Friday, August 23, 2013

Debut of Cooper Scale

Photo from High Flutin'
The annual NFA Convention is a terrific environment for flute makers to present new products.  Convention attendees look forward to visiting booths and "checking out what's new."  At Powell, we premiered a winged headjoint this year,  Turning the clock all the way back to 1974, Powell Flutes attended the NFA Convention in Pittsburgh and premiered their model flute with the Cooper Scale.  In this excerpt from High Flutin', we read former president Ed Machon's account of the event:
Fenwick Smith returned from Germany where he had been studying and performing.  He brought us up to date on the "Cooper Scale," saying it was very well-received in Europe..He explained that Albert Cooper was very co-operative and would give us details and all notes pertaining to the new scale.

This was 1974...What to do?  We sat with the best flute in the world.  Should we risk the time and money necessary to entirely re-vamp the set-up or rest on our laurels?  The decision was quickly made to go all out and have the Cooper Scale flute ready for the NFA convention to be held in August that year.  Two men took over the tooling necessary to convert the scale, and the rest of the shop continued on with business as usual.  The decision to make the scale with drawn tone holes was a difficult one to make as, traditionally, the Powell was always done with the soldered holes.  The "pulling balls" to draw the tone holes out of the silver tubing would be much easier to make than face the uncertainties of gathering stock from our suppliers.  Very little of the tone hole stock used on Powells could be adapted to the new scale.  If I recall correctly, only one tone hole was in the same position as on the Powell.  Needless to say, the scene was bedlam, and from the loud continuous noises, mostly strange, carrying on all day and half the night, a visitor might think we were working on a new atomic weapon.  After what seemed to be an eternity, and a mess of ruined tubing, we had two bodies ready to be keyed up, polished, padded, and tested,  The moment of truth arrived finally, and with a strobe, which replaced our ever-loving "gong," the new baby was tested and found to be nigh on to perfect... All this came together about a week before the convention.

The convention was a "first" for all of us.  Dick Jerome and I, along with Albert Cooper went, as did Bick Brannen and his brother Bob with their wooden, conical bore Boehm flute.  They also helped us at the booth.  That was the first real convention; the one at Anaheim, California in 1973 was poorly attended.  The hours were unreal -- 8:00 AM to 12:00 PM, break for lunch, back for another four-hour session, supper if you were lucky, then 8:00 PM to closing.  I recall packing up the flutes at about 10:30 PM, then searching madly for a place still serving meals.  The dining rooms in the hotel shut down about 9:00 PM,  Dick and I ended up having dinner about 11:00 or 11:30 after walking about 8-10 blocks in a not-too-nice area.

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