (0)2 6287 4263       
               mailto: terry@...                   
              http://www.mcgee-flutes.com

                 - wooden flutes for Irish and classical music
               - wooden flute research, restorations and repairs
               - Irish music group, Ballyhooley
               - maintenance of the National Carillon, Canberra


      Assisted by the Commonwealth Government through the Australia Council, its arts funding and advisory body, and by the ACT Government through its Cultural Council.

    • Ardal Powell
      ... to ... *Some* modern writers, Terry. You re right that a lot of modern writing on the flute is nothing but regurgitated 19th-century pap. But times are
      Message 2 of 11 , Nov 1, 2003
        --- In earlyflute@yahoogroups.com, Terry McGee <terry@m...> wrote:

        > If you've read Rockstro, you may remember his poisonous references
        to
        > Siccama, which have continued to be regurgitated by modern writers,

        *Some* modern writers, Terry. You're right that a lot of modern
        writing on the flute is nothing but regurgitated 19th-century pap. But
        times are changing, and this type of writing won't do any longer.

        On the rehabilitation of figures such as Clinton and Siccama, I wonder
        how effective it is to try to counter 20th-century prejudice by
        quoting examples of the same vice in its 19th-century manifestations.
        The Siccama material on your web page is valuable, even though as an
        exhibition brochure it makes no pretence at being impartial, and
        thanks for posting it. But the Flutonicon report you quote in your
        post here conveys nothing beyond the writer's apoplectic hatred of the
        Boehm flute. Were people like this really the only ones in favor of
        Siccama's instruments?

        Ardal
        ___________________________________________________________
        Ardal Powell
        Author of The Flute (Yale Musical Instrument Series, 2002) *
        http://TheBook.flutehistory.com
        Folkers & Powell, Makers of Historical Flutes * http://www.
        baroqueflute.com
        Full Circle Flute Co Ltd * http://www.headjoints.com
      • Robert Bigio
        ... Siccama s flute is, to my mind, the best of what I call the conical semi-Boehm instruments of the 1840s, by which I mean the ones that adopted Boehm s
        Message 3 of 11 , Nov 1, 2003
          Ardal Powell <ardal@...> writes:

          >On the rehabilitation of figures such as Clinton and Siccama, I wonder
          >how effective it is to try to counter 20th-century prejudice by
          >quoting examples of the same vice in its 19th-century manifestations.
          >The Siccama material on your web page is valuable, even though as an
          >exhibition brochure it makes no pretence at being impartial, and
          >thanks for posting it. But the Flutonicon report you quote in your
          >post here conveys nothing beyond the writer's apoplectic hatred of the
          >Boehm flute. Were people like this really the only ones in favor of
          >Siccama's instruments?

          Siccama's flute is, to my mind, the best of what I call the conical
          "semi-Boehm" instruments of the 1840s, by which I mean the ones that
          adopted Boehm's principle of large, evenly-spaced holes but retained the
          old system of fingering as much as possible. Others of this type include
          Richard Carte's conical "Patent" flute (which he didn't actually
          patent), made by Rudall & Rose, of which I believe I own the only
          surviving example, and Clinton's various instruments, which seem to have
          been based on Carte's. Not many of Carte's conical "Patent" flutes seem
          to have been made, which suggests it was not a popular model, and the
          few surviving Clinton flutes suggest that he may have been somewhat
          extravagant in his numbering, which reaches over 5000. (About two dozen
          Clinton flutes survive, as opposed to many hundreds of Rudall & Rose
          flutes. Rudall & Rose, later Rudall, Rose & Carte, numbered about 7000
          eight-keyed flutes. If Clinton really produced as many as he claimed,
          wouldn't more have survived?)

