Mad Max's Generation

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stringbed
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Re: Mad Max's Generation

Post by stringbed »

Terry wrote: I was thinking of a much more recent period, starting perhaps with Clarke in 1843(?), covering the development of the tin whistle, bringing in the wooden and poly versions and coming up-to-date with the rash of recent snazzy looking aluminium whistles (or have I blinked and there have been further developments?).
MacMillan goes up to 1912, which is a fair way past 1843. In the preface to his book he notes: “In the 1870s inexpensive ‘silver flageolets’ in metal were advertised but these instruments had a cylindrical bore, in contrast to the conical bore of the flageolet and, indeed of Clarke’s Tin Whistle of 1843.” Ironically, we know both that Clarke’s production began before that date and he wasn’t the first manufacturer of whistles, because the company’s current mascot, Whistling Billy, told us so in an interview conducted sometime later in the same decade.

Taking this further as a collaborative project including similar interviews with, or contributions written by folks still capable of speaking for themselves, is a stellar idea. Maintaining it as a dynamic online resource is more likely to yield useful results in the reasonably near term than is targeting a multi-authored book. WikiWhistle?
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Re: Mad Max's Generation

Post by Terry McGee »

Mr.Gumby wrote: Wed Feb 08, 2023 5:18 am Perhaps loose the notion Clarke 'invented' the tin whistle. They invented one particular type of tin whistle but there's ample evidence there was a wide selection of brass and nickel silver whistles around during the 19th century. Sold through catalogues, hardware shops and what have you (I have seen a whistle in a snazzy wooden box come up for sale originally sold through Harrod's during the earlier 20th century)
Also, metal (and wooden, celluloid etc) whistles were common in western and central Europe. These are part of the picture. Whistles were not unique or limited to the anglosphere.
Is it possible that Clarke's claim to have invented the tin whistle is true if you focus on the word tin? As you say, there seems to be ample evidence of other metal whistles available, but copper-based alloys such as brass and nickel-silver would probably have cost a good deal more than tin-plate, as they do now. It would be nice to know how much cheaper back then, and whether Clarke managed with a combination of simple construction method, cheaper materials and some level of mass production to get the cost down to what the unkempt masses could afford. That word "penny" resurfaces. I imagine he didn't leave a massive estate!
I don't think anyone has looked into this end of available whistles. Seeing Generation stating on their website they started in 1967, despite Generation whistles in evidence from at least the late 19th century, should give some indication what you are up sgsinst, if you want to tackle this thoroughly.
Indeed the earlier end of our period of interest is going to be a lot harder to research than the more recent. We may need to rely on weasel-words such as "claimed", "alleged", "believed" where we have any reason for doubt. That doesn't daunt me as I'm more concerned to recover the living history than pick through the dead, at least until we have the more recent developments under some level of control.
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Re: Mad Max's Generation

Post by Terry McGee »

stringbed wrote: Wed Feb 08, 2023 5:28 am MacMillan goes up to 1912, which is a fair way past 1843.
Does he have a stated organological reason to stop at 1912, or was it due to rising tensions in Europe in the leadup to WWI?
In the preface to his book he notes: “In the 1870s inexpensive ‘silver flageolets’ in metal were advertised but these instruments had a cylindrical bore, in contrast to the conical bore of the flageolet and, indeed of Clarke’s Tin Whistle of 1843.” Ironically, we know both that Clarke’s production began before that date and he wasn’t the first manufacturer of whistles, because the company’s current mascot, Whistling Billy, told us so in an interview conducted sometime later in the same decade.
"inexpensive ‘silver flageolets’ sounds like an oxymoron, but presumably implies nickel-silver (German Silver) rather than sterling. As I mentioned above, it would be nice to know the relative cost of tinplate and nickel-silver sheet at that time. Tin-plated steel could probably be made considerably thinner than nickel-silver for the same strength. We believe Clarke used (uses?) 0.3mm wall thickness. (The old 30 Gauge was 0.31mm.) It would be interesting to measure a period nickel-silver whistle. And see how they were made. Butt joins rather than overlapping seams? Or drawn tubing?

Something we must do is compare the size and taper of Clarke's whistles with that of the preceding English Flageolets to see if that's where he got the idea for a tapered bore. Sigh. I'm opening more questions....
Taking this further as a collaborative project including similar interviews with, or contributions written by folks still capable of speaking for themselves, is a stellar idea. Maintaining it as a dynamic online resource is more likely to yield useful results in the reasonably near term than is targeting a multi-authored book. WikiWhistle?
Heh heh, WikiWhistle is perhaps getting a bit ambitious. I envisaged opening a new topic here, inviting people to get involved and see if we can start to put some bricks in place. Then working out what to do with it.
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Re: Mad Max's Generation

Post by Mr.Gumby »

Indeed the earlier end of our period of interest is going to be a lot harder to research than the more recent. We may need to rely on weasel-words such as "claimed", "alleged", "believed" where we have any reason for doubt. That doesn't daunt me as I'm more concerned to recover the living history than pick through the dead, at least until we have the more recent developments under some level of control.

