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#4231 old_and_grumpy

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Posted 17 September 2020 - 08:36

I found myself reading an article about Adriana Breukink yesterday.  I knew her only as the maker of the world's largest recorder - I didn't realise she is keen on improving the recorder.  I have never looked closely at the Adri's Dream recorder, but I see on the tenor, which has keys for the bottom notes, that both C and C# look as if they have "proper" holes.  I have 3 tenors that have keys, but they all more-or-less replicate the double finger hole of a keyless instrument: the Moeck and the Yamaha both have a single hole that is only partially closed by the C# key; the Aulos has separate holes but they are small and close together.  All three have a pretty poor C# (as I grumbled about several posts ago).

 

Has anyone tried the Dream?  If so, does it have a better C#?  It looks as if it should, and that seems like quite a good plan to me: if you're having keys anyway to enable the hole(s) to be placed out of reach, why not locate them in a good position rather than one essentially dictated by the requirements of a keyless instrument?

 

There is no information on her website about the Dream, so I presume she doesn't make them herself any more.  Her Eagle also has keys and what look like decently proportioned lower holes, and she does claim a good F# for the alto.  Mollenhauer's Modern and Helder models also have them, though these and the Eagle are all much more expensive than the Dreams.  Not that I ever get the chance anyway, but I presume the days of being able to try out wind instruments are unfortunately over for the foreseeable future.


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#4232 elemimele

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Posted 17 September 2020 - 11:05

Well, the Eagle has been extensively used by Piers Adams who has more skill and artistry in his left little toe-nail than I have in my entire body. He's no bad recommendation. I'm not sure it's a recorder for general consumption; I gather it's very loud, part of Adriana Breukink's aim being to make it more able to be heard in ensembles and small orchestras. Therefore perhaps less appropriate for use alone in a small terraced house such as mine. I think she's got a point; I've grumbled before about recordings of Vivaldi by really professional groups, using top-notch soloists, where you really only hear the soloist occasionally when the violins let them get a peep in edgeways. The traditional recorder really comes up against its limitations in these situations. 

 

As a theoretical matter, the low-but-not-lowest notes of a recorder are always going to be a bit of an issue. In the manufacture of organ pipes (which are basically recorders without the holes) one way to tune them is to cut a slot at the top of the pipe (far end from the mouth) and roll back the metal inside the slot, a bit like you'd open a tin of sardines. Rolling back further makes more slot which raises the pitch, straightening the tongue of metal into the gap obscures the slot and lowers the pitch. But it's also known to affect the timbre of the pipe. Some builders used it deliberately with that in mind (Cavaillé-Coll), others avoided it when they didn't want it, but would deliberately make different timbres by putting a hole nearly at the far end, when they wanted (Schulze's echo-oboe, for example). But the point is, if you have a completely closed tube, right to the end (recorder's lowest note) it sounds different to a tube with a hole or slot near the end (next note up on a recorder) and that's just a feature of acoustics. I'd love to know more about what good recorder makers do to influence timbre of notes - but I notice my cheap aulos has quite a different timbre for F and G. Maybe it's just how they are.


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#4233 old_and_grumpy

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Posted 17 September 2020 - 12:38

Thanks for the insight into the effect on timbre.  I believe - possibly incorrectly; feel free to correct this - that one of the issues with recorders is the smallness of the holes.  In a modern flute, the holes are big enough that uncovering them effectively shortens the tube to the point where the first open hole is, and closing holes further down doesn't (in theory at least) make any difference.  Because the recorder's holes are much smaller, the holes further down do have some effect, so closing them pulls the pitch down, thus making a chromatic scale possible with only 8 holes.  I suppose it would all be better if we had 12 fingers.  Since we haven't, the only way to pull the D down to C# is to partially cover C's hole, which means the note is based on a hole even smaller than the already less than ideal hole sizes of the other notes.  I would have thought that the general fragility of C# could be overcome by having normal (for a recorder) sized holes in appropriate places, which would be impossible to cover with a single finger, but could be covered with a key mechanism.  Is that the case do you know?  I don't say the timbre would be ideal, just that the note would be more robust, which is presumably part of what Adriana Breukink is aiming for. 

 

Oddly, on the Moeck Renaissance tenor, the bottom C is quite a good note, whereas bottom D is weak and has quite a different timbre.  I don't know why.  Maybe the constraints of reach mean the hole is poorly placed, though maybe it's more to do with the acoustics of the beast - as you say, maybe that is just how they are.