          I believe Siccama's flute is better and probably more marketable than
          the other two because it is much simpler in design. It just looks much
          more like a standard 8-keyed flute, and I would imagine a mid-19th
          century player would feel that this flute would be easier to maintain
          than one of Carte's or Clinton's more complicated mechanisms. Siccama's
          flutes are exquisitely crafted, too. I have one, and it is a lovely
          piece of work. The interesting thing to me, though, is that Siccama and
          the others were trying to sell flutes to people who wanted to make a
          sound like a Boehm flute, but who didn't want to learn a new fingering
          system. The next generation of flute players seems not to have been
          worried about this.

          All that said, Siccama's business did not survive, Clinton's business
          did not survive, but Rudall & Rose (and later Rudall Carte) survived for
          150 years, during which time they supplied flutes to just about every
          professional player in Britain. I have the company's stock records from
          1869, from which date I can tell you that every last flute player you
          have ever heard of played one of their instruments, Boehm system, 1867
          Patent, Radcliff or whatever. Doesn't this suggest that the British
          market in the second half of the19th century preferred what we now call
          modern flutes? I appreciate this is an outrageous suggestion to make on
          the early flute list, but as interesting as the Siccama flute was, the
          market at the time clearly preferred something else.

          It is important, too, to consider how various makers marketed their
          wares. Siccama had to advertise heavily to sell his flutes. When Siccama
          was running advertisements in just about every issue of just about every
          musical publication, Rudall & Rose did not advertise one single time.
          This suggests to me that their position was secure, and Siccama's was
          not. And, of course, Rudall & Rose survived, and Siccama did not.

          Clinton, by the way, pointed out (correctly) that Siccama's extended
          keys were first used on Boehm's 1831 flute, as made by Gerock & Wolf. He
          was Siccama's competitor, so perhaps we shouldn't be surprised that he
          might have tried to land a low blow.

          Robert.

          --
          Robert Bigio Robert@...
          London, England http://www.bigio.com
        • Ardal Powell
          Thank you, Robert, for that exclamation-free reply. Although Siccama s company may not have prospered, I m not sure what relevance you intend that to have,
          Message 4 of 11 , Nov 1, 2003
            Thank you, Robert, for that exclamation-free reply. Although Siccama's
            company may not have prospered, I'm not sure what relevance you intend
            that to have, since his instrument continued in production by RC and
            several others. Perhaps quality and marketability had nothing to do
            with his business closing: maybe he drove his firm into the ground by
            spending an imprudently large fraction of his income on
            advertising--an expense which as you point out RC did not choose to
            incur. Or maybe it was not worth his while competing with RC, who may
            have been (do you have details like this?) paying him a royalty on
            their sales of his model.

            In fact the model, as made by others, seems to have been available
            throughout the 19C. Bill Waterhouse mentions an 'improved' verison
            from Boosey in 1902 (NLI 373). But he also says R&R turned down the
            'Diatonic' flute when offered in 1842. Is this correct, or was that
            flute a different version than the one patented in 1845 as the
            'Diatonic' and later taken up by RC?

            On the marketability of the type, your analyisis 'sounds' right

            >Siccama and
            > the others were trying to sell flutes to people who wanted to make a
            > sound like a Boehm flute, but who didn't want to learn a new
            fingering
            > system. The next generation of flute players seems not to have been
            > worried about this.

            . . . OTOH Terry's Flutonicon quote (1847) does not even mention
            fingering and puts exactly the opposite spin on tone: that in order to
            gain perfect intonation (which is not in question) the Boehm flute has
            sacrificed the true tone of the flute, which it's implied the Siccama
            flute has retained.

            However the writer does not go into any detail on this and in any
            case, as I've already pointed out, his prejudice is too strong to make
            him trustworthy.

            And that, to go back to my previous post, was my point. I was not
            asking so much about what we think of Siccama's flutes now, but rather
            wondering if they had devotees whom we would not classify either as
            anti-Boehm partisans or as writers of promotional puff. For example,
            do we know if Richardson or Pratten ever volunteered (even,
            convincingly, in sales literature) any of the reasons that led them to
            play the Siccama flute?