I always feel any history of whistles leans completely on the endlessly repeated received wisdom that Clarke 'invented' the tin whistle and that theirs was the whistle that was played until Generation took over by the 1950s. This ignores the dozens of different whistles that were made and played from at least the mid 19th century onward. I realise the old makers weren't documented much, the whistle being the lowest of the low/cheap means to play music. But if you are trying for a history of whistles there's enough there to warrant a serious look.

Here's an old scan from a book published in Belgium (can't seem to immediately locate it right now). Possibly from the collection of MIM in Brussels but equally possible from the private collection of Herman de Witt (my memory of the details is foggy). Anyhow, all whistles that go pretty much undocumented.

Image

And here's a page from a musical seller's catalogue, note Clarkes were available in Tin, Brass and Nickel. It allows for some comparison of prices.

Image
Last edited by Mr.Gumby on Thu Feb 09, 2023 5:28 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Mad Max's Generation

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Terry wrote: Does he [MacMillan] have a stated organological reason to stop at 1912, or was it due to rising tensions in Europe in the leadup to WWI?
I slipped on the repeated mention of the date. As noted in the initial citation, the book goes to 1914. “By the beginning of the First World War the flageolet had suffered a similar fate to that of the recorder at the turn of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. It had slipped, slowly but surely, into obsolescence.”
I envisaged opening a new topic here, inviting people to get involved and see if we can start to put some bricks in place. Then working out what to do with it.
MacMillan does not regard the tin whistle as a successor in the same, or even a contiguous musical lineage. That’s something I will gladly argue in an appropriately labeled topic thread, once it’s been opened (and have been blogging about, all along).
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Re: Mad Max's Generation

Post by Terry McGee »

Mr.Gumby wrote: Thu Feb 09, 2023 5:17 am I always feel any history of whistles leans completely on the endlessly repeated received wisdom that Clarke 'invented' the tin whistle and that theirs was the whistle that was played until Generation took over by the 1950s. This ignores the dozens of different whistles that were made and played from at least the mid 19th century onward. I realise the old makers weren't documented much, the whistle being the lowest of the low/cheap means to play music. But if you are trying for a history of whistles there's enough there to warrant a serious look.

Here's an old scan from a book published in Belgium (can't seem to immediately locate it right now). Possibly from the collection of MIM in Brussels but equally possible from the private collection of Herman de Witt (my memory of the details is foggy). Anyhow, all whistles that go pretty much undocumented.

Image

And here's a page from a musical seller's catalogue, note Clarkes were available in Tin, Brass and Nickel. It allows for some comparison of prices.

Image
Yeah, great stuff, thanks Mr Gumby. So we can delve into the past. Our excuses are evaporating!

It would be nice to know a year for that catalog, but Bruno doesn't seem to be very good at dating. I'm looking at another of his catalogs, again no visible date, but Clark's show up on page 246, compared to your page 301, and a tin Clarkes is $1.40 per doz compared to your $1.35. There's also a page for wooden flageolets, of the keyed variety, showing that they were still a thing at that time. Whenever that time was!

A few things catch my eye.

They are all "flageolets", apart from the ones strangely called tin fifes! The term whistle is kept for the thing that calls the dog. I wonder when we started calling them whistles?
And even the French are marketing a 6 holes on top metal flageolet, whereas their wooden ones had featured 4 holes on top and two underneath.
Clarke is spelled Clark, on the illustration of the whistle as well as in the catalog. Clark must have then come across Anne with an E.
Tin is, as you'd expect, cheaper than brass or nickel.
Presumably this is a trade (wholesale) catalog, not a public (retail) catalog. Who's going to want to buy whistles by the dozen? (Well, apart from me in 1974, buying two boxes of ten from Barnes and Mullins in London to feed the starving whistle players in Australia when things had gone very wrong in the moulding process and every whistle in the shops was a total dud!)
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Re: Mad Max's Generation

Post by Terry McGee »

stringbed wrote: Thu Feb 09, 2023 5:27 am
Terry wrote: Does he [MacMillan] have a stated organological reason to stop at 1912, or was it due to rising tensions in Europe in the leadup to WWI?
I slipped on the repeated mention of the date. As noted in the initial citation, the book goes to 1914. “By the beginning of the First World War the flageolet had suffered a similar fate to that of the recorder at the turn of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. It had slipped, slowly but surely, into obsolescence.”
I envisaged opening a new topic here, inviting people to get involved and see if we can start to put some bricks in place. Then working out what to do with it.
MacMillan does not regard the tin whistle as a successor in the same, or even a contiguous musical lineage. That’s something I will gladly argue in an appropriately labeled topic thread, once it’s been opened (and have been blogging about, all along).
Hmmm, sounds like organological snobbery to me. I'm reminded of a book on musical instruments I came across perhaps 50 years back in the Canberra city library. Having discussed all the other instruments in great depth, it had a final chapter dedicated to "Guitar, Banjo, Mandolin, and other instruments". The opening paragraph started: "While it could be reasonably argued that there is no such thing as a bad musical instrument, it seems a shame that so many people waste so much of their time learning these instruments with so little to offer." It is not my habit to make marginal notes in library books, but I could not be restrained in this case.

