Scientific American Supplement No. 819, September 12, 1891 eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 130 pages of information about Scientific American Supplement No. 819, September 12, 1891.

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[Continued from supplement, No. 818, page 13066.]


By A.J.  Hipkins, F.S.A.

Lecture II.

I will now invite your attention to the wind instruments, which, in Handel’s time, were chiefly used to double in unison the parts of stringed instruments.  Their modern independent use dates from Haydn; it was extended and perfected by Mozart, Beethoven, and Weber; and the extraordinary changes and improvements which have been effected during the present century have given wind instruments an importance that is hardly exceeded by that of the stringed, in the formation of the modern orchestra.  The military band, as it now exists, is a creation of the present century.

The so-called wood wind instruments are the flute, oboe, bassoon, and clarinet.  It is as well to say at once that their particular qualities of tone do not absolutely depend upon the materials of which they are made.  The form is the most important factor in determining the distinction of tone quality, so long as the sides of the tube are equally elastic, as has been submitted to proof by instruments made of various materials, including paper.  I consider this has been sufficiently demonstrated by the independent experiments of Mr. Blaikley, of London, and Mr. Victor Mahillon, of Brussels.  But we must still allow Mr. Richard Shepherd Rockstro’s plea, clearly set forth in a recently published treatise on the flute, that the nature and the substance of the tube, by reciprocity of vibration, exercise some influence, although not so great as might have been expected, on the quality of the tone.  But I consider this influence is already acknowledged in my reference to equality of elasticity in the sides of the tube.

The flute is an instrument of embouchure—­that is to say, one in which a stream of air is driven from the player’s lips against an edge of the blow hole to produce the sound.  The oboe and bassoon have double reeds, and the clarinet a single reed, made of a species of cane, as intermediate agents of sound production.  There are other flutes than that of embouchure—­those with flageolet or whistle heads, which, having become obsolete, shall be reserved for later notice.  There are no real tenor or bass flutes now, those in use being restricted to the upper part of the scale.  The present flute dates from 1832, when Theobald Boehm, a Bavarian flute player, produced the instrument which is known by his name.  He entirely remodeled the flute, being impelled to do so by suggestions from the performance of the English flautist, Charles Nicholson, who had increased the diameter of the lateral holes, and by some improvements that had been attempted in the flute by a Captain Gordon, of Charles the Tenth’s Swiss Guard.  Boehm has been sufficiently vindicated

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Scientific American Supplement No. 819, September 12, 1891 from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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