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#4234 Zixi

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Posted 17 September 2020 - 16:32

I've got Adri's Dream in sparkly red plastic and a wooden one with a plastic head... both descant. My husband gave me them for Christmas a little while back. He didn't know which I'd prefer so bought me both. I like the sparkly red one because it's sparkly and red. They are louder than my other recorders and they're great fun to play. I really like folk songs on them.

 

Breukink had some really interesting ideas on types of breathing. Once, it sounded as if there might be some science behind it but the last time I looked at her site, it had gone rather mystical perhaps because her explanations were too difficult for people to follow. I seem to remember that Piers Adams has commented on the theories behind her thinking but I can't remember where I read/heard it...


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#4235 old_and_grumpy

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Posted 23 September 2020 - 10:10

Breukink had some really interesting ideas on types of breathing. Once, it sounded as if there might be some science behind it but the last time I looked at her site, it had gone rather mystical perhaps because her explanations were too difficult for people to follow.

 

I see what you mean!  I finally got around to looking at the breathing info on her website (I didn't notice it when I looked earlier, it's tucked away behind the mouthpiece info). 

 

I had not come across the distinction she makes between inhaler and exhaler types before.  I decided from the breathing descriptions that I was an inhaler.  The next part of the text covers more general properties of each type: how you like to sit or stand, hold your fingers, etc; I felt quite skeptical but surprisingly I turned out to be a very accurate match for the inhaler properties.  The really weird - and unexpected - part is where she goes on to how that results from whether you were born primarily under the influence of the moon or the sun.  I couldn't resist: I visited the website she gives for checking (and entered all sorts of info about my time and place of birth, so lets hope mystics aren't enthusiastic identity thieves) and rather hoped that I would come out as the wrong match for my breathing type (I am apparently lunar).  However, it got it right.  50:50 chance I suppose.

 

One of the things that intrigues me about this is that, even if she is only partly correct - or correct despite the mystical stuff - then it seems to me we are all barking up the wrong trees when considering which recorders would work best for us.  Ms Breukink's categorisation suggests that I would prefer recorders with a larger windway opening, and thinking about the recorders I play, I think she is right about that.  It also suggests that I prefer the holes in a straight line, which is also correct.  So, for me, wide window and straight line holes, but that is simply not a choice one is offered.  I suppose access to a shop would allow one to check windway opening sizes of different models, but the holes are as they are - almost always offset.  For popular models like, say, Moeck's Rottenburgh, there is a huge choice of woods, but no choice whatsoever of hole alignment or windway type. 

 

On the passing subject of wood type, I was browsing through Wollitz's The Recorder Book last night, and he has this to say about different wood types: Recorders are made from a great variety of woods... One sees advertisements in which different qualities of tone, response, and loudness are ascribed to instruments made of these various woods.  Such claims are ninety percent hogwash.  There is more variation from one instrument to the next in the same wood [and model and maker] than in instruments made of different woods.

 

So, I'll take the maple one with the large windway and the straight-line holes then :)


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#4236 elemimele

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Posted 23 September 2020 - 11:08

If anyone's wondering who Ken Wollitz was, and how he could be brave enough to say it so bluntly, there are some lovely appreciations of him in this document: https://americanreco...ARsum19body.pdf


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#4237 old_and_grumpy

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Posted 23 September 2020 - 12:24

Thanks for that - I knew very little about him apart from the blurb on the back of the book.

 

Out of interest, are you a member of ARS?  I checked their documents page but you had to log in, though I have come across other issues of their magazine on-line from time to time.  Not sure how you find them if not a member.


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#4238 Zixi

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Posted 24 September 2020 - 07:14

 

Breukink had some really interesting ideas on types of breathing. Once, it sounded as if there might be some science behind it but the last time I looked at her site, it had gone rather mystical perhaps because her explanations were too difficult for people to follow.

 

I see what you mean!  I finally got around to looking at the breathing info on her website (I didn't notice it when I looked earlier, it's tucked away behind the mouthpiece info). 

 

As I say, when I first came across it, it didn't have the mystical stuff so I was intrigued as to whether there might be any science behind it. However, when I next saw it, it was all King Arthur and Camelot... I can't work out if she got fed up with trying to explain it and decided to make it simple or something else.. If it's mysticism then as you say flipping a coin will be equally effective... Anyway, The Dream is still a really fun instrument and I've always been intrigued by the Eagle... However, for the time being, in our current state of chaos, there are NO MORE RECORDERS! :lol: In fact, if we can't eat it or paint the walls with it, I'd rather it didn't come in the house!!!

