Date of Award

5-1997

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Departmental Honors

Department

Music

First Advisor

Phillip Monson

Abstract

Theobald Boehm is most well known for his contribution to the structure of today's standard flute key system. He was born in 1794 to a goldsmith, who intended him to follow the trade. Boehm became skilled at gold smithing while also pursuing musical studies, using a flute to improve his weak lungs. He learned to play the flageolet and one-keyed flute in childhood. He grew unhappy with the construction of these and made himself a copy of a four-keyed flute by Grenser of Dresden. In 1812, he became principal flautist at the Isartor Theater. He was able to continue both his flute playing and gold smithing in this position. He established a factory of his own in 1828, and he produced instruments under the name of Boehm & Grève à Munich. Boehm traveled to Paris and London as a virtuoso in 1831 and met with considerable success. In 1832 the first actual Boehm flute was constructed. New innovations included a tapered bore larger than normal and a system of open holes controlled by interlinked keys. Although these contributed to the success of his flutes, the actual "Boehm system" refers to the size and placing of the tone holes and the resulting change in fingerings. Between 1833 and 1846, he oversaw improvements in the Bavarian steel industry, and did almost nothing in music. A few men saw fit to steal some of his unprotected designs during this time and improved certain features (Bate 840).

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