            Ardal
            ___________________________________________________________
            Ardal Powell
            Author of The Flute (Yale Musical Instrument Series, 2002) *
            http://TheBook.flutehistory.com
            Folkers & Powell, Makers of Historical Flutes * http://www.
            baroqueflute.com
            Full Circle Flute Co Ltd * http://www.headjoints.com
          • Robert Bigio
            ... Rudall, Rose & Carte were fantastic businessmen. They made a fortune by the application of the simplest rule of trade: find out what people want to buy,
            Message 5 of 11 , Nov 1, 2003
              Ardal Powell <ardal@...> writes:

              >Thank you, Robert, for that exclamation-free reply. Although Siccama's
              >company may not have prospered, I'm not sure what relevance you intend
              >that to have, since his instrument continued in production by RC and
              >several others. Perhaps quality and marketability had nothing to do
              >with his business closing: maybe he drove his firm into the ground by
              >spending an imprudently large fraction of his income on
              >advertising--an expense which as you point out RC did not choose to
              >incur. Or maybe it was not worth his while competing with RC, who may
              >have been (do you have details like this?) paying him a royalty on
              >their sales of his model.

              Rudall, Rose & Carte were fantastic businessmen. They made a fortune by
              the application of the simplest rule of trade: find out what people want
              to buy, and sell it to them. If they thought they could make money out
              of selling a certain model of flute, they sold it. This is why they
              offered so many different models. What you must consider, though, is the
              number of examples of any of those models they sold. As you will
              remember, I once gave you figures for the number of 8-keyed flutes
              Rudall Carte made after 1870 (very few, since I guess not many people
              were buying them).

              In the case of Siccama, the patent protection ran out in 1859, at which
              time Rudall, Rose & Carte were free to make as many of that model as
              they wished without paying a royalty to anyone. The number of Siccama
              model flutes they actually produced is vanishingly small. This suggests
              to me that there wasn't much of a market for them. They don't even list
              them in their catalogues. Nor do they list Clinton model flutes in their
              catalogues, although they made one or two.

              The fact remains that the most basic law of commerce applies as much to
              the supply of flutes as to the supply of any other product: if it isn't
              what people want to buy, then the product won't sell.

              As to advertising, any successful business only advertises if it's worth
              doing. Rudall & Rose clearly thought their position as market leaders
              meant they didn't have to advertise. They made a fortune and they
              survived a century and a half, so we have to assume they were right.

              >In fact the model, as made by others, seems to have been available
              >throughout the 19C. Bill Waterhouse mentions an 'improved' verison
              >from Boosey in 1902 (NLI 373). But he also says R&R turned down the
              >'Diatonic' flute when offered in 1842. Is this correct, or was that
              >flute a different version than the one patented in 1845 as the
              >'Diatonic' and later taken up by RC?

              You say "taken up" without considering how many of the things they
              actually made. In fact, they made very, very few.

              You must also consider that some businesses have a habit of inflating
              their catalogues because it looks good. Just because it's listed doesn't
              mean they made them, and if they did, it doesn't necessarily mean they
              made very many. It just means they could make them if someone asked. In
              the 1820s, for example, Clementi & Co. listed over 120 different types
              of flute. How many different flutes of that period can you think of?

              >And that, to go back to my previous post, was my point. I was not
              >asking so much about what we think of Siccama's flutes now, but rather
              >wondering if they had devotees whom we would not classify either as
              >anti-Boehm partisans or as writers of promotional puff. For example,
              >do we know if Richardson or Pratten ever volunteered (even,
              >convincingly, in sales literature) any of the reasons that led them to
              >play the Siccama flute?

