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How to evoke the sound, personality and the "soul" of a flute


Editor (ED): Mr. Adorján and Mr. Nomura, when and where did you meet for the first time?
András Adorján (AA): About 15 years ago in Munich, when Mr. Nomura was appointed to take care of the artist relations of Yamaha's European branch and hired as their specialised technician for flute. He called me and asked, if he could visit me in Munich. Thus Mr. Nomura became my contact to Yamaha.
Toru Nomura (TN): It was in the summer of 2000.
ED: Would you Mr. Nomura please tell us the positive characteristics of Mr. Adorján?
AA: Please, only the positive ones! (laugh)
TN: (laugh) Well, I think that his artistic qualities are beyond dispute and I cannot find anything that has not yet been said. As a flutemaker and technician myself, I was always helped a lot by the way he perceives the instruments, both newly developed ones and those which have just been repaired. Also the fact, that at the end he would always let me decide what to do next, I find most admirable.
ED: And Mr. Adorján, how would you describe the positive characteristics of Mr. Nomura?
AA: I see him as an incredibly kind and polite person and a very efficient technician. I do admire his way of working on flutes and his understanding of how to improve and develop a flute. In fact, together we found quite a number of things that needed improvement. For me it was a new quality of a repairman, as repairmen normally would only look for the best way of putting a flute back to its original condition. He was always able to get further - which is unique and very advantageous for every owner of an instrument, who seeks his advice!
ED: What aspects of flute repair do you think are important for you, Mr. Adorján?
AA: For me flutes are like individuals, not just machines. A flute is not just a simple tool with movable keys, but each flute has its personality and even a “soul”. This so called soul is responsible for the resonance of the flute. How to awaken the resonance is one of the most important aspects of flute repair and flute making.
ED: Mr. Nomura, in which area do you make particular efforts?
TN: My particular emphasis is very similar to what Mr. Adorján just said. I am looking for the individuality of each flute and want to find out, how I can help it to achieve its maximum. I am working in this direction in conjunction with the player of the instrument.

Surrounded by outstanding talents


ED: Mr. Adorján, what is in your opinion an “ideal” flute and what would be necessary to achieve it?
AA: For me an ideal flute is an instrument, that not only allows but even helps to express myself musically. My teacher, Jean-Pierre Rampal told his pupils, that one must aspire to play the flute so well, that a listener will not admire your flute playing but only notice and enjoy the music you play. The music will speak, not the instrument. The public shouldn’t comment about some gorgeous flute playing but be touched by the music without even noticing what instrument has been used. The flute must be the prolongation of your voice. For me this is very important. And it is equally important to find somebody who with his understanding can help to construct or repair an instrument, which responds in this direction.
AA: Mr. Nomura, I find it very interesting and contradictory, that you, a Japanese flute repairman, are better known in Europe than in Japan. How come?
TN: Well, probably because I started my professional career in Europe, and part of my musical and technical education took place in there. I am not quite sure how well known I am, but if I were better known in Europe, that may be a part of the reason.
AA: I do know that you are very well known in Europe, since with many European colleagues we are very often speak about you and we do all miss you. (editorial note: Toru Nomura returned to Japan in 2013)
TN: Thank you.
AA: Yes, you are well known in Europe among professional flautists and their pupils. And this is what I do hope may soon be the case here in your home country Japan as well. You truly deserve it. Your present situation is very similar to that of musicians. When a musician goes abroad to study at an early age, he will very soon be forgotten at home. Unfortunately many young players experience this. But this is normal, as there are so many other young players on the waiting list and it is really necessary to be present in order not to be forgotten. Did you leave Japan at a very early age to study in Europe? Please tell us about it? How old were you?
TN: I was 18 years old.
AA: And before 18, what did you do at home?
TN: I studied flute in Musashino with Mr. Takao Saeki during my high school years. I finished school at 18, but instead of moving on to a Japanese university I decided to go abroad.
AA: And, if I am well informed, you went to Budapest to study flute?
TN: Yes, I went to study there with Prof. Lóránt Kovács.
AA: This is very interesting for me, because I am Hungarian and I do know Prof. Kovács well. I have never heard you speak in Hungarian. Did you actually learn it?
TN: I did learn some. But to be honest I should have become much better at it than I actually did. For me it was an extremely difficult language...
AA: Not only for you! (laugh)
TN: ...maybe I was a little too young to understand the real importance of learning a foreign language.
AA: Of course every foreign language is an invaluable addition to your cultural education. But don’t worry. I must tell you, that Hungarian language is not that important. It may be useful, if you live in Hungary or are interested in Hungarian literature. But in daily life outside of Hungary there is no special need for this language. Only 9 million people speak Hungarian. If you compare it to the number of the population in Tokyo – how many people live here - 13 million? - then you are really excused. (laugh) In fact it would have been much more useful for me to learn Japanese! However, if you count the percentage of Hungarian speaking musicians worldwide, it may be advantageous to understand some Hungarian!
How many years did you spend in Hungary?
TN: About two and a half years.
AA: And did you enroll in the famous Franz Liszt Academy there?
TN: Yes, I did.
AA: Then you must have been quite a good flute player.
TN: Not really. But there I had the chance to listen to a number of extremely talented students, who consequently became principal flautists in some of the most prestigious European orchestras. I was unfortunately not able to get that far, nevertheless the whole experience at the Academy taught me a lot. I am just recalling what the Dean of The Julliard School of Music is supposed to have once said, adding that it might possibly sound blunt: the biggest duty of a music academy is to let those, who are not capable of becoming professional musicians, realise, that they aren't.
AA: How true this is. But to do so is also a very difficult duty. Yet, it has to be said as early as possible.
TN: If for nothing else, it was good for me to know this at a very early age. In this context I believe that the Liszt Academy provided me with the best possible education. Fortunately as it looks, it was early enough to start a second career at the age of 21.

