Recorder (musical instrument)
Various recorders (second from the bottom disassembled into its three parts)
|Other names||See § Other languages|
(Flute with internal duct and finger holes)
|Soprano recorder: C5–D7(G7)|
The recorder is a
Recorders are made in different sizes with names and compasses roughly corresponding to different vocal ranges. The sizes most commonly in use today are the soprano (aka "descant", lowest note C5), alto (aka "treble", lowest note F4), tenor (lowest note C4) and bass (lowest note F3). Recorders are traditionally constructed from wood and ivory, while most recorders made in recent years are constructed from molded plastic. The recorders' internal and external proportions vary, but the bore is generally reverse conical (i.e. tapering towards the foot) to cylindrical, and all recorder fingering systems make extensive use of forked fingerings.
The recorder is first documented in Europe in the
The sound of the recorder is often described as clear and sweet, and has historically been associated with birds and shepherds. It is notable for its quick response and its corresponding ability to produce a wide variety of articulations. This ability, coupled with its open finger holes, allow it to produce a wide variety of tone colors and special effects. Acoustically, its tone is relatively pure and odd harmonics predominate in its sound.
The instrument has been known by its modern English name at least since the 14th century. David Lasocki reports the earliest use of "recorder" in the household accounts of the
By the 15th century, the name had appeared in English literature. The earliest references are in
The instrument name "recorder" derives from the Latin recordārī (to call to mind, remember, recollect), by way of
The English verb "record" (from Middle French recorder, early 13th century) meant "to learn by heart, to commit to memory, to go over in one's mind, to recite" but it was not used in English to refer to playing music until the 16th century, when it gained the meaning "silently practicing a tune" or "sing or render in song" (both almost exclusively referring to songbirds), long after the recorder had been named. Thus, the recorder cannot have been named after the sound of birds. The name of the instrument is also uniquely English: in Middle French there is no equivalent noun sense of recorder referring to a musical instrument.
Partridge indicates that the use of the instrument by jongleurs led to its association with the verb: recorder the minstrel's action, a "recorder" the minstrel's tool. The reason we know this instrument as the recorder and not one of the other instruments played by the jongleurs is uncertain.
The introduction of the Baroque recorder to England by a group of French professionals in 1673 popularized the French name for the instrument, "flute douce", or simply "flute", a name previously reserved for the transverse instrument. Until about 1695, the names "recorder" and "flute" overlapped, but from 1673 to the late 1720s in England, the word "flute" always meant recorder. In the 1720s, as the transverse flute overtook the recorder in popularity, English adopted the convention already present in other European languages of qualifying the word "flute", calling the recorder variously the "common flute", "common English-flute", or simply "English flute" while the transverse instrument was distinguished as the "German flute" or simply "flute". Until at least 1765, some writers still used "flute" to mean recorder.
Until the mid 18th century, musical scores written in Italian refer to the instrument as flauto, whereas the transverse instrument was called flauto traverso. This distinction, like the English switch from "recorder" to "flute," has caused confusion among modern editors, writers and performers.
Indeed, in most European languages, the first term for the recorder was the word for flute alone. In the present day, cognates of the word "flute," when used without qualifiers, remain ambiguous and may refer to either the recorder, the modern concert flute, or other non-western flutes. Starting in the 1530s, these languages began to add qualifiers to specify this particular flute. In the case of the recorder, these describe variously