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Collection Dayton C. Miller Collection

Conventions and Definitions

Information for this catalog was compiled in fifteen computer database fields, in the following order. The names of the fields do not appear in the catalog. Any field for which information is unavailable or which does not apply has been omitted.

1. Item ID. This refers to the DCM number: i.e., Dayton C. Miller's chronological accession numbering system. Note: Miller's music-related library materials were also numbered chronologically as he collected each item. The book collection is cataloged under call numbers ML30.4 and ML30.4b, followed by accession number, and the music is cataloged under ML30.4c, followed by accession number.

2. Instrument or Object Type. The key of the instrument is given if it is reasonably certain. In cases where a key has been indicated by the manufacturer according to an obsolete system (see "Flute Misnomers") we give the actual key, followed by the obsolete key designation as marked on the instrument (e.g., "Fife in A-flat/"B" [B-flat]"; see "Flute Misnomers.") In the case of folk instruments, key designations have been omitted in for two reasons. In the first place, despite the fact that the very concept of key in the Western tradition may not apply to such instruments, Miller attempted to assign keys to them based on the lowest pitch or another pitch resulting from an arbitrary fingering, or unreliable information from his sources for the instruments. In the second place, many of the more stable notes on such instruments can easily be nudged a semitone or more in either direction, which was probably a useful expressive feature within the folk tradition but makes pitch difficult to determine.

3. Maker Name. Our principal authority for maker name, date(s), and place is The New Langwill Index, by William Waterhouse (London: Tony Bingham, 1993). This field will show either the actual maker or the distributor. An instrument marked METZLER / LONDON, for example, may only indicate an object obtained by contract with another manufacturer. A frequently encountered example is "nach H. F. Meyer, Hannover" which appears on numerous late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century simple system flutes. (See "Meyer-Albert: Systematic Misnomers.")

4. Maker Place. As with "Maker Name," this may refer either to the manufacturer or to a seller/distributor.

5. Maker Date. We give a precise date when known. Otherwise, we use abbreviations as in The New Langwill Index: a (ante), c (century: e.g., late 18c, 19c), ca. (circa), and p (post).

6. Materials. Materials are given for the larger portions, such as the body, of each object followed by the smaller elements, such as keys and ferrules, which are so identified. For example, "cocus", "silver keys," "ivory ferrules," "pewter plugs" means that the body and any other portions made of the same material such as a head joint cap, clarinet mouthpiece, and so forth are made of cocus wood; while such examples as "silver keys," "ivory ferrules," or "pewter plugs" mean that the parts named are made of the materials indicated.

For the identification of materials, we have relied partly on the best guess when necessary. "Silver," for example, may refer either to solid alloy, such as sterling, or to silver plate. The authors welcome opinions and observations on this and other matters from specialists. In some cases we simply follow Miller's statements in his notebook entries regarding material or other matters. Such commentary in any field is preceded by the initials "DCM."

Woods frequently present an identity problem. "Cocus" and "rosewood," for example, may appear to be quite similar. If not verified in maker catalogs, our use of the term "cocus" means that the grain appears relatively tight and that cocus is the more commonly expected wood for the type of instrument involved. "Rosewood" means that the grain is more open and closer to what one sees in rosewood furniture and piano case veneers. "Ebony" in instrument building is essentially a generic term for any of several tropical dark woods of great density, and our identification as such is no more precise than that. Grenadilla may be mistaken for ebony because it is often stained dark enough to obliterate a subtle reddish or amber/maroon colors of its natural state. Our use of the term grenadilla may either indicate reasonable confirmation by makers' catalogs, or follow the commentary by Miller who, in turn, may have relied on information from his source.

7. Keys, Holes, System. (see also "Key and Key Mounting Nomenclature"). All simple keyless flutes or reed pipes with fingerholes are designated by the number of thumbholes and/or front fingerholes. For example, a standard treble recorder such as DCM 0127, which has the expected upper thumb hole and seven fingerholes, is designated "1/7." Another example, such as the Chinese di, which is without a thumbhole but includes extra holes above and beneath its fingerholes, we designate "0/6 plus membrane hole, 2 tassel holes, plus 2 vent holes." We designate certain other instruments such as flageolets, which may vary from being keyless to multikeyed, as "0/6," "1/6," "2/6," and so forth, followed by a brief description of added keywork.

