The Flute in Scotland from the Sixteenth to the Eighteenth Century

by Elizabeth Ford (Author)
©2020 Monographs XXIV, 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.

Table Of Contents

Elizabeth Ford

The Flute in Scotland
from the Sixteenth
to the Eighteenth Century

Die Deutsche Nationalbibliothek lists this publication in the Deutsche National-bibliografie; detailed bibliographic data is available on the Internet at http://dnb.d-nb.de.

A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library.

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Names: Elizabeth Ford, author.

Title: The Flute in Scotland from the Sixteenth to the Eighteenth Century / Elizabeth Ford.

Description: New York : Peter Lang, [2020] | Series: Studies in the history and culture of Scotland ; 10 | Includes bibliographical references and index.

Cover design by Peter Lang Ltd.

ISSN 16616863

ISBN 978-1-78874-716-5 (print)  •  ISBN 978-1-78874-717-2 (ePDF)

ISBN 978-1-78874-718-9 (ePub)  •  ISBN 978-1-78874-719-6 (mobi)

© Peter Lang AG 2020

Published by Peter Lang Ltd, International Academic Publishers,

52 St Giles, Oxford, OX1 3LU, United Kingdom

oxford@peterlang.com, www.peterlang.com

Elizabeth Ford has asserted her right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988, to be identified as Author of this Work.

All rights reserved.

All parts of this publication are protected by copyright.

Any utilisation outside the strict limits of the copyright law, without the permission of the publisher, is forbidden and liable to prosecution.

This applies in particular to reproductions, translations, microfilming, and storage and processing in electronic retrieval systems.

This publication has been peer reviewed.

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.

About the book

”Elizabeth Ford has gifted the Scottish flute a rich history, with intriguing and entertaining characters, a varied repertoire, and a promising future. The book romps through its vast store of archival evidence with dry humour, part of the growing movement to take Scotland’s musical history seriously, rather than relying on myth and folklore.”

Dr David McGuinness, University of Glasgow

”Dr Ford’s book is wonderfully illuminating and thoughtful. Her immense curiosity matched by her thorough and organized research has produced an impressive work; shedding light not only on the flute in early Scotland, but music making in Europe during the Enlightenment. It’s a fascinating read!”

Chris Norman, Director, Boxwood Festivals, flute maker and player

This eBook can be cited

This edition of the eBook can be cited. To enable this we have marked the start and end of a page. In cases where a word straddles a page break, the marker is placed inside the word at exactly the same position as in the physical book. This means that occasionally a word might be bifurcated by this marker.


Figure 1. The Muses’ Ceiling, Crathes Castle, The National Trust for Scotland

Figure 2. General John Reid by George Watson (1806) EU0523 © University of Edinburgh Art Collections

Figure 3. William Aikman, Susanna Kennedy, Countess of Eglinton, 1689–1780. Third wife of the 9th Earl of Eglinton; patroness of letters, National Galleries of Scotland

Figure 4. John Gunn, The School of the German Flute, page 7, Sibley Music Library, Eastman School of Music, University of Rochester

Figure 5. John Gunn, The School of the German Flute, page 10, Sibley Music Library, Eastman School of Music, University of Rochester

Figure 6. John Gunn, The School of the German Flute, page 10, Sibley Music Library, Eastman School of Music, University of Rochester

Figure 7. John Gunn, The School of the German Flute, page 14, Sibley Music Library, Eastman School of Music, University of Rochester

Figures 8 and 9. Fingering chart, manuscript of Alexander Bruce, 1717, with permission of Lord Balfour of Burleigh

Figure 10. Fingering chart, Jacques Hotteterre, Principes de la Flute, 1707

Figure 11. ‘Publish’d according to an Act of Parliament,’ The Butiad or political register; being a supplement to the British antidote to Caledonian poison, 1762, plate 16. Creative Commons←xi | xii→ ←xii | xiii→


Turning a thesis into a book can be a dreary enterprise, but not when the subject is as significant and surprisingly neglected as this one, and when the account is written with life and clarity.

The place of the flute in Enlightenment Scotland should have been an obvious subject of interest, but until now it has commanded only limited attention. The flute is, after all, the instrument which Mozart chose to assert the rights and power of nature in the Masonic Temple of The Magic Flute, and Scotlands contribution to the marriage between the classical and the traditional, between artifice and nature, was seminal during this period.

Dr Ford has provided us with the first proper study of an important aspect of eighteenth-century musical life which, though concerned with Scotland, has significant implications for the study of European music. Her narrative is clear and clearly organized; her scholarship is excellent, and her style is thoroughly approachable. In the process, fascinating light is shed upon Scottish society, with many entertaining, even juicy details, on occasion observed with wry humour.

Dr Ford is herself an accomplished flautist specializing in baroque flute, and this gives her assessment of the material a necessary authority. She is in a position to assess the technical demands of individual pieces, as well as their musical appeal, and can elucidate some of the more arcane aspects of flute nomenclature, construction and playing technique.

All this, however, is contextualized and expanded with European parallels and contrasts, and what emerges is a picture of lively involvement with the flute in Scotland at a variety of levels. The eighteenth century begins with the important compositional achievements of McGibbons flute sonatas (which Dr Ford has herself edited and published), and the ground-breaking blend of traditional and classical in the 1732 sonatas of Munro, published in Paris.

The story continues with the remarkable work of James Oswald of whom Ford justly claims ‘Oswalds flute music ranks with the sonatas of Handel and Blavet for music that is challenging, polished, and extraordinarily satisfying to play. New light is cast on General Reids flute sonatas, and much←xv | xvi→ interesting information is provided on music teachers from Scotland and abroad. In addition, in the work of John Gunn, Dr Ford discovers a thoroughly significant technical and pedagogic approach. She also points out some interesting connections between the flute and the bagpipes in terms of repertoire, performers and makers.

It is therefore with delight that I welcome this important contribution to eighteenth-century musicological studies. It is a thoroughly accomplished work and, mercifully, eminently readable.

John Purser←xvi | xvii→


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.3

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←xviii | xix→ 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.


XXIV, 204
ISBN (Softcover)
Publication date
2019 (December)
Flute Scotland
Oxford, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, New York, Wien, 2020. XXIV, 204 pp., 3 fig. col., 8 fig. b/w

Biographical notes

Elizabeth Ford (Author)


Title: The Flute in Scotland from the Sixteenth to the Eighteenth Century
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