I did it. I made the leap to a keyed wooden flute. But do I do the sensible thing and buy a Casey Burns? Noooooo, not me. I find an antique Rudall and Rose on Ebay. And this is not just any Rudall and Rose, it's boxwood with four keys, rare. Seller was Patrick Olwell (!). A previous owner was Chris Norman (!!!!!!).

This flute first saw the light in England in 1835. To put that into perspective, in 1835 people were dressing like this. And 1835 was the year Charles Darwin, in his voyage on the HMS Beagle, made his seminal survey of Galapagos, the conclusions of which still heat the courts in my country.

Boxwood is what is called "unstable" wood - it shrinks and expands a lot with changes in humidity (like when you blow into it). Meaning it's prone to cracks unless handled with great care.

So I've taken on a responsibility. As Dave said, this flute will outlive me, I'm just a caretaker not an owner.

It arrived yesterday, St Paddy's Day. Talk about timing!

Even before I touch it, I have to think about giving it an English climate. To that end, I've constructed a flute terrarium. Plastic bin, hygrometer (with remote sensor!). And best of all - the high tech humidifier, a damp paper towel in a dixie cup (you ain't just-a whistlin').

Did I mention that she is little and pretty? Smaller than I expected. And she smells nice. And did I mention that I did actually play her? (Though I'm told I need to reorient her to saliva very slooooowly.) She has a lovely upper octave. The first time I played her, her middle octave felt veiled. Second time, it sounded. The finger hole spacings are different, particularly on the right hand. It will take some time to get to know her. Rudy. Rudy Rosa.

And the keys. I thought they would be more consistent with my boehm.

My Boehm Rudy Rosa
2 This one is obvious. It's that coveted G#. Which I continue to think of as A flat. Yep.
1 This key is held down almost always. When let up, it turns a B natural into a C natural. Instead, this gets me the B flat from A.
4 This is what gets me to an E flat from a D natural. Yes, the same. Sorry, I meant to say the D# from D natural. Well, it's the E flat that I want.
A strange effect, I can go from the D to the E flat fine. But on letting the key go, the D doesn't sound. A guess - the mechanism is releasing too slowly.
3 A trill key on this flute. Gets me an E flat with all other fingers lifted. This one I had to look up. It gets me F natural (as I had hoped!) from E natural in theory. I need to try it this evening after I get back from boating.

B flat, E flat, F natural, and G#. Well, that's it, this liddle lovely is fully chromatic. No keyed C natural, but that odd keyless fingering is starting to grow on me, it has its own sound moving through the scale.

Oh crap, now I need to swab her decks. The recommendation is for a plastic rod that won't scratch her innerds. I thought I had a chopstick that would do, but none to be found. And the recommendation is a silk swab - none but the best for milady. I have some undies I could use for the silk, but no kindly rod. Sorry Rudy, you'll have to air out till I can hit the hardware store or a Chinese restaurant tomorrow.

Update - Apr 4, 2006

Rudy has a new home. At the recommendation of Dave Migoya, I moved Rudy into a pelican box - airtight (to keep in humidity) and bomb proof. The bomb shelter. I originally got a pelican box just the size for the flute, but really didn't like the wood and silver in contact with the foam (which does shed). And I wanted to keep the antique flute case, even though it clearly did not originate with this flute. So here we are, with space for the hygrometer. And (not shown) what Fred accurately noted as the "nitey-nite blanky" that I lay on top of Rudy before closing the case so that the flute never comes directly in contact with the foam.

And of course, I'm still learning to play her. The biggest epiphany is the E flat key. I was having so much trouble getting that E flat. I had the joint with that key moved out of the way of my right pinky so that I wasn't constantly hitting it with the other notes. Then, it occurred to me to use that key as I would on my boehm - right pinky down on every note except D natural. Angelic trumpets and neon signs flashing - it all works, including some upper upper register notes I thought I couldn't get.

But there are difficulties with this. The reach and feel with the right pinky is different from my boehm. And E natural needs to have the pinky up so that it doesn't sound way way sharp. So. A whole new instrument to learn.

Another update - Apr 11, 2006

The next step was to find a peg where Rudy could rest while not playing. I already had a flute stand from Blayman Music for my alto and c silver flutes (Big Al and Silvia) that could accomodate one more. I worked with Randy Beecham at Blayman Music, and the cool guy at B&C Hardware to come up with the following solution.

Randy suggested a piccolo peg. Close, but it was too short and narrow. So the B&C Hardware guy and I found a plastic tube that fit perfectly over the peg. Then we added a wooden dowel inside the tube that extended it to the length I wanted. Eh voila! I also had to steam the plastic tube to straighten it out. A confederacy of - not dunces, but people rising to a hitherto unexpected challenge.

Update - May 8, 2006

Rudy's joints are slipping, hard to play her when her various parts move around as I play. At the Auburn session last night, Dick (another flute player) showed up. He had just the thing for this problem, recommended by Casey Burns. Well, it's that stuff you seat toilets with. Really. Though the joints (tenons?) are now tighter, I'm not convinced, that stuff has an unfriendly sticky feel to it.

Update - Nov 13, 2006

At the Boxwood Festival in Canada last summer, Marten Root was kind enough to jot down a full fingering chart for Rudy. Here it is.