 

I like Wollitz's book... and I like the way that people writing about the recorder toss opinions about...


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#4239 elemimele

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Posted 24 September 2020 - 07:40

I just found that link by googling. It had never occurred to me to join the ARS - partly as I never join anything, except in desperate circumstances, and also it hadn't occurred to me even in a global world that I could join something in A when I'm in UK. But I've also come across bits of their magazine in the past and it looks a good read. Maybe we're missing a trick here!


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#4240 old_and_grumpy

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Posted 24 September 2020 - 09:31

Breukink had some really interesting ideas on types of breathing.

 

Leaving aside pretty much all the stuff about breathing, she says something along the lines of "it will all work out when you find the right instrument for you" and that makes complete sense to me.  In fact, that's the main reason I buy recorders I think: the quest for the holy grail of the best recorder for me.  I haven't found it yet!  Maybe it doesn't exist, but I think it might, or at least that there will be one or two best compromises.  There are different things I like about different recorders, I just have to find the one(s) that come closest to combining them.  It's a slow and expensive business though.

 

> I've always been intrigued by the Eagle

 

I haven't tried an unashamedly modern recorder, but it's on my to-do list.  There is something a bit odd about a modern version of a "historic" instrument, but there is also something I find a bit dishonest about many copies of old instruments.  All those things like "the original played about an octave and a half but mine has added almost a full further octave to that" mean that the instrument continues to be developed, just sort of furtively.  My Moeck Hotteterre has one of those keys that looks like the original but is a split key enabling low C#.  In a way, that's great; in another way, it makes the instrument something of a pastiche of the original, so why not go the full distance and put modern keys on covering separate holes that give better notes?  Or do what Breukink has done and add the low E as well?  Or (my preference) accept the limitations of the original and stick with a single key and no C#?  I quite fancy trying a Küng Superio tenor as a sort of modern/traditional compromise but it will have to wait till I have sold some of the ones I already have.  I do like Breukink's idea of different mouthpieces.

 

Having said all that, I feel that eg the Helder recorders are on the verge of being saxophones with whistle mouthpieces rather than recorders!  Given its price (approaching €4000) I am unlikely to find out whether the playing experience makes it all worth while.


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#4241 old_and_grumpy

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Posted 24 September 2020 - 09:40

It had never occurred to me to join the ARS

 

They do accept overseas members - they give membership fees for USA, then Canada, then Everywhere Else.  It's quite expensive: $70 for EE (half price intro offer for first year).  It's cheaper - $50 - if you live in USA, which seems a bit unfair as you'd probably get more out of it if  you did, but them's the breaks.  The magazine seems quite good and more broadly interesting that the SRP one (I've only seen the sample on-line edition of that).  Windkanal also looks interesting but is mostly in German so not much use to me.


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#4242 Zixi

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Posted 25 September 2020 - 14:18

 

> I've always been intrigued by the Eagle

 

I haven't tried an unashamedly modern recorder, but it's on my to-do list.  There is something a bit odd about a modern version of a "historic" instrument, but there is also something I find a bit dishonest about many copies of old instruments.  All those things like "the original played about an octave and a half but mine has added almost a full further octave to that" mean that the instrument continues to be developed, just sort of furtively. 

 

I'm not sure what I think. I don't know very much about music and musical instruments so I'm not sure I've developed opinions. I have ambivalent feelings about literature. Old English and Middle English - even Shakespeare who's comparatively modern - can be out of reach for people who aren't familiar with the language so translations of Beowulf or The Canterbury Tales make them accessible. Ezra Pound has absolutely brilliant translations of Old English! But obviously it's all a fudge... I'm not sure whether to think of the Eagle as an evolutionary process or actually just a new instrument... Or a fudge...


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#4243 elemimele

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Posted 26 September 2020 - 21:59

I suppose it all depends what you want to do with a recorder. People have always invented new instruments; some take off, some don't. People have always tried to improve instruments; what we think of as classic, finished, complete is quite possibly only a passing phase. Most of our modern instruments have changed enormously in the last century, and objectively it's very hard to say that the process of change has "finished" based on the rather short period of time that we don't think anything too significant has happened. Even that most mature and classical of instruments, the violin, is strung quite differently today to how it was only a just-living memory away; the steel E-string didn't really catch on until around WW2. So on this basis of perpetual change, it's quite natural that people should want to improve the recorder, or that they'll invent new instruments based on a recorder-style whistle.

