The original "Rittich" mute by Dr. Caswell
"I am a professional engineer and a professional horn player (now part time). I was principal horn with the Canadian Opera Company (1974 to 1976), I was 4th horn with the Calgary Philharmonic until 1982 when I began to train as an engineer. I continued to play assistant principal with the CPO until 2003 or so. I have been principal horn with Red Deer Symphony Orchestra since its beginning in 1986 (a fully professional orchestra but only performs 6 main series each year).
Since 1986, I have founded and run a manufacturing and design company that specializes in tools for the music industry. (reed knives, bell plates, mutes, sound reflectors, etc). I have taught engineering design at the University of Calgary since 1996.
My latest adventure is doing high end repair on wind and brass instruments.
I was a student of Eugene Rittich's in the '70's when he was developing the mute. In fact, I went with him to Chicago when he first showed the mute to Clevenger. I also introduced him to Arnold Jacobs.
Years later (2001?) based on my reputation as the designer and manufacturer of the Landwell Reed Knife, an industry leader, Rittich called me and asked if I would take over the making of the mute as his current maker suffered a stroke and could not carry on. I agreed to purchase the business. Luckily, the person who suffered the stroke had made a detailed video of the manufacturing process just months before he was taken ill. Without that video, the mute would have likely disappeared forever. Rittich's goal had always been to offer the mute as a service to his fellow horn players. He never sought to protect it through patents or to mass produce it. When I took it over, the mute was suffering a reduction in reputation because it had become stuffy and dull in tone.
Being an engineer as well as a horn player, I researched the causes of the stuffiness and found that the glossy finish Rittich had begun to use several years earlier was muffling the tone. I developed a new finish to both open the tone up and give a good grip on the mute (the glossy mute easily slipped out of my hand under the stage lights and at the most awkward moments).
I also improved the slide mechanism which previously would fail after a couple of years of use.
I was very careful to preserve all of the materials and manufacturing methods that were responsible for the original tone of the mute. Since I owned one of the best of his original designs, I knew what that tone was.
I also felt that the new finish and pattern on the end of the mute was more up-to-date that the old glossy finish. Eugene did not want to give up on the glossy finish but agreed that my finish significantly improved the tone.
In keeping with Eugene's original intent, I have not mass produced the mute, however, now that there are so many copies of the mute on the market, I have decided to allow a greater availability of the mute. The higher price reflects how very labor intensive the manufacturing process is. It is the material and manufacturing methods that are responsible for the tone of the mute. The "pretenders" might have copied the shape and the tunability, but they are unlikely to have stumbled across the material/manufacturing combination. That is what the purchaser gets for the price." Dr. Daryl Caswell