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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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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...

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