The necessity of traditional skills


AA: You stayed with the flute but started to look at it from a different angle, as you went on to learn making and repairing instruments. Was this a difficult decision?
TN: I have always been very keen on making or repairing anything in the household. When I realised, that performing music would not become my profession, I wondered if I could combine both of my interests: making / repairing with music.
AA: Did you already start this in Hungary?
TN: No, I left Hungary and enrolled in a school in the UK, where I learned how to make and repair woodwind instruments.
AA: Where was this?
TN: In Newark, Nottinghamshire in a school, which used to be called Newark and Sherwood College. It has been merged with another college and is now called Lincoln College. They offer different courses such as woodwind making and repair, violin making and piano tuning among others.
AA: And did you enroll in the woodwind course?
TN: Yes. It consisted of clarinet making with traditional methods and repairing all kinds of modern woodwind instruments. A three-year full-time course.
AA: Did you move to Germany as soon as you finished this education?
TN: It took place about a year after that, which is around the time we first met in Munich. I had heard about a position at Yamaha Atelier in Frankfurt, Germany for which I applied and I was fortunate to get the job. Before starting in Germany, I was asked to go to Yamaha's main factory in Japan to learn how instruments are made there.
AA: I must say you really have an incredibly broad and international education. Starting with learning flute playing in Japan and continuing in Hungary, later moving onto the school of instrument making in England and then move on to Yamaha in Japan.
TN: It was very advantageous to cover a relatively wide range. I thought it would be good to have some knowledge of other woodwind instruments as well. Especially when you learn very traditional skills like I did in England, such as filing and forging, which are getting more difficult to attain nowadays in commercial environment. Having very precise machines for manufacturing, it seems, that the traditional craftmanship is not so much in demand any more.
AA: Here I see a similarity with the computer. Today the computer is so much in use, that handwriting has almost become forgotten!
TN: Whilst at the college, I was already aware of the fact that the commercial production methods would sometimes be different. Still, having learnt the traditional skills, one can better deal with all kind of problems, should the production methods with machines being unable to cope with a given situation.

Can the personality of an instrument be changed?

AA: Do you think that the education of flutemakers is very different in Japan and in Europe?
TN: Just the fact, that there are so many well-established flutemakers in Japan, makes it already different, I guess, from anywhere else.
AA: Is it good to be specialised only in flutemaking, or was it advantageous for you to have had such a very broad education – including flute playing also making and repairing other wind instruments? Can some of it be useful for your flute repairs?
TN: As for myself, I do use some of the knowledge and skills learned on different instruments. And they help me a lot, even today after nearly 20 years in the business. Even my past flute studies help me to understand problems and also enables me to carry out preliminary testing of instruments.
AA: Is it possible to change the personality of a flute by repairing it? When does a flute acquire its personality? Is it in the beginning of its fabrication, or at the end? If it is at the end, can a repairman change the personality of a flute?
TN: This is a very good question.
AA: In fact I even know a good answer as well! Isn’t it true, that a certain way of padding can make a striking difference for the response and resonance of a flute? And isn’t padding one of the main tasks of a repairman? Thus in my opinion a repairman can definitively change the personality of a flute!
TN: Yes, you are right, also for me a flute's personality can depend on the padding and the so-called finishing – that is how the flute is “set up”. On the other hand there are many aspects, which a repairperson can no longer change. A part of the flute’s “personality” is built-in, as it already starts to be established at the time when the flute is being designed.
( -> continues to Part 2)

(Original Japanese version reproduced from THE FLUTE magazine Vol.141 / March 2015 issue, with kind permission of ALSO Publishing, Co. Ltd. You can visit  the publisher's website in Japanese here)