There's perhaps an irony here too, stringbed. Just as the flageolet "slipped, slowly but surely, into obsolescence", the whistle was blossoming into great popularity.
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Re: Mad Max's Generation

Post by Mr.Gumby »

They were licensed to a US manufacturer ad 'Clark', I believe.
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Re: Mad Max's Generation

Post by sfmans »

Terry McGee wrote: Fri Feb 10, 2023 4:33 am There's perhaps an irony here too, stringbed. Just as the flageolet "slipped, slowly but surely, into obsolescence", the whistle was blossoming into great popularity.
Is my memory playing tricks, but didn't Generation used to market their tin whistles as flageolets? It wasn't until much later that I realised that the two were relatives, rather than the same.
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Re: Mad Max's Generation

Post by Terry McGee »

Mr.Gumby wrote: Fri Feb 10, 2023 4:36 am They were licensed to a US manufacturer ad 'Clark', I believe.
Hmmm, seems we've been here before...

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Re: Mad Max's Generation

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sfmans wrote: Fri Feb 10, 2023 4:41 am
Terry McGee wrote: Fri Feb 10, 2023 4:33 am There's perhaps an irony here too, stringbed. Just as the flageolet "slipped, slowly but surely, into obsolescence", the whistle was blossoming into great popularity.
Is my memory playing tricks, but didn't Generation used to market their tin whistles as flageolets? It wasn't until much later that I realised that the two were relatives, rather than the same.
Still do. The red tipped brass, blue tipped nickel plated and garish Auroras are flageolets. The green tipped brass Folk Whistle and garish Boho Penny Whistles are whistles.

https://generationmusic.co.uk/

It would be amusing to run a few measurements to see what the differences were. Largely psychological, I'd wager....
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Re: Mad Max's Generation

Post by Mr.Gumby »

Terry McGee wrote: Fri Feb 10, 2023 4:55 am
Hmmm, seems we've been here before...

Well, yes, more than once.

On the issue of naming, some of the old French whistles had a visual link to the shape of flageolets:

Image

while elsewhere:

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Re: Mad Max's Generation

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Terry wrote: There's perhaps an irony here too, stringbed. Just as the flageolet "slipped, slowly but surely, into obsolescence", the whistle was blossoming into great popularity.
That transition is attested long before the cited obsolescence, so the only irony would be in the wording. There’s also plenty of documentation about the process to be sifted through (in fact, what could easily be a PhD dissertation’s worth). The German term for penny whistle is attested in the 17th century. English-language references to penny and tin whistles appear well before the date of Clarke’s putative invention, notwithstanding marketing claims and a recent corporate history. Generation also dates the outset of their operation to later than can otherwise readily be substantiated. After all that is sorted out, there’s a descriptive catalog of proprietary or otherwise significant designs from the instrument’s earliest stages until whatever cutoff point ultimately seems appropriate.

Are we also planning to get into the intriguing parallel between how the German flute of the urban salon found its way into Irish pub sessions, and the corresponding migration of the transmogrified flageolet? I’ll gladly start a new discussion headed, say, From flageolet to tin whistle, if others see some utility in bringing the topic out from under its current Mad Max cloak.
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Re: Mad Max's Generation

Post by Mr.Gumby »

how the German flute of the urban salon found its way into Irish pub sessions
The German flute never really made it to pub sessions much, despite the use of the term 'German' or 'concert' flute by older generations of Irish musicians. By and large the English flutes from Ruddall onward were the ones sought after by traditional musicians, for volume to play at dances. The volume produced for the urban salon just wouldn't do. 'Pub sessions' were really not a 'thing' until the second half on the last century. In fact well into the sixties musicians were more likely to get evicted for trying to play music inside the average public house. Until, ofcourse, publicans realised there was money to be made from the music crowd. But that's yet another discussion.
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Re: Mad Max's Generation

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Mr.Gumby wrote: Fri Feb 10, 2023 9:33 am The German flute never really made it to pub sessions much, despite the use of the term 'German' or 'concert' flute by older generations of Irish musicians. By and large the English flutes from Ruddall onward were the ones sought after by traditional musicians, for volume to play at dances.
I was using the term German flute in the generic sense it had in the early published compilations of dance tunes, designating the transverse flute as opposed to the “common flute” — or just plain “flute” — now called the recorder. I didn’t mean to imply that simple-system transverse flutes of German manufacture preferentially found their way into session use.
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