FLUTE Member Of The Week
January 25 to 31, 1999
I started playing the flute at school quite by chance when I was 17. I was mostly self taught since the only teacher at school taught every wind instrument and we couldn't afford private lessons. The school had three old high pitch flutes (they didn't know they were high pitch nor did I for some time) and I played one of these for a year or so. After a year I got into the London Schools Symphony Orchestra and had to borrow a cheap low pitch flute. William Bennett was in the orchestra at the same time and it was obvious that he was going to go somewhere then!


After leaving school I went to University and studied physics. I did a PhD and then joined the staff. After three years I moved to my present job in the Department of Physics and Astronomy in Leeds University which is in Yorkshire, UK. My research was firstly on Cosmic Rays where we had an experiment on the first European scientific satellite. After that I moved to X-ray studies of Polymers. I am nearing retirement now and am mostly concerned with pushing bits of paper around to do with teaching. The level of bureaucracy in UK Universities these days has to be seen to be believed. We seem to spend more time writing about what we are doing than actually doing it!

I have always kept up playing the flute, changing instruments occasionally. I played a Rudall Carte wood flute for many years and still do bring it out from time to time. I mostly play a hand made silver flute by an English maker who used to work for Rudall Carte and then Flute Makers Guild - Ewen McDougall. It is a splendid instrument, superbly made and I am very pleased with it. I also love to play the violin and, from time to time, the Highland Bagpipes. Most of my playing is with local amateur orchestras although I like to play chamber music as well.

One of my special interests ever since I have been in Leeds is teaching musical acoustics. I gave a course to the students in the Department of Music for many years. It was eventually scrapped because of curriculum changes. Since then I have developed a number of one-off lectures. Hoots, Toots and Flutes is the most popular and I give this in schools and to the students. I can pitch it at all sorts of levels and the picture shows me in the middle of a talk to some very young children in the local museum last year. I said I would do the talk if I could get my hands on the Serpent which is in another museum! I always finish off the talk with a skirl on the pipes which goes down very well even if it leaves everybody a bit deaf!

Most years I have a final year student in the department working on a project to do with musical acoustics. Some of these have been on the bagpipe chanter which behaves in a very curious fashion which we do not understand. Some have been on the flute and have tried to explore some of the problems which come up from time to time on "FLUTE". It is very difficult to get really reliable data with wind instruments. As I sometimes point out, the physics of the flute is probably more complicated than the physics of the atomic nucleus!

When I retire I shall play more music, go walking in the Yorkshire Dales more regularly and, if there is any time left after looking after the house (my wife is younger than me and will still be working), retire to my little workshop where I make model steam engines and gadgets to do things. I also like astronomy and photography which I combine. I might also have time to read more of the postings on FLUTE! I must confess that I skip over many of them very fast since I don't have the time to read them all.

Robin Jakeways


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