A modern instrument for special effects consisting of a small flexible metal sheet suspended in a wire frame ending in a handle. A wooden knob mounted on a strip of spring steel lies on each side of the metal sheet. The player shakes the instrument with a trembling movement which causes the beaters to strike the sides of the metal sheet. An eerie tremolo is thus produced, and the pitch altered by variable pressure on the sheet of metal. It is extremely difficult to produce a particular required pitch, as the thumb pressure exerted on the frame to vary the pitch is subtle, and difficult to gauge. Different sizes of flexatone have varying ranges of pitch. An invention for a flexatone occurs in the British Patent Records of 1922 and 1923. In 1924 the ‘Flex-a-tone’ was patented in the USA by the Playertone Co. of New York, and introduced as an instrument to make ‘jazz jazzier’.
During its brief success as a novelty instrument the flexatone attracted the interest of Honegger and Schoenberg. Honegger employed it in Antigone (1924–7) and Schoenberg in his Variations for Orchestra (1926–8), Von Heute auf Morgen (1928–9) and Moses und Aron (1930–32). In Khachaturian’s Piano Concerto (1936) it plays the melody line with the strings in the second movement: there is evidence that the composer had wanted to use a musical saw but, as no instrument (or player) was available, substituted a flexatone. Other composers to score for the flexatone include Henze (Elegy for Young Lovers, 1959–61) and Penderecki (De natura sonoris I, 1966). The flexatone (like the musical saw) is often used in film music. In the Hornbostel and Sachs system it is classified as an indirectly struck idiophone.
JAMES BLADES/JAMES HOLLAND
(Lat.: ‘curved’, ‘bent’).
In Western chant notations an adjective describing a neume of more than two notes where notes in ascending order are followed by a final turn downwards. Thus a Porrectusflexus has four notes forming the following steps: down, up, down. SeeNotation, Table 1; see also M. Huglo: ‘Les noms des neumes et leur origine’, EG, i, 1954, pp.53–67.)
A valved bugle of widely conical profile; the Italian equivalent of the Austrian Flugelhorn, the Spanish fiscorn and the French Saxhorn. Family members include: sopracuto in B or A; sopranino in E or D; soprano in C, B or A; contralto [clavicorno, Genis] in F, E or D; tenore in C or B (equivalent to the English baritone; seeBaritone (ii)); baritono [bombardino] in C or B (equivalent to the Euphonium); basso [eufonio, bombarda a 4 pistoni] in C or B (same bore as the baritono but always with four valves); basso-grave [bombardone] in F or E (used in the orchestra like the bass tuba in F or E; seeTuba (i)); and contrabasso in C or B (equivalent to the bass tuba in C or B).
A word often used as a tempo (and mood) designation, particularly in the context fliessender Viertel (‘flowing crotchet’).
(b London, c1767; d London, 1847). English organ builder. See underFlight & robson.
Flight & Robson.
English firm of organ builders. The partnership began in 1806 when Benjamin Flight (b London, c1767; d London, 1847), was joined by Joseph Robson (d ?1842). Flight's father, Benjamin (fl 1772–1805) was credited with introducing the barrel organ to churches, and Flight and Robson maintained a reputation for ingenuity in the construction of mechanical organs demonstrated in the ‘machine organ’ for the Earl of Kirkwall (1811) and the more famous Apollonicon (first exhibited in 1817). They also devised a system of handles and cranks for blowing the bellows (Trinity College, Cambridge, 1819) and disputed their apprentice J.C. Bishop's claim (seeBishop) to have invented the Composition pedal.
The firm was declared bankrupt in 1832. Robson re-established himself in the old premises in St Martin's Lane, London; he was succeeded (c1842) by his son, Thomas Joseph F. Robson (c1800–76) who, by 1851, was employing 20 men. The firm built a number of progressive organs at this time, including St Dunstan-in-the-West, London (1834), St Michael, Chester Square, London (1845), and Buxton Road Chapel, Huddersfield (c1850). The Flights also continued on their own account: John Flight (c1802–90), son of the younger Benjamin Flight, benefited from the patronage of frederick arthur gore Ouseley, as a result of which he built organs in St Barnabas, Pimlico (1849), and St Michael's College, Tenbury (1854). Both firms had ceased work by the 1880s.
B.B.Edmonds: ‘Once upon a time’, Organ Club Handbook, vi (1960), 42