the 18th and 19th centuries there was a state of fast change involving
all elementary features of wind instruments: acoustics, materials, and
mechanics. Theobalt Boehm in particular was skilled enough to combine
all the knowledge of the time in his innovative designs. His metal
flute must have seemed very futuristic to contemporary musicians. It
was exhibited as an example of top design of his time.
Boehm's flute turned out to be incomparable and reached a sovereign
status in the first half of the 20th century. For a long time there
were no alternatives. The flute industry focused on how to produce
complicated Boehm flutes for a continually growing market. Makers
shifted their attention to mechanical and acoustical perfection. Metal
became standard in flutes and debates raged only about whether silver
or gold should be preferred or perhaps platinum or palladium?
Speaking about a mechanical product like the flute, it is difficult to
imagine that any design could remain the standard for more than 150
years without time passing it by. Modern technology has given us the
possibility to eliminate problems still remaining in the design of
flutes and other wind instruments: too much weight, bad ergonomics,
ragged pads, troubles with springs, adjusting problems, lack of pure
intonation and weak sound, to name just a few. In the latter half of
the 20th century some contemporary flute makers and designers have
begun to revive the tradition of creative flute making in order to
solve these problems.
Matti Kahonen was not a professional player or an instrument maker when
he started his experiments with acoustics. He started fresh to make
things for his own use only, as he thought in the beginning:
"I started playing violin when I was seven but gave up some years
later. Then I acquired a cheap Irish transverse tinpipe and became
inspired to play all kind of flutes. At the age of 16 I got my first
silver Armstrong. As a child I was drawing and painting and crafted a
lot of things - I was not older than seven or eight when I got my first
pay by selling a pipe I made myself to an adult! At the age of 20 I was
beginning to study violin making, but succeeded in getting into the
University of Industrial Arts in Helsinki at the same time.
After graduating, I worked as an industrial designer and became more
acquainted with modern materials and manufacturing skills. I had some
ideas in the fields of lighting technology and biocomposite materials,
for instance. I wanted to develop these ideas into products, so I
established a company by the name of ACROBAATTI OY (Acrobat) in 1986.
In artistic and design aspects, musical instruments interested me very
much. With their invisible acoustics they represent an exciting
functionalism. From playing different instruments, including bamboo
flutes, I had an image of sound, which was impossible to reproduce in a
metal flute. It led me to a question: if modern techniques could be
used to construct a lightweight body, how would it sound in a high
standard instrument with modern mechanism?
In 1985, I started with laminated wood but the result was not too good.
It seemed to me that the body was too soft and damped the sound and
vibrations of the air column. I continued my experiments with stiffer
material combinations and became convinced that, in addition to light
weight, the rigidity of the tube wall improves the sound. As I knew a
material with superior weight/stiffness ratio I soon constructed the
first flute tube made of carbon fibre. The improvement to the sound was
The experiments and the development forced me to deepen my theory about
acoustics, of course. An encouraging book among the literature I read
in the beginning, was a popular book about musical instruments, called
"Horns, Strings and Harmony," written by Arthur H. Benade. It led me to
an exciting journey to the scientific world of musical acoustics. This
journey is still continuing."
Matti Kahonen did not only develop a new type of flute body. He also
designed a keywork for the carbon fibre flute body using many
innovative solutions. One of the ideas was to use magnets instead of
needle springs to create returning power to the keys. He presented his
flute idea in a large international design competition in 1986 and
patented the body construction of a wind instrument as well as magnetic
springs. Winning an award in the competition made it possible to begin
work on a new instrument for flutists everywhere.
ACROBAATTI OY carried out the research and development work. The fifth
model was introduced to the public for the first time at the NFA
convention in Boston in 1993, instantly arousing great attention and
fascination. It came into production bearing the trademark MATIT. Matti
Kahonen was lucky to have professional musicians helping him so that
the most demanding aspects of playing could be taken into
consideration. He became acquainted with Julius Heikkila and then Matti
Helin, a flutist and flute enthusiast who was to become his partner.
During the period of 1994-2001 Matit Flutebrothers Oy made carbon fibre
flutes with a licence granted by Matti Kahonen.
The first model was produced with silver mechanism. Later, models with
other materials were introduced, including the flute with solid
MATIT carbon flutes are produced by ACROBAATTI OY/Matti Kahonen. The
company is located in Helsinki, Finland.