Steven A. Wasser
Vern Q. Powell Flutes, Inc., 257 Crescent St., Waltham, MA 02154
Manufacturers of musical instruments are under constant pressure to both improve productivity and enhance the performance qualities of their products. However, the higher the perceived musical quality of an instrument, the more difficult it becomes to implement technological changes. For example, apparent improvements in materials and/or the manufacturing process may have subtle effects which could adversely affect particular performance qualities which characterize the manufacturer's instrument. It is known that some imperfections in materials and manufacturing processes may actually enhance the artist's musical abilities. Therefore, it becomes the responsibility of the manufacturer to establish a dialogue between the subjective artistic requirements of the musician and the relatively objective manufacturing factors such as material properties, dimensions, and processes. The issues of how a manufacturer of a distinctive, traditional handcrafted flute (with a loyal following among professional flutists) approaches the design and manufacture of a new flute to meet the needs of a wider range of players will be discussed. Particular emphasis is placed on the steps taken to maintain the family relationship between the musical qualities of the new flute and those of the traditional one and, at the same time, to ensure sufficient differences in performance capabilities in order to maintain a clear distinction between the two instruments.