Glass Flutes after Claude Laurent

The Paris-made Glass Flutes of Claude Laurent from the first half of the 19th Century are regarded as highly important instruments in the history of the Flute, and Woodwinds in general. The use of Glass as a medium presented challenges that led to our modern post-based key mountings. Laurent invented these, patented the concept and then freely outsourced this new technology to other makers such as Boehm. These instruments were sought after by the top players of that era and others, including Louis and Napoleon Bonaparte. There is a beautiful faceted one on display in the Madison Wing at the Library of Congress that was theoretically owned by President Madison. The Library also hosts the Dayton Miller Collection which includes 18 specimens. These flutes, when they come available at auction continue to be highly sought after by modern flute enthusiasts and collectors. Modern flute makers aware of the history of the flute commonly wish they could have one. Less than 300 are known to exist.

A few have tried to recreate these flutes with little success. William Haynes tried and failed, and said that nobody in the future will ever make these again. Fortunately, that will soon no longer be true! Using modern art glass techniques and expertise, I am setting up to make historical copies of some of these flutes, as well as modern derivations using the artistic glass possibilities of our current time, as well as my current acoustical standards. I will also be rendering versions in 3D printed optical resins, most likely before the end of the year. These will have the advantage of being somewhat shatterproof, and feel lighter in the hands compared with the ones rendered in glass.

Only a few of the originals were actually cast. Other glass working methods such as blowing into a form and marvering dating back centuries were undoubtedly used by the Parisian glass workers where Laurent sourced his glass. This was followed by much grinding and cold working techniques similar to those used today in modern lens grinding. I will be researching these glass forming techniques eventually. For now the accuracy of modern glass casting methods makes this the best choice for producing these. I will also be writing on how I recreated these flutes so that future flute makers can continue on this path, without initially having to rediscover how these were made.

Currently I am gathering data and tooling, including measuring an actual rare playing specimen in July, and others in October. I am setting up a glass working annex in my workshop for casting and cold working. The metal keys and ferrules will be molded up and cast locally in Seattle by the folks who cast my current flute keywork. I will experiment with casting the glass myself, and outsourcing the historically authentic instrument glass to one of the top glass casting artists worldwide. I anticipate finishing the first of these flutes sometime in the spring of 2021.

Helping me are a team of over 20 individuals including researchers, performers, collectors and curators of these instruments, glass artists who offer their expertise, and many others including a French Language coach who is helping me with correct pronunciation of "Claude Laurent". I am gratified to have such support and expertise - instead of going at it alone!

Look to this page for more developments and resources as these are added. Meanwhile, enjoy this photo of the cast cobalt glass flute once owned by Louis Napoleon. This, as well as his brother Napoleon's flute (identical to the Madison flute) are currently on display in the newly remodeled musical instrument room at the Metropolitan Museum in New York City. This photo was used with permission by the flute's owner. (Updated June 21, 2021)

[Photo of the Claude Laurent Flute once owned by Louis Bonaparte. With permission by the current owner.]

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Page last modified:
June 21 2021

     © Casey Burns 1981-2007