The life and work of John Clinton, cont.

The Outcome of Clinton’s Visit to Munich

As noted above, at the time of Clinton’s visit Boehm had been out of the flute development field for 12 years and was still primarily occupied with other business interests. One very interesting line of speculation is to consider whether or not Clinton’s visit could have had any influence upon Boehm’s subsequent decision to re-enter the field of flute development in 1846 after a 13-year absence from the field.  Whatever his other failings, Clinton’s energy and enthusiasm appear to be amply borne out by the available record, and contact with a true enthusiast can have a very stimulating effect, as most musicians know well!!  Certainly, it was not long after Clinton’s visit that Boehm embarked upon the intensive program of studies to which reference has already been made and which were described in detail by Boehm in his most informative 1871 book “The Flute and Flute Playing” (10). 

One thing appears certain - despite what has been inferred by some commentators, Clinton’s visit to Munich clearly had no negative effect whatsoever either on the relations between Boehm and Clinton or on Clinton’s general opinion of the merits (and deficiencies) of the then-current Boehm flute (the improved 1832 model). On the contrary, it appears that Clinton left Munich still on the best of terms with Boehm and that whatever he may have learned there about Boehm’s own views did not cause him any disquiet.  Clinton himself states that he left Munich under the happy impression that all had gone well, that Boehm would “endeavour to carry out my (Clinton’s) views” and that he merely had to await the production by Boehm of the finished prototypes of a new-generation Boehm flute incorporating Clinton’s suggestions to step out onto the stage in the role of manufacturer.  Clinton is clearly implying (accurately or otherwise) that Boehm had agreed to undertake further research using Clinton’s suggestions as a template.

Clinton’s subsequent (and highly regarded) 1846 tutor for the ring-keyed 1832 Boehm flute was dedicated in the most fulsome terms to Boehm himself, who was given full credit by Clinton for the design.  This clearly proves that a year after the visit to Munich, Clinton still held Boehm and his ring-keyed 1832 flute in very high regard, although he must have been looking forward to receiving the practical results of his own and Boehm’s joint improvements. It also sheds light on Clinton’s character by showing once again that, as with his 1843 tutor, Clinton was anything but mealy-mouthed in giving credit to Boehm for Boehm’s innovations.  He was clearly not a man to withhold credit where credit was due, even if in this case he may have expected a return in terms of a future business opportunity.

It is apparent that we must look to the period subsequent to 1846 to find the basis for Clinton’s period of disillusionment with the Boehm flute which was to commence so abruptly in 1847. Clinton states in the 1860 “Code of Instructions” (op. cit) that in the summer of 1847 Boehm “brought over his metal flute with cylindrical bore and conical head (erroneously termed “parabola”) like the clarionet” for Clinton to try out.  Clinton goes on to say that  it was only at this point that he determined on an independent course of action, since he found Boehm’s new design to be “as far as ever from removing the defects, or of perfecting the (1832) instrument” and that Clinton “could not adopt it with pleasure or satisfaction, nor conscientiously recommend it“. On this basis, Clinton states that he “was (most reluctantly, I confess) compelled to decline it”. 

One may also surmise based on the directions taken by Clinton in his subsequent development work and associated writings that few, if any, of Clinton’s suggestions put to Boehm in 1845 appeared in the design of the new flute.  To a man of Clinton’s obvious ego (based on his somewhat self-laudatory writings), this would have been extremely difficult to swallow, just as his earlier rejection by the English manufacturers would have been.  We will examine this factor further in a subsequent section of this paper.

Another inference which may reasonably be drawn from the events described above is that the design of Boehm’s 1847 flute took Clinton very much by surprise. It appears on the evidence that Boehm had not kept Clinton up to date on his research directions, likely because they ran directly counter to the advice provided by Clinton during the 1845 visit. If he had kept Clinton informed, it seems probable that Clinton would not have waited until 1847 to express his disagreement with the direction being taken! In all probability, Boehm decided that the best thing to do would be to keep quiet until the actual prototype was available for test, and then hope that the instrument would recommend itself to Clinton and others in terms of its improved performance.  In Clinton’s case, this expectation was not fulfilled!

One important element of Clinton’s version of Boehm’s actions in bringing the new flute over for a trial is the unequivocal statement that it was his decision, not Boehm’s, to decline to take up the manufacturing rights of the new flute. It is of course possible that this was a face-saving statement by Clinton, as we shall see later. However, in making these statements Clinton is clearly going on record as absolving Boehm of any accusations of double-dealing in promising the rights to Clinton and then granting the to Rudall & Rose. Whatever the truth of the matter, the fact remains that the English manufacturing rights to the new Boehm flute were finally granted to Rudall & Rose rather than Clinton.

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