19th century band flute found in Tarragona

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Fig. 1. 19th century band flute found in Tarragona

This small 6-keyed band flute was given to my grandfather when he was a child and entered the city band in Reus. After many years and a restoration made by Mr. John Coppen, it can be played again. It has an inscription: “Juan Ayné. Tarragona“. Juan Ayné was not the maker, but an instrument and music shop from Barcelona. The shop’s site in Tarragona was located at the former Rambla de Sant Joan, 46, nowadays called Rambla Nova, on the second half of the 19th century (see fig. 4).

Mr. Jem Hammond, from Flute History Channel, explained that it is assuredly a french-made instrument by the style of it, probably intended for use in military bands. He also stated that these instruments weren’t normally expected to be played closed up, but using a slide (which mine has) to tune. He expected mine would play at A-435 diapason normal with the slide open – it is far more likely that a french instrument in this style was built for A-435; it might be able to be used closed up, but the scale won’t give its optimum intonation there.

A very similar Juan Ayné instrument can be found at the Museu de la Música de Barcelona (MDMB 255), dated 1870-1926 (Fig. 2). The lowest fingered note on both is a D, sounding E flat. They are called E flat band flutes but in transposition terms they are in fact in D flat.

I compared my Juan Ayné flute with a similar instrument: a parisian Jerôme Thibouville-Lamy flute from the same period kindly borrowed from Lluís Homdedeu collection (see fig. 5). The lowest fingered note on the Thibouville is D, sounding D (A-440 / 435). It would be called a D band flute, even it is an instrument in C terms of transposition.

Having in mind Mr. Hammond advise and the information found in the Museu de la Música de Barcelona, my experience was that playing my Juan Ayné with the slide closed up resulted on a semitone higher pitch instrument compared to the Thibouville.

As a curiosity, I must tell you that my grandfather never took playing the flute seriously and ended up being a percussionist. But the instrument stayed at home… and I found it being already a professional flutist… So I am happy I can play it again!

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Fig. 2. Museu de la Música de Barcelona’s band flute, Ref. MDMB 255

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Fig. 3. New Langwill Index of Wind Instrument Makers

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Fig. 4. Juan Ayné’s shop ad at “El Correo de la Provincia”, 20/03/1892

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Fig. 5. Jerôme Thibouville-Lamy, Paris, 82

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Fig. 6. Ayné (up) and Thibouville-Lamy (down)

4 thoughts on “19th century band flute found in Tarragona

  1. Dear Isabella,

    I have a seven keyed Noblet piccolo from the beginning of the 20th century.
    After some advice by Jem Hemmond, I got to the conclusion it is a D flat piccolo cause I discovered that at the time band piccolo weren’t usually in C.
    The first low note is a Db.

    Nice to know that somebody else has got similar experiences,
    Sincerely,
    Lola

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for your comment, Lola,

      In my case, the first low fingered note is a D, sounding E flat (semitone above), taking A = 440 / 435 as a reference. But it doesn’t mean to me that it is a E flat piccolo though. I would rather say that it is a D flat piccolo because when I finger a C, the sound that comes out is D flat.

      I think there is a bit of confusion with fifes’ nomenclature. I understand fifes are called depending on the pitch of their lowest fingered note, because that is the major key / scale that they play more naturally opening the holes one by one.

      It is a very interesting world. I hope everyone who has experiences on that can share here!

      Cordially,

      Isabel

      Like

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