 

But on the other hand I won't be queuing up to buy these things. Many of the attempts are, I think, misguided. Yes, the recorder has limitations, but when humans work within limitations, we produce our best stuff. We seem to need the discipline of a limited framework in order to make us think about how to use what we've got within that framework. The great attempts to make instruments that can do anything (think of the organs of the late Victorian and Edwardian periods, when designers aimed to make them analogous to an orchestra...) turn out to be less satisfactory than when an instrument is its own, limited self (the Orgelbewegung wasn't just a rediscovery of what made earlier organs good; it was a massive throwing-away of technological advances that had dubious musicality). Even synthesisers have been at their most iconic when they've sounded electronic (Moog Bach with Wendy Carlos...), being what they are, not trying to be a clarinet. The best recorder music is the music that knows the recorder and its tone and its volume. Telemann's lovely pieces contrasting flute and recorder are beautiful because he knew exactly what both could do; if you changed the recorder to make it louder, more able to compete with an orchestra, it would no longer be able to contrast with the flute in Telemann's pieces in the way that works so well.

 

In many ways, the history of music from 1700 to 2000 is the pursuit of volume. Everything's got bigger and louder. Very few people argue that modern instruments actually sound better; the usual attitude is just that volume was somehow necessary. Of course we wouldn't have had great orchestral romantic music without the big orchestras that play it, so the composers have risen to the challenge; but basically a modern orchestra offers no more variety, and no better sound, than a small Baroque group. There's just a lot more of it. So I would rather keep the recorder with the volume it has, even if that means it can play with only one violin. Because by sacrificing the ability to fight with 5 violins, it can play with a hammer dulcimer, or a lute, or an acoustic guitar. Maybe as music caters for different audiences - for example as composers write more for computer games than for the concert hall - we'll move back towards having a wide palette of interesting-sounding, quieter instruments. I don't know.


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#4244 old_and_grumpy

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Posted 27 September 2020 - 09:19

I used to sail an old gaff rigged boat (I obviously have a weakness for old things) and had a book about them that had a chapter at the end that considered the subject of authenticity.  There are a lot of options there on a boat like that: is it ok to have modern sails or should one stick to the old cotton ones that go shapeless and rot without huge amounts of care, or use (horrible) hemp rope instead of modern stuff? - the list goes on.  The author makes the point that if authenticity is about doing the same thing as people at the time did, we'd have all ditched the sails and put an engine in.  But, we sailed for pleasure, so we kept the sails, but mostly used modern rope to haul them up.  I liked that attitude: that we were doing something for our own pleasure, and there was no need to get too hung up about precise degrees of authenticity.

 

I'd quite like to try an Eagle or a Helder but I would not choose to own one, especially the latter.  One of the (many) things I like about the recorder is its simplicity: there is in fact a beauty to being able to play 2-and-a-bit chromatic octaves, which is a large enough range to cover a huge amount of music, with an instrument that has no mechanical parts. 

 

Obviously for the larger recorders, there have to be keys.  The tenor sits on the cusp; I really prefer the keyless models, but there isn't always a choice.  But I really would like an instrument that takes advantage of modern materials, ie one that could be played for longer without going soggy.

 

It's an interesting idea that the development of instruments has been about the quest for volume.  I had not thought of it in those terms before, but it makes a lot of sense.  It's also interesting to think about what composers are writing for.  Once you get into film music or computer games music, there is no need for much volume as the music will always be listened to via a reproduction system, in which case a single recorder can fill an auditorium with sound just as well as a full-sized symphony orchestra.  I have noticed that there are a few opera composers at the moment writing for very small ensembles, presumably because their works would never get performed if they needed the kind of resources grand opera usually calls for owing to the prohibitive expense.  I know it's a massive generalisation, but the audience for "classical" music does seem to me to be shrinking, so perhaps smaller (and quieter) ensembles have a rosier future than some orchestras have.


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#4245 Zixi

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Posted 27 September 2020 - 09:36

That's very thought provoking.

 

Like, OaG, I like the recorder because it is so simple so when complexity is added it kind of loses what I value it for and I struggle to see what it is... It doesn't seem the same beast. I can't compare tempera with oil or with water-colour because it isn't the same... They do different things. So the Eagle definitely isn't the same as my Haka (replica).  But evolution does branch and eventually can become very different. Dogs aren't wolves... so maybe the best way for me is to see the Eagle and The Dream is sharing an ancestor... That would make sense to my (scientific) brain...

 

As for your boar OaG, I agree wholeheartedly with the compromise... houses are like that too. Their best hope for survival depends on being used and usable...


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