              Pratten later devised his own system, so he couldn't have been
              completely happy with the Siccama. Richardson's name had been used in
              the early 1840s by Prowse to sell Nicholson model flutes. Richardson was
              a successful musician, and it is safe to assume he took up the Siccama
              because he genuinely thought it was an improvement over his previous
              instrument. I think the same, for what it's worth. Richardson seems to
              have stuck with the Siccama to the end of his life. There is a
              photograph in the National Portrait Gallery in London of Richardson
              holding a Siccama flute, taken, according to the NPG, in the late 1850s.
              He died soon after.

              Robert.

              --
              Robert Bigio Robert@...
              London, England http://www.bigio.com
            • Terry McGee
              ... Heh heh, I d have called you a contemporary writer! ... Indeed, and I think your book is very good in this regard - you haven t continued to trot out
              Message 6 of 11 , Nov 1, 2003
                At 01:58 AM 2/11/2003, you wrote:

                *Some* modern writers, Terry.

                Heh heh, I'd have called you a contemporary writer!

                You're right that a lot of modern
                writing on the flute is nothing but regurgitated 19th-century pap. But
                times are changing, and this type of writing won't do any longer.

                Indeed, and I think your book is very good in this regard - you haven't continued to trot out Rockstro lies and vehemence.  Indeed, I see your book as a general clearing of muddy waters, providing "closure" on a rather unsatisfactory period and thus providing an excellent jumping-off place for the next generation of researchers.  The interesting thing will be whether the next generation can look objectively at the evidence, free of the strings Rockstro pulled so successfully for so long.

                But Rockstro has had another effect with which we still have to deal.  By purposefully downplaying makers such as Clinton and Siccama (as well as ridiculing them), he has made them less visible to us.  So, for example, Siccama doesn't get much of a write-up in your book.  Now you might reasonably argue that's all he deserves, but I suspect not.  I think we'll be able to show him to be much more significant figure than has been realised to date.  Hopefully in plenty of time for your next edition!

                On the rehabilitation of figures such as Clinton and Siccama, I wonder
                how effective it is to try to counter 20th-century prejudice by
                quoting examples of the same vice in its 19th-century manifestations.
                The Siccama material on your web page is valuable, even though as an
                exhibition brochure it makes no pretence at being impartial, and
                thanks for posting it. But the Flutonicon report you quote in your
                post here conveys nothing beyond the writer's apoplectic hatred of the
                Boehm flute.

                He certainly was a bit down on poor Boehm, wasn't he.  I don't suppose Rockstro had a holiday job editing Flutonicon?  No, that wouldn't work - he would never praise Siccama!  Incidentally, have you noticed that Rockstro's regular whipping posts are non-Englishmen.  I wonder if that's significant? 

                I suspect we still don't appreciate the true horror with which existing English players regarded the Boehm, especially the cylindrical one.  Yet it clearly proved a flute could be in tune, unfortunately at the expense (at least in their minds) of tone, simplicity and convenience.  I think it was inevitable that someone would take the hint and rework the existing flute, and inevitable that many would go for it.

                Were people like this really the only ones in favor of
                Siccama's instruments?

                No, I don't think so.  Most of the other testimonials are pretty innocent.  I imagine there was simply true delight in finding a flute that looked like a flute, worked like a flute, sounded like a very good flute, didn't cost a fortune and was in very acceptable tuning (perfect tuning compared to a Nicholson style flute!).

                Terry

                                  Terry McGee

                         61 Calder Crescent, Holder ACT 2611 Australia
                          Phone +61 (0)2 6288 8006, Fax +61 (0)2 6287 4263       
                         mailto: terry@...                   
                        http://www.mcgee-flutes.com

                           - wooden flutes for Irish and classical music
                         - wooden flute research, restorations and repairs
                         - Irish music group, Ballyhooley
                         - maintenance of the National Carillon, Canberra


                Assisted by the Commonwealth Government through the Australia Council, its arts funding and advisory body, and by the ACT Government through its Cultural Council.

