Networks of Innovation, Connection and Continuity in Woodwind Design and Manufacture in London between 1760 and 1840

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This paper attempts to confront the complexity of the various networks of people, ideas, technologies, and materials on the flute’s development in London between 1760 and 1840 - a period in which ‘semi-artisanal’ activity was subsumed into larger-scale business, and characterised both by remarkable expansion and opportunity, but also indicative of particular patterns of family connection, optimism, failure, opportunism, market awareness, and technical conservatism and innovation. By examining the complex connections between the various agents involved, whether these be professional or family ties between individuals, material evidence from instruments, or other aspects of the music business, I hope to uncover and quantify the remarkable degree of connectedness and continuity evident across what seem at first glance to be independent, competing workshops. The study also suggests that digital technologies necessitate changes both in how we gather and interpret data, and in how we acknowledge expertise. The topics which emerge as significant include the ubiquity of instruments; advertising; experimenting and standardisation; cosmopolitanism; modification and ergonomics; volume and projection; and most crucially, the various forms of continuity—of family ties (particularly through women); of chains of business relationships; of workshop locations; and the establishment of differentiated markets—addressed by specialist ‘flute makers’, by general ‘woodwind makers’, and by ‘music sellers’. From a discussion of these issues in general terms the paper eventually focuses on the various Goulding companies, and the workshops associated with flute maker John Willis.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)10
Number of pages22
JournalGalpin Society Journal
Publication statusPublished - 01 Apr 2020


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