Primitive signal-pipes and whistles date back to Upper Palaeolithic times (Megaw 1963). Amongst, the world's oldest musical instruments is a 24,000 year-old duct-flute from France, made from the bone of a vulture found in the 1920's (Hamer 1996). Bone flutes, about 32,000 years old are known from Les Roches and La Roque, Dordogne, France. The later, date from the Paleolithic (Perigordian) and were made by fully modern people like ourselves whose cave paintings, sculpture and jewellery also date from this period (British Museum, 2001). An almost complete bone flute recently found at Hohle Fels has been dated as far back as 35,000 years (Seifert 2009). More controversial is the claim that this may be pushed back to at least 43,000 and possibly as far as 82,000 years ago by the discovery in Slovenia of a putative Neanderthal flute made from a femur bone of a bear cub (Fink 1997, Otte 2000), although this interpretation has been rejected by Chase & Nowell (1998).
Excavations at the early Neolithic site of Jiahu in the Henan Province, China, have produced six complete vertical flutes made from the ulnae of the red-crowned crane which, curiously, have variously 5, 6, 7 and 8 holes. On one of these 9,000-year-old flutes which has holes for 7 fingers, that for the lowermost finger is doubled with a very small vent immediately above the main hole. Indeed the latter instrument can actually be sounded and thus represents the world's oldest playable musical instrument (Fountain 1999; Zhang et al. 1999; Castellano 2000). Note that these are all end-blown flutes rather than duct-flutes. For a photograph and sound files, click here.
More internal-duct-flutes (sensu Picken 1975) have survived from the Middle Ages than any other kind of musical instrument (Munrow 1976). Crane (1972) lists no less than 140 of them in a great variety of forms. Moeck (1967) has also produced a comprehensive survey.
The recorder (as distinct from six-holed pipes, flageolets and other folk whistles) is an internal-duct-flute with holes for seven fingers and a thumb-hole which serves as an octaving vent. It is generally assumed that the development of the recorder as such from its simpler, six-holed ancestor was the result of a search for a stronger tone richer in fundamentals (Hunt 1977). However, Brown (1995: 22, footnote 8) argues that the recorder was a remarkable innovation in duct-flute design, for the complication of having to use two more holes, including a thumb-hole, did not result in any increase in the instrument's range or improvement in its tone what it achieved was that high notes could be played more softly ', a view echoed by Rowland-Jones (1996, 1999b).
Although more or less cylindrical-bore recorders are generally louder than similarly sized pipes by virtue of their wider bore and greater cross-sectional area of the windway, the useful range of at least some reconstructions of medieval recorders, including those made by Fitzpatrick, Carlick, Miller & Anderson is limited to an octave and a sixth. On the other hand, reconstructions of medieval recorders by Bartram, Hanchet and Reiners play over a range of two or more octaves, though the latter departs markedly from a cylindrical bore (Reiners 1997: 33). Doubtless much would depend on the skill of the maker and even the player. However, the fact remains that a six-holed pipe can easily ascend two octaves with very little effort necessary on the part of either maker or player, and need be neither unduly shrill nor lacking in volume.
Surely of far more value would be the sheer number of novel fingerings opened up by the addition of an extra finger-hole and thumb-hole which, whilst creating an instrument with possibly decreased range, made the recorder a truly chromatic instrument. The six-holed pipe, even in its modern form (the Irish whistle or faedog), is essentially a diatonic instrument. Thus Tuschner (1983) has more convincingly discussed the transition from woodwind instruments with six upper fingerholes into those with seven (including the recorder) in the light of the tetrachord system of the Musica enchiriadis and the later Guidonian hexachord system.