"Principal rank" refers to the six principal front fingerholes or key-covered toneholes common to all Western and many other woodwinds regardless of any added keywork, however complex, and/or the presence of any duplicate venting toneholes functioning as part of that principal rank.

Flutes described as "Boehm-system" are understood to be of the later cylindrical-bore design with three sections unless stated otherwise. The numerical designation discussed above for back and front fingerholes does not apply to such instruments or to others having elaborate named or patented key and venting systems.

"Simple system" refers to any model of transverse flute, conical or (later) cylindrical, that is essentially a developed version of the early flute having six fingerholes plus a seventh (E-flat, D-sharp) operated by a closed-standing key and further mechanized by the addition of mostly closed-standing keys above the E-flat key and, if extended to play lower than written D above middle C, open-standing keys beneath the E-flat key. Initially such instruments received improvements only in the form of added key-operated toneholes with little or no revision of the principal rank. Later versions eventually became anything but simple, often having more keys than the average Boehm-system flute. This is also true of the clarinet, the Boehm-Klosé version of which at least appears to be simpler mechanically than the later highly developed versions of simple-system clarinets such as those from Oehler in Berlin. Examples of the Boehm-system oboe are mechanically more simple and streamlined when compared to the full conservatory model in current use. Numerous cylindrical-bore flutes were developed with elaborately revised simple-system-based fingering schemes that embraced nearly all of Boehm's acoustic and venting innovations other than his actual spin-off fingering system. Many similar flutes of the nineteenth century liberally combined elements of the Boehm system with other systems, often with great logic. The Miller Collection has examples of nearly every such innovation from the nineteenth century.

Such work continued throughout the twentieth century, perhaps the most unique example being the Murray flute, a model developed in the 1970s by Alexander Murray that extends venting principles in ways that Boehm might well have found ideal although too advanced to realize sales during his working period. The Miller Collection has two versions of the Murray flute (DCM 1485 and DCM 1486) donated by the W. T. Armstrong Company of Elkhart, Indiana.

8. Physical Description. This field includes such descriptive elements as number of principal parts for each object, mechanical aspects, patent citations, and so forth. Instrumentalists and manufacturers usually describe segmented woodwinds as being in "joints," whereas museum curators and musicologists may prefer to speak of sections or pieces. We accept all these terms. Objects may be described as having a total number of principal sections, which are further defined in specific terms. For example, a recorder or transverse flute having three sections includes the head joint (or head), center joint (or body), and foot joint (or foot). A transverse flute having four sections includes the head joint (or head), upper body joint (usually for left hand), lower body joint (usually for right hand), and foot joint (or foot).

A flute head joint equipped with a metal tuning slide, and therefore in two parts, includes two sections, the lower of which is called the barrel or head joint barrel. However, such a two-section head joint is not separated when the instrument is not in use or placed in its case. An owner or player of such a two-part head joint instrument may consider the head joint to constitute two separate elements and thereby, in concept, refer to a four-joint flute as being in five pieces. That is often the case when such an instrument is acquired and brought to the attention of museum staff or collectors for identification. Such head-joint design is cited in this catalog as being in one part; i.e., the head joint. The same principle applies to other instruments such as flageolets, whose multisection upper unit is functionally one piece (and is described as one piece), though it can be broken down into a multisection upper-unit fipple section and, above it, a one- or two-section windway usually having a sponge chamber and a detachable mouthpiece.

We offer the words of Miller himself (DCM), either in full or in paraphrase, for objects that are difficult to describe.

"Transverse flute" refers to any variety of horizontally held instrument (also known as a "cross flute") played by blowing across a lateral embouchure hole near the end which is closed by any means ranging from a simple natural septum (as in bamboo) to a mechanical device that adjusts the position of a cork plug for tuning purposes. If that device incorporates a threaded rod design allowing the cork to be advanced or retracted by rotating the head joint cap, the device is called the "cork-setting mechanism."

"Whistle flute" (also known as "duct flute" or "fipple flute") refers to any variety of instrument (such as the ocarina) that is played by blowing into a duct or windway conducting the airstream over an edge, which is also termed the "fipple" or "labium." However, "fipple" can also apply to the entire sound-generating structure, typically including, for example, the "block," forming the "air channel" (or duct), and the "edge" (or labium) of the head joint of a recorder or flageolet.

Detail of DCM 0127
Two views of a Bressan treble recorder with original block separate. New block shown on the instrument.

