Historic Folk Toys: Music, 'Plastic Recorder in C'

Historic Folk Toys: Music, 'Plastic Recorder in C'

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Plastic Recorder in C
Our Plastic Recorder in C is the most popular children's musical instrument in the world. This soprano recorder is pitched in C and our package includes basic playing instructions, fingering chart, and a brief history.

Historical Background: The recorder is a member of the whistle (or fipple) family of flutes. This wind instrument is also the most highly developed member of the internal duct flute family. Its seven finger holes and one thumb hole (an octaving vent) distinguish it from other internal duct flutes. The fipple (or block) at the blowing end creates a narrow air stream before it passes through the bore in the body. The fipple and the recorder's wide, tapering conical bore create a tonal quality that is highly individual, soft, and slightly reedy. The fipple family of flutes also includes the flageolet, the three-hole tabor pipe, and, of course, the whistle.

Wind instruments (and especially whistle-type instruments) have been made for thousands of years. For example, a sheep-bone whistle from the Iron Age has been uncovered in England. However, the development of the recorder is more recent and possibly could have occurred as early as six or seven centuries ago during the Mediaeval Period. It is uncertain as to exactly when since none have (so far) been discovered from this time period. A mid-13th-century recorder was discovered in a moat near Dordrecht, Holland, in 1940, but there is no way to know how typical it was since none of its contemporaries has been located (yet). After the Dordrecht Recorder, the next surviving Medieval recorder is the Göttingen Recorder dating from the 14th century.

Recorders are typically made using a variety of hardwoods, such as ebony, maple, rosewood, and other fruit woods. In earlier times, recorders were likely made of boxwood. On occasion, they were even decorated with ivory or made entirely from ivory! Today, there are many types and sizes of recorders being used (and pitched in different keys). The smallest is the sopranino recorder and the largest is the contra bass recorder. Other recorders are (from larger to smaller): the great bass, bass, tenor, alto (or treble), and soprano (or descant).

In addition to the traditional recorder, there are also two-piece pentatonic recorders. These have four finger holes and are played with two fingers from each hand. They play two octaves of a plagal scale and can play a fourth lower than the pitched key. Pentatonic recorders are available as: sopranino in C, sopranino in B flat, soprano in G, soprano in F, alto in D, and alto in C.

At present, there is no conclusive evidence that the recorder existed before the 16th century's Late Renaissance Period (circa 1550-1600 A.D.). Renaissance recorders had a large bore and were so slightly tapered they were often referred to as cylindrical. Several recorders from this period have survived and give us an understanding of what these instruments sounded like. Unlike the softer, more refined sound of Baroque instruments, Renaissance recorders have a more robust and much louder sound -- particularly in the lower register. Their design was plain with little or no decorative features. One unique characteristic of a Renaissance recorder was two bottom holes. This was done so that both right-handed and left-handed players could use the instrument. Depending on the player's preference, one of these holes was plugged with wax.

The recorder we know today comes from the Baroque Period (1600-1750). During the 17th century, the recorder's bore began to sharply taper out. This came about because instrument makers at that time wanted to achieve a larger range of notes and create a more refined, flexible sound for soloists. The result was a much softer-sounding instrument. To some, this was a disadvantage when it came to using it in Orchestral music. Nevertheless, composers such as J.S. Bach and his contemporaries occasionally wrote "flauto" parts for the recorder or "cross flute" (or "German flute"). Later, Bach, Georg Friedrich Handel, Henry Purcell, and G.P. Telemann would make use of a "flauto piccolo" (or "flautino"), a small recorder usually an octave higher in pitch than a flauto.

Beginning in the early 1700s, the recorder started gaining popularity as a transverse flute (or "traverso"). Transverse flutes were louder and had a wider range of notes. These two characteristics made them more suitable for Orchestral music which, by this time, was starting to come into vogue. Meanwhile, the soft-spoken recorder remained an important part of Chamber music.

Also at this time, the recorder started becoming less popular with the masses, and this trend continued until it disappeared almost entirely from the music scene. By the beginning of the 1800s, the recorder was only played as a historical curiosity. And because of its lack of demand, the art of making recorders almost disappeared as well. This was nearly a disastrous event considering just how sophisticated an instrument the recorder is to make!

It would not be until the music revival of the late 1800s and early 1900s that recorders would make a comeback, thanks mostly to an English music antiquarian and scholar named Arnold Dolmetsch. Dolmetsch's book, "The Interpretation of the Music of the XVIIth and XVIIIth Centuries" (London, 1915), is a landmark revival of the performance practices of ancient music.

By the end of the 20th century, the recorder had become more popular than at any other time in its musical history. Throughout this century, the vast majority of American public schools used recorders to teach music principles to generations of elementary school students. Today, recorders are manufactured by the millions annually. The recorder's repertoire is also increasing, thanks to a large group of imaginative players. And while most recorders are made after historical models, radical advancements by instrument makers are extending players' possibilities with this instrument.

Fun Fact: The German name for fipple flute is "block flute."

Fun Fact: Paintings show the use of the recorder during the Middle Ages and Crusades!

Fun Fact: King Henry VIII of England had a collection of 76 recorders at the time of his death in 1547 and even composed music for these instruments!

Fun Fact: The earliest unambiguous illustration of a recorder is a fresco entitled "The Mocking of Jesus" (circa 1315 A.D.) in the Church of St. George at Staro Nagoricvino, Macedonia (now Yugoslavia).

PACKAGE DIMENSIONS - 2.75 x 14.5 x 1.25"