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The Flute in Scotland from the Sixteenth to the Eighteenth Century

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The Flute in Scotland from the Sixteenth to the Eighteenth Century by Elizabeth C. Ford

Softcover; 204 pages

It is a generally accepted truth that the flute was unknown in Scotland prior to 1725, and that it was played exclusively by wealthy men. Upon examination, these beliefs are demonstrably false. This book explores the role of the flute in Scottish musical life, primarily in the long eighteenth century, including players, repertoire, manuscripts, and instruments. Evidence for ladies having played the flute is also examined, as are possible connections between flute playing and bagpipe playing. Reasons for the flute’s disappearance from the pantheon of Scottish instruments are considered, and interviews with contemporary flute players in Scotland depict flute playing in contemporary Scotland. This work fills a major gap in knowledge of Scottish musical life and flute history.

About the author

Elizabeth C. Ford’s doctoral thesis (University of Glasgow, 2016) won the National Flute Association’s Graduate Research Award. She was the 2018−19 Daiches−Manning Memorial Fellow in 18th-century Scottish Studies at the Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities at the University of Edinburgh. She has also had fellowships from the Handel Institute and will take up the Abi Rosenthal Visiting Fellowship in Music at the Bodleian Library in 2019, as well as the Martha Goldsby Arnold Fellowship at the Riemenschneider Bach Institute.

Contents:

  • Introduction
  • Chapter 1 The flute in Scotland in the sixteenth century
  • Chapter 2 Amateur musicians
  • Chapter 3 Professional musicians
  • Chapter 4 Composers
  • Chapter 5 Repertoire in manuscript sources
  • Chapter 6 Instruments
  • Chapter 7 The flute in Scotland today: Not Scottish enough?
  • Bibliography
  • Index

Why the flute in Scotland matters….

Some years ago, as a beginner baroque flute player, I discovered the music of James Oswald, and was surprised to realize that Scotland had had a major period of musical output in the eighteenth century, and that much of the music composed was for flute. I learned that while there were many publications from Scotland for the flute between 1729 and about 1810, almost nothing was known about the history of the flute in Scotland at that time. I decided to see if I could determine why that was. The flute, one of the most popular instruments of the eighteenth century, and of traditional music, has been almost completely neglected in studies of Scottish music. Historic Scottish flute music has gained some attention via performers,1 bringing an all but unknown repertoire to an audience, but this book is the first attempt at a scholarly study to back up this work. The focus in this book is on the flute in the long eighteenth century, with some reference to the sixteenth and twenty-first centuries. The eighteenth century was the heyday of flute playing in Scotland; but the flute seems to have been relatively unknown in the seventeenth century and little played←xvii | xviii→ outside of the concert hall in the nineteenth.2 The surge of interest in flute history following the early music revival, and the resurgence of flute playing in Scotland following the folk revival shows that study of the flute in Scotland is sorely needed.

Histories of eighteenth-century music largely ignore Scotland, apparently with the assumption that either Scotland was a cultural backwater, which has no grounds given the ideological and cultural climate of Scotland in the eighteenth century due to the Enlightenment and the political upheavals of the Act of Union and the Jacobite Rebellions; or that what was true in England must also have been true in Scotland, as they are two small countries with a shared government (for most of the century) on the same landmass. Other general histories of Scottish music simply ignore the flute; contemporary writers on Scottish music focus exclusively on Gaelic song, fiddle music, or the bagpipes, areas in which it is assumed the flute played no part. While there is no evidence for the flute in Gaelic-speaking Scotland, there is some very little evidence of the flute having the same double life in the concert hall and country dance as did the violin, and there is equally little but tantalizing evidence of overlaps between the flute and the bagpipes. This does then hint that perhaps, as suggested by Gordon Turnbull, the flute is insufficiently Scottish for most people working in Scottish music and related scholarship.  This book seeks to address the following questions: how widespread was flute playing, both geographically and socially?4 When did the German flute begin to appear in Scotland? What do manuscript sources of flute music indicate about flute playing? How common was it for girls or ladies to learn flute? In what contexts did flute playing happen: concert halls, dances, at home, military bands or civic organizations? What instruments were available and were these made in Scotland? What music was played, and how much of it was of Scottish origin? Was Scottish musical life in the eighteenth century as fiddle-centric as most authors believe? Answers to these questions result in a better understanding of the place of the flute in musical life in Scotland in the eighteenth century and allow the picture of music in Scotland to evolve. A complete picture of the flute in Scottish musical life is important because scholarship on the flute in Scotland has for far too long relied on a basic error of date, with ensuing misconceptions; it is high time to restore the instrument to its proper place in the history of Scottish music.   — Elizabeth C. Ford

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