An account of the circumstances of its discovery has been given by the some-time curator of that collection, Dr Clemens von Gleich (in Weber 1976). Further details have been provided by the current curator, Rob van Acht (reported by Rowland-Jones 1996: 17). Briefly, the Dordrecht Recorder was excavated from the moat surrounding the ruins of the Huis te Merwede (House on the Merwede) about 3 km east of the town of Dordrecht, Holland. Founded in the first quarter of the fourteenth century, this castle was the residence of a wealthy Dutch family from 1335. An assault in 1418 and the devastating effects of the St Elizabeth Flood of 1421 and another in 1423 put an end to the existence of the castle. Not until the nineteenth century was the area lying around the castle drained. Part of its moat was excavated in 1940 revealing some 30 objects, including a recorder.
Thus, two circumstances in connection with this Dordrecht recorder are extremely fortunate. Firstly, on account of the short period during which the castle was inhabited (1335-1418) the dating of the instrument's deposition in the moat seems to fall within clear limits. Secondly, the recorder has remained submerged, untouched until its excavation. Bouterse (1995) notes that this instrument is possibly a few centuries older than that suggested above. However, Hakelberg (1995: 11) argues that it is rather unlikely that the Dordrecht instrument dates from the thirteenth century, since the written sources show that the donjon was built in the first quarter of the fourteenth century, and there is no archaeological proof for an earlier medieval settlement on the site.
A comprehensive description of the Dordrecht recorder is provided by Weber (1976). Further details are given by Fitzpatrick (1975), Carlick (1983), Snelling (1986) and Reiners (1997). The instrument is in good condition and is not imperilled. Its external outline is cylindrical. It is made of close-grained fruitwood, possibly plumwood. Its vibrating air-column is cylindrical, about 270 mm long and about 11 mm in diameter. The block is cylindrical and projects 3.5 mm into the mouth of the instrument. The cut-up of the mouth is 7.5 mm high and its ears are splayed outwards. The windway floor is quite flat. The seven fingerholes are widely spaced, a function of the narrow, cylindrical bore. The lowest fingerhole is doubled to allow playing by right- or left-handed players, the hole not in use being plugged. Both ends of the instrument are turned to form tenons, the one at the upper end with two external, circumferential grooves. The mouthpiece is truncated rather than beak-shaped. The lower tenon is slightly tapered. Due to damage to the lip of the recorder it cannot be sounded.
A second more or less complete medieval recorder dating from the fourteenth century, the 'Göttingen Recorder', has been reported from northern Germany where it was found in a latrine in Weender Strasser 26, Göttingen, in 1987.
Hakelberg (2002; pers. comm. 2003) reports that a third fourteenth-century recorder fragment, the 'Esslingen Recorder', has very recently come to light. It was found near Stuttgart, Southern Germany, where it was excavated from the sediment of the mill channel of the Karmeliter-Monastery, Esslingen.
Hakelberg is of the opinion that the broken light coloured fragment is of boxwood, the better preserved of fruitwood (length ca 25.5 cm), with thumb- and five finger-holes. Unfortunately, during conservation ca 10 cm of the instrument has been lost. Interestingly, it shows the very same characteristic turning profile as the Göttingen recorder. These fragments are preserved in the Landesdenkmalamt Baden-Württemberg, Stuttgart.
A fourth fourteenth-century recorder has been found during an archeological dig in August 2005 by Andres Tvauri in Tartu, Estonia near the border with Russia (Tvauri & Bernotas 2006; Tvauri 2007; Utt 2006)
Like both the Göttingen and Esslingen instruments, the 'Tartu Recorder' was also found in a latrine in the backyard of 15 Üikooli Street. Other artifacts found with the Tartu recorder allow it to be dated from the second half of the fourteenth century. During the late medieval period Tartu was an important Hanseatic city connecting Russia, especially Novgorod, with Western Europe. The house where the recorder was found seems to have been that of a wealthy person. The instrument is turned with ornamental rings. The only crack is at the end of the instrument and does not extend to the bore. The body of the Tartu recorder is made from maple; the block from birch. The total length is 246.7 mm and the sounding length 225.4 mm. Thus the instrument is of similar size to a modern sopranino at 440 Hz. Utt notes that in its current state it has a compass of ninth, but due to shrinkage and damage to the voicing this may represent a reduced range. Amongst the artifacts found with the recorder was a fourteenth-century stoneware jug