The second edition of the Early Music Festival :
“The Polyfolies of the Recorder and its Universe”
RECORDARA, whose members are volunteers, is a non-profit-making association. As a result of the issues recorder players have to cope with, the idea of an association made its way in the president’s heart and mind for twelve years before RECORDARA was set up, in 2015.
Although the recorder is one of the oldest and most common instruments in the world, it is not well-known.
In spite of what is commonly believed, many musicians have composed for this wonderful instrument. And yet, this impressive musical heritage has been shelved indefinitely, out of ignorance or contempt, and this accident in the transfer of knowledge has deeply damaged our musical culture.
It is true that the recorder has been widely taught at school, enabling numerous middle-school students to access music. However, this experience has also been negative for this extraordinary instrument. As a matter of fact, many students who were not happy with school now bear a grudge against the recorder, which is one of the symbols of their school-related pain. Other students have suffered from a traditional way of teaching the recorder, which didn’t take into account all the beauty and accuracy of this instrument.
The recorder is now taught in music academies and ranks among the subjects of exams and competitive exams. And yet, it is still despised, even by musicians. In that respect, I will never forget people’s reaction when my son said he wanted to be a recorder player:
“Which instrument do you play?”
“The recorder », he answered proudly”
“Yes, but, which instrument do you play?”
“The recorder!”, he answered, slightly irritated
“That’s not an instrument! Do you play the piano or the violin?”
Let’s also mention this journalist from a prestigious music channel who told his guest that, had he wanted to take an easy way, he would have decided to play the recorder….
Unfortunately, all recorder players have experienced this contempt!
And they are also looked down by other musicians, who often have a wrong and distorted image of the instrument, ignoring its complexities and its incredible richness. This is all the more paradoxical as we might say recorder players have a deeper and better knowledge of music! Indeed, they cover all styles and times, going back as far as prehistory. Thanks to them, we discover a whole aspect of our musical heritage. We should then significantly sensitize amateur and professional musicians who consider the recorder as an easy instrument.
What sounds easy is definitely not! The difficulty comes from the necessary work with the sound and the body when playing the recorder. Players have to manage their breath very carefully, which requires body control. And The breath meanwhile has to be coordinated with lips and tongue (the buccal area) along with the fingers, a right position being required so as to reach a fork fingering. It takes a player an average of fifteen years – studying with a qualified academy teacher – to get close to virtuosity. Just like violin players, recorder players actually build the sound and its accuracy. Transposition is at the core of this instrument, which imposes its players to adjust their fingerings and to read all the clefs perfectly, unlike other instruments, who just have one clef. These players are the only musicians who are able to transpose the work in all the existing clefs.
Thanks to the musician who gives it her or his breath, we are justified into saying that the recorder can actually talk. As soon as the instrument gets into the player’s mouth, there is a fundamental connection. There is no technical border to get over, as with the transverse flute, for instance, which requires a specific positioning of the mouth, or with most instruments, which imply a particular body attitude or use accessories. The recorder does not either require an artificial pressure on the breath, like other wind instruments. The direct contact of the breath with the lip makes the recorder an incredibly accurate instrument.
The apparent ease of its game promotes practices of great diversity but thus at the cost of a certain discredit Which reputation can this instrument have when it is possible to buy it from a music store, a recorder maker or in a supermarket? We must not forget that the performance of this pure instrument requires virtuosic players who are both technicians and artists!
Recorder makers are the only craftspeople who are entitled to make state-of-the-art instruments that are able to give the instruments the sound professional players will sublimate. Each recorder is a work of art and science, which has to do with sculpture and technology. Different elements have to be taken into account, such as the shape –which acoustics depends on, the work on sounds and the wood that is used. All this results in a unique sound… and a very high cost.
These are the reasons why RECORDARA aims to purchase good quality recorders to make them available for talented people who can’t afford them.
In a consort, there are almost ten recorders. And there is a consort for each period of history: the Middle Ages, the Pre-Renaissance, the Renaissance, the Pre-Baroque, the First Baroque, the Second and Third ones, the Post Baroque, the Classical period, the Post Classical, the First Romantic, the Second Romantic, the Third Romantic, the Modern period and the Contemporary one. And since there are several consorts in each period, we can easily imagine how many different recorders there are! Not to mention the various pitches, 415 Hertz for German Baroque music, 392 Hertz for French Baroque music, 460, 592 or 440 for Renaissance music and so on… The list is long and so is the one of the various temperings, according to the different periods of time, shapes and expressions. While recorder players need instruments for national or international exams, competitive exams, Masters classes and for concerts, they cannot buy so many recorders.
Renaissance recorder consort:
Michael Praetorius SYNTAGMA MUSICUM recorder consort:
As a consequence, they have to manage to have good quality instruments lent to them, which is a loss of time and causes stress. Fortunately, recorder teachers in some academies and also recorder makers have been kind enough to lend players their instruments. This is definitely the role RECORDARA would like to play.
RECORDARA wants to make the recorder better known, in its technical, artistic and historical aspects. Since handing over this knowledge is the unifying thread of our young association, we would like to promote the practice of the recorder, through various events connected with culture and education.
We aim at arousing the curiosity of people we come across to the incredible modernity of the recorder. We wish to bring all these wonderful recorder players –who have so long and so unfairly been looked down- into light. We should listen to their musical range, which sounds like fireworks, and look at their physical and artistic incredible performance.