"Whistle" applies to any duct flute that is intended to produce only one pitch or overtones (or, rarely, only a few pitches) from its fundamental first partial. Generally, whistles have few or no fingerholes. An exception is the tabor pipe, which must be categorized as a vertical whistle flute on which one plays only in the high overtones, thus allowing an extended, fully diatonic and partly chromatic scale by means of a three-fingerhole system.

"End-blown notched flute" or just "notched flute" refers to any vertical flute provided with an edge (or "notch") cut on one side of the open upper end across which the player must direct the airstream. The Japanese shakuhachi may be the most efficient instrument using this principle. Its relatively thick bamboo wall affords a wide, deep, clean edge with a relatively shallow notch. Other instruments in this category made from thinner-walled materials involve a narrower and more steeply cut notch, making them harder to play. An elegant example of this type in the Miller Collection is the Chinese jade flute, feng huang xiao (DCM 0493).

"End-blown flute" refers to a variation on the above which is without a notch but has instead an open, tapered upper end to produce a continuous edge around the circumference. The East European kaval, (DCM 0114), is a good example.

9. Measurement. All of the instruments have been remeasured and the dimensions have been revised for many of the specimens. Like the checklist, such measurements involve only overall dimensions for the purposes of positive identification in conformity with standard museum practice. For nontubular objects, such as Central American ceramic whistles, we give two or three dimensions to define the maximum size at obvious points. We have measured tubular instruments, whether straight, curved, or angled, not for acoustically useful information but in order to define the maximum dimension in a straight line between obvious extremities. For example, the Kies angular cor anglais, DCM 1117, outlines an obtuse triangle and we have measured the longest side of that triangle, minus the bocal.

We have measured all jointed, segmented, and otherwise dimensionally adjustable specimens in their shortest, most compressed form with all joints and registers (foot joint tuning slides) fully inserted into their respective sockets. In the case of those transverse or cross flutes with a cork setting mechanism in which the threaded rod shaft, which is used to adjust the cork, perforates the entire cap, exposing variable lengths beyond it, our measurements omit the exposed end. We have measured all instruments as they are, even if the dimensions of missing elements are common knowledge and could be estimated.

10. Mark Maximum. No matter how many times a marking appears on an instrument, we record it only once in this catalog, noting the location of each mark.

11. Mark Additional. This field supplements the Mark Maximum field with markings such as dealership markings and apparent former ownership initials, as well as information on engraved plaques.

12. Notes. This field includes additional information about design or usage, in which Miller's comments and observations often appear.

13. Case. Cases are numbered and stored separately from the flutes. Notes and information on the cases are also derived from the DCM ledger.

14. Condition. Here, we address major matters such as missing parts or damage affecting playability that would call for treatment were the instruments intended for use rather than study as museum pieces. We do not, as a rule, address small matters such as scratches or chips. Here, we address major matters that, were the instruments intended for use rather than study as museum pieces, would call for treatment (e.g., missing parts or damage that affects playability.) We do not, as a rule, address small matters such as scratches or chips.

Transverse flutes of the nineteenth and early twentieth century having a full or partially metal-lined head joint including a tuning slide are very susceptible to cracks. The outer material, usually wood or ivory, must eventually succumb to shrinkage and is further stressed by the more stable metal tubing within. Most such metal lined head joints have cracked, and that is certainly true of those in the Miller Collection. A few of the entries in Dr. Miller's ledger books even record the day a particular instrument cracked. DCM 0324, a boxwood Rudall & Rose flute is a good example. Dr. Miller writes, "Head cracked April 30, 1923," having received the instrument only four days earlier on April 26th. Writing about DCM 0315, an Italian five-keyed boxwood flute, he comments: "Received in fine condition. Head cracked within three weeks." For DCM 0317, an ivory eight-keyed flute by the London firm of Louis Drouet, Dr. Miller admits to attempting a crack prevention treatment (March 1923) that would be considered unacceptable by today's conservation ethics. He writes: "Metal lining slit by D.C.M. to save ivory. Fine specimen." Even so, the head joint subsequently cracked.

15. Provenance. The source from which Miller acquired his instruments is often of historical interest. While most questions of provenance appear in the Notes field, this field addresses Miller's sources.

by Robert E. Sheldon and Carol Lynn Ward Bamford, Library of Congress Music Division Staff