              • Terry McGee
                ... You don t feel their testimonials indicate? Tuning seems to be Pratten s major issue, but Richardson seemed to enjoy all the improvements: 112 Stamford
                Message 7 of 11 , Nov 1, 2003
                  At 09:29 AM 2/11/2003, Ardal wrote:

                  For example,
                  do we know if Richardson or Pratten ever volunteered (even,
                  convincingly, in sales literature) any of the reasons that led them to
                  play the Siccama flute?

                  You don't feel their testimonials indicate?   Tuning seems to be Pratten's major issue, but Richardson seemed to enjoy all the improvements:

                  112 Stamford street, Oct 1848

                  I gave you my opinion of your Diatonic Flute, in a letter dated August 1847; I had then played upon it about four months.  I now assure you that every day I have become more convinced that it is the only Flute that can be said to be in perfect tune.  Many eminent musicians who have heard me play upon it concur in the opinion which I now must candidly give you, and further it is my conviction, that every Flute-player must ultimately come to the same conclusion.

                  (signed)   ROBERT SIDNEY PRATTEN

                  62 Upper Charlotte Street, Fitzroy Square, May 28, 1851

                  In giving you my testimonial to the merit of the Diatonic Flute, I cannot in stronger terms express myself than to say I have now played upon it for four years, and consider it the most perfect instrument that has ever been manufactured; especially considering the recent improvements you have made, which must be hailed by all flute-players.

                  (signed) ROBERT SIDNEY PRATTEN
                  Firs t Flute at the Royal Italian Opera


                  106 Warwick street, Pimlico, Dec 28 1848

                  After a careful examination and repeated trials of your Patent Diatonic Flute, I have much pleasure in informing you that I consider it the only Flute in perfect tune, requiring much less exertion in playing, and so greatly superior in the quality and power of its tone, that I have determined to adopt it in preference to all others.

                  (signed) Joseph Richardson

                  106 Warwick Street, Pimlico, August 1851

                  I am delighted to say, that after having played on your instruments exclusively for nearly three years, I am quite confirmed in the opinion I first formed, that they are far superior to any other.  By your recent improvement, you have rendered the middle C natural as perfect as the one produced with the open key.

                  (signed) Joseph Richardson
                  Flutist to Her Majesty



                                    Terry McGee

                           61 Calder Crescent, Holder ACT 2611 Australia
                            Phone +61 (0)2 6288 8006, Fax +61 (0)2 6287 4263       
                           mailto: terry@...                   
                          http://www.mcgee-flutes.com

                             - wooden flutes for Irish and classical music
                           - wooden flute research, restorations and repairs
                           - Irish music group, Ballyhooley
                           - maintenance of the National Carillon, Canberra


                  Assisted by the Commonwealth Government through the Australia Council, its arts funding and advisory body, and by the ACT Government through its Cultural Council.

                • Ardal Powell
                  ... to ... Pratten s ... Not really: I read them quite differently. Firstly, they are trade testimonials, so we must discount all puffery of the sort that
                  Message 8 of 11 , Nov 2, 2003
                    --- In earlyflute@yahoogroups.com, Terry McGee <terry@m...> wrote:
                    > At 09:29 AM 2/11/2003, Ardal wrote:
                    >
                    > >For example,
                    > >do we know if Richardson or Pratten ever volunteered (even,
                    > >convincingly, in sales literature) any of the reasons that led them
                    to
                    > >play the Siccama flute?
                    >
                    > You don't feel their testimonials indicate? Tuning seems to be
                    Pratten's
                    > major issue, but Richardson seemed to enjoy all the improvements:

                    Not really: I read them quite differently.

                    Firstly, they are trade testimonials, so we must discount all puffery
                    of the sort that claims the product's ultimate perfection and predicts
                    its imminent general adoption--which is the overwhelming majority of
                    the text presented.

                    We're left with what the writers actually say about how the
                    instruments play, and why they like using them. Here's how I would
                    summarize what Pratten and Richardson claim for the Siccama flute:

                    Pratten 1848 in perfect tune
                    Pratten 1851 nothing
                    Richardson 1848 in perfect tune
                    Richardson 1851 middle C natural is good

                    The one enlightening detail here is Richardson's comment of 1851.

                    Can you summarize for us any more of these there might be amongst the
                    rest?

                    Ardal
                    ___________________________________________________________
                    Ardal Powell
                    Author of The Flute (Yale Musical Instrument Series, 2002) *
                    http://TheBook.flutehistory.com
                    Folkers & Powell, Makers of Historical Flutes * http://www.
                    baroqueflute.com
                    Full Circle Flute Co Ltd * http://www.headjoints.com
                  • Terry McGee
                    ... I think we have to remember they are testimonials aimed at the musical public, not review articles, and certainly not treatises aimed at the likes of us.
                    Message 9 of 11 , Nov 2, 2003
                      At 07:11 AM 3/11/2003, Ardalwrote:

                      Not really: I read them quite differently.

                      Firstly, they are trade testimonials, so we must discount all puffery
                      of the sort that claims the product's ultimate perfection and predicts
                      its imminent general adoption--which is the overwhelming majority of
                      the text presented.

                      We're left with what the writers actually say about how the
                      instruments play, and why they like using them. Here's how I would
                      summarize what Pratten and Richardson claim for the Siccama flute:

                      Pratten 1848    in perfect tune
                      Pratten 1851    nothing
                      Richardson 1848 in perfect tune
                      Richardson 1851 middle C natural is good

                      The one enlightening detail here is Richardson's comment of 1851.
                      Can you summarize for us any more of these there might be amongst the
                      rest?

                      I think we have to remember they are testimonials aimed at the musical public, not review articles, and certainly not treatises aimed at the likes of us.  Siccama had pretty well said every word that could be said in his several essays (and nicely summarised it in the document in question).  All a testimonial from a leading professor needed was to say "I like it" and sign his name.  So, inevitably, some reading between the lines is needed.  But I get plenty out of say:


                      29 Mytton Gate, Hull, May 24, 1851.

                      After twelve months trial of your Patent Diatonic Flute, both in the concert room and orchestra, I have great pleasure in bearing testimony to the numerous advantages it possesses.  For power, richness, equality, and purity of tone, together with correctness of intonation, and the ease with which it is played, I believe it to be unequalled.  The fingering that it admits of greatly reduce the mechanical difficulties inseparable from the old flute.  It is in fact the most perfect Flute I have played upon, and consequently I feel it is a duty incumbent on me strongly to recommend it to all who desire a first-class instrument.

                      (signed) J. Enderby Jackson

                      especially when we compare it to the flutes Jackson would have been comparing it to.  And I think therein lies Siccama's success.  He has retained the power and richness of Nicholsons flute, indeed increased it, overcome the inequality problems plaguing E's and A's, increased the purity of tone (by stacking the harmonics up accurately), fixed up the intonation and certainly did away with the absurdities of Nicholson flute intonation, got rid of the horrible stretches and reduced the amount of puff needed to fill the same concert hall, (again by stacking up the harmonics well).  Third octave fingering is much more logical (again the harmonics) requiring less convoluted moves.  Whereas other new flutes, eg Boehm's fixed up the intonation but at too high a price in terms of tone and fingering.

                      Now all of that is in Jackson's account, but you have to interpret it.  I don't think my account would sell as many flutes as Jacksons!

                      It's the stuff from the press that I find more vacuous, but that seems to be the norm for the period.  Then again, I'm not sure I've ever read a good road test for a flute.

                      A reminder to those who are now really puzzled that the full document is at:

                      http://www.mcgee-flutes.com/Sicc-1851.htm

                       Now, has anyone a copy of "A Complete Series of Studies for the Diatonic Flute" by R.S. Pratten.  Does it say anything useful in the introductory chapters about the flute and why Pratten likes it?

                      Terry

                                        Terry McGee

                               61 Calder Crescent, Holder ACT 2611 Australia
                                Phone +61 (0)2 6288 8006, Fax +61 (0)2 6287 4263       
                               mailto: terry@...                   
                              http://www.mcgee-flutes.com

                                 - wooden flutes for Irish and classical music
                               - wooden flute research, restorations and repairs
                               - Irish music group, Ballyhooley
                               - maintenance of the National Carillon, Canberra


                      Assisted by the Commonwealth Government through the Australia Council, its arts funding and advisory body, and by the ACT Government through its Cultural Council.

                    • Ardal Powell
                      ... increased it, ... purity ... intonation ... intonation, ... needed to ... harmonics) ... Boehm s ... fingering. ... it. I ... Hi Terry, If trade
                      Message 10 of 11 , Nov 2, 2003
                        --- In earlyflute@yahoogroups.com, Terry McGee <terry@m...> wrote:

                        > And I think therein lies Siccama's success. He has
                        > retained the power and richness of Nicholsons flute, indeed
                        increased it,
                        > overcome the inequality problems plaguing E's and A's, increased the
                        purity
                        > of tone (by stacking the harmonics up accurately), fixed up the
                        intonation
                        > and certainly did away with the absurdities of Nicholson flute
                        intonation,
                        > got rid of the horrible stretches and reduced the amount of puff
                        needed to
                        > fill the same concert hall, (again by stacking up the harmonics
                        > well). Third octave fingering is much more logical (again the
                        harmonics)
                        > requiring less convoluted moves. Whereas other new flutes, eg
                        Boehm's
                        > fixed up the intonation but at too high a price in terms of tone and
                        fingering.
                        >
                        > Now all of that is in Jackson's account, but you have to interpret
                        it. I
                        > don't think my account would sell as many flutes as Jacksons!

                        Hi Terry,

                        If trade testimonials are all we have, then the answer to my question
                        would be that we have nothing more than trade testimonials. But this
                        doesn't mean that the historiographical value of those testimonials
                        can be elevated any higher than it should be.

                        Here is what Mr Jackson is saying, in a plain English precis, stripped
                        of all flummery and fusty locutions:

                        "I have played your flute for a year in chamber and orchestral music.
                        I find it louder, clearer, and better in tune than any other flute.
                        Its fingering is easier than that of the 8-keyed flute."

                        From this we learn that he likes it because of its tone, intonation,
                        and fingering--but nothing more specific than that. There may be a
                        basis in the historical record for what you read into Jackson's
                        testimonial, but you haven't established that this basis resides in
                        Jackson's words themselves.

                        I agree with you that all historical material needs interpreting, and
                        anybody who even dabbles in historical material--and you certainly do
                        more than that--needs to bear this constantly in mind. I think the
                        task is far too delicate to allow words like "horrible",
                        "absurdities", and "convoluted" in comparing one instrument to
                        another. It's true that the 19th-century English flute world was a
                        hotheaded and noisy place in which people thought nothing of using
                        such terms about their rivals. But when I mentioned earlier in this
                        thread that times were changing, this intemperate flavor (which
                        Rockstro, as you said, unfortunately gave a new lease on life) was one
                        of the things I was rather hoping our generation could allow to die
                        out. If we could just pay attention to the sources who really have
                        something to tell us, and let them speak for themselves, I think that
                        would be a real improvement.

                        Ardal
                        ___________________________________________________________
                        Ardal Powell
                        Author of The Flute (Yale Musical Instrument Series, 2002) *
                        http://TheBook.flutehistory.com
                        Folkers & Powell, Makers of Historical Flutes * http://www.
                        baroqueflute.com
                        Full Circle Flute Co Ltd * http://www.headjoints.com
                      • Terry McGee
                        ... Nor do we need to. I agree that someone who didn t know the Siccama flute and the other flutes of the time and who had no other preparation to the topic
                        Message 11 of 11 , Nov 3, 2003
                          At 12:09 PM 3/11/2003, Ardal wrote:

                          From this we learn that he likes it because of its tone, intonation,
                          and fingering--but nothing more specific than that. There may be a
                          basis in the historical record for what you read into Jackson's
                          testimonial, but you haven't established that this basis resides in
                          Jackson's words themselves.

                          Nor do we need to.  I agree that someone who didn't know the Siccama flute and the other flutes of the time and who had no other preparation to the topic and who came across one of these testimonials in isolation would not be in a good position to draw much from it, other than that the testimonial-giver was able to identify a number of features that attracted him and was prepared to back the flute to the hilt.  But we are not in that unhappy position.  We are granted in one place 21 testimonials from 19 leading professors all of whom had taken up the instrument, and 32 reviews from an extraordinary range of contemporary press, in addition to 8 very positive press reviews about the supporting Theory.  Surely we are entitled, even forced to synthesize what is in front of us, especially when the themes are so recurrent?  Indeed, with a total of 60 opinions, we may even be able to apply statistical processes to see which of the features were best and least appreciated.

                           I agree with you that all historical material needs interpreting, and
                          anybody who even dabbles in historical material--and you certainly do
                          more than that--needs to bear this constantly in mind. I think the
                          task is far too delicate to allow words like "horrible",
                          "absurdities", and "convoluted" in comparing one instrument to
                          another.

                          Even if they were horrible, absurd and convoluted?  I think mincing words is as big a sin as hyperbole.  Surely the question is can we back up our findings with *real* evidence, and not just opinion or hearsay, whether contemporary or more recent?

                          It's true that the 19th-century English flute world was a
                          hotheaded and noisy place in which people thought nothing of using
                          such terms about their rivals. But when I mentioned earlier in this
                          thread that times were changing, this intemperate flavor (which
                          Rockstro, as you said, unfortunately gave a new lease on life) was one
                          of the things I was rather hoping our generation could allow to die
                          out. If we could just pay attention to the sources who really have
                          something to tell us, and let them speak for themselves, I think that
                          would be a real improvement.

                          Couldn't disagree more.  If we leave it just to the historical record, we rely entirely on chance and honesty.  Chance that the information was recorded, chance that it survives and chance that we come across it.  In regard to honesty we have to remember that everyone writes with a purpose and a bias.  We have Siccama saying his flutes are the best thing since sliced bread and Rockstro saying they are without merit.  So far the world has tended to take Rockstro's view, but when we look closely at it, does it contain any more real evidence than one of these testimonials?

                          To find out which one is closer to the truth we need to hear from other voices, and the testimonials, while perhaps not as detailed as we might like, are well-placed among those other voices.  So instead of being "one-all", the score is suddenly "Rockstro one, rest of world 60-odd".  Not bad for one four-page document.  But it's still not enough.  It's still just yabba yabba.

                          With Siccama, we are probably blessed with more information than perhaps any other maker, yet we can't even get his place of birth right!  We have his wonderfully detailed documents in which he sets out what he thinks is wrong with other flutes and what he believes he has achieved with his.  We can and need to test those assertions.  He even gives us a test which he invites us to apply to his and other flutes, which of course invites us to test that test, as well as to apply it.  We have the testimonials and press opinions - we need to see how they stack up against the claims Siccama makes.  We have Rockstro putting the challenging view and Welch counteracting it - they need balancing.  We have a good range of extant instruments and should be able to detect and measure the impact he has had on other makers, as well as investigating interesting little changes like the improved "middle c".  We can judge the numbers of instruments he and the other makers who made his system made, and come to a conclusion about the total impact of his invention.  That can't all be done from the historical record alone - it requires additional original work, and then synthesis and analysis.  It needs a multi-disciplinary approach, not just reliance on the chance and honesty of contemporary documents.  *This* is the future of flute research.

                          Terry

                                            Terry McGee

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