The Glissando Headjoint® gives flutists an entirely new mode of expression, bringing the instrument closer to the sound of the human voice. It is a telescoping headjoint, with a high performance contemporary cut headjoint sliding inside a carrier tube! Two "wings" extend from the lip plate and comfortably embrace the flutist’s cheeks. Moving the flute to the right slides the headjoint from its "home position" (all the way in) and extends the length of the flute. A downward glissando can be made from every note! With the Glissando Headjoint® in its "home position," the flute is a traditional Boehm flute and all repertoire can be played as if a traditional headjoint was in use. The Glissando Headjoint® can be positioned to tune the flute like any other headjoint.
The History of the Glissando Headjoint®
by Robert Dick
In 1978, I was experimenting with a Fajardo Double-Wedge headjoint that Alex Murray lent me. This particular headjoint was made of silver, rather than wood, as all the others were. Fajardo's concept was to use a cylindrical tube for the headjoint, eliminating Boehm's conical-parabolic shape entirely. Fajardo then put a wedge into the top of the headjoint to remove the same volume from the cylinder as the conical-parabolic shape did. Armstrong made a bunch of these in the late 70s. They didn't catch on.
Because the metal Fajardo headjoint could fit into the flute either the regular way or upside down, crown end into the flute, I tried it in the flute with the lip plate very close to the receiver, stuffing the wedge into the "wrong" end to act as a cork. The difference was astonishing! The scale changed totally, the timbre changed totally. Instantly, I thought of making a headjoint where the lip plate could slide along on a channel, with some sort of mechanism to keep things airtight as it moved. I called this the Travelling Lip Plate Headjoint. It was not practical to engineer and no prototype of this idea was ever built. I've got some drawings from that time in my files. The only surviving details from this first creative burst are the wings attached to the lip plate to cradle the chin or cheeks in order to control the movement of the headjoint. These were in the vision from the first instant!
Because of finances, the idea had to lay dormant until 1992. Not having funds for construction didn't stop my thinking, and I had figured out that the entire headjoint had to move in and out, not just the lip plate.
The first prototype was made by Eva Kingma in 1992. It was based on the idea that the slide would go into the flute, making upwards glissandi from the normal fingerings. There was a rubber band to pull the head back to its home position. Not so great for the jaw, teeth and neck. Like many “failures” early in the development of an idea, this prototype was not a failure, because it taught the valuable lesson that the headjoint had to slide outwards, to lengthen the flute, not shorten it.
Over the next several years, I worked with Kaspar Baechi, a young and creative flute technician in Zurich, where I lived at the time. We went through two more generations of prototypes. One model had a slide that went both above and below pitch. A great idea that just didn’t work. It was too frustrating never to have a solid, home position where the flute would be a regular flute. When the guitarist lets go of the tremolo bar, the guitar returns to normal intonation. The flute needed to do the same. We settled on the concept that when the headjoint was all the way in, that the flute would be in "home position", with the headjoint in its regular relationship to the flute. This simplified playing enormously and paved the way for later developments.
I performed and recorded with the prototypes Kaspar made. Good examples from this period are the A.D.D. Trio’s CD Sic Bisquitus Disintegrat (Latin for That’s the Way the Cookie Crumbles), the disc GUDIRA with Randy Raine-Rusch and Barry Guy and Columns of Air, a duo CD with multi-instumentalist and virtual reality pioneer Jaron Lanier.
In time, I showed the headjoint to Bickford Brannen, who expressed interest in refining it and making a model that could be put on the market. When he asked me if I’d like him to work on my invention, I was jumping for joy! It took several years before we had the model that’s available today. Like so many ideas that are simple in basic conception, there were some tricky details to work out. Keeping the seal between the headjoint and the carrier tube airtight while the inner headjoint expands more than the outer carrier tube when the breath warms it and likewise contracts slower as it cools was one such challenge. As is his wont, Mr. Brannen found the way and the design that is currently on the market was finished.
The premiere performance on the Brannen-designed Glissando Headjoint was at the 2003 National Flute Association convention in Washington, D.C.
Eastman Musical Instruments, the parent company of Haynes flutes, has been manufacturing the Glissando Headjoints under my name since 2010.