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The Flute in Scotland from the Sixteenth to the Eighteenth Century


Elizabeth C. Ford

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.

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Chapter 2 Amateur musicians


Chapter 2

Amateur musicians


David Johnson broke instruments played in Scotland into ‘professional’ and ‘amateur’ groups. Amateur musicians played recorder, flute, violin, cello, viola da gamba, cittern, and keyboard instruments.1 The flute was indeed very popular with amateur musicians, though not exclusively gentlemen, as has been assumed. This chapter will provide an overview of known amateur flute players, and their contributions to Scottish musical life.


The majority of known flute players in eighteenth-century Scotland can be classified as gentlemen amateurs: men with the financial stability and leisure time to devote to practising an instrument.2 ‘Gentleman’ was, and is, a broad term, used here to refer to a man who had an education and income; if he had a profession, it was not one devoted to trade or manual labour, but←19 | 20→ rather to those such as law, the church, or medicine.3 The German flute, as a relatively new instrument, was the most fashionable, and its associations with war,4 seduction,5 and masculine power6 made it especially appealing to gentlemen. After it was redesigned with the addition of the key late in the seventeenth century, it surpassed the violin as the most popular instrument for amateur musicians, particularly in France and England.7 With the←20 | 21→ availability of printed music, music lessons, and instruments, it was quite easy for gentlemen to keep up with the latest fashion.8 Music was an integral part of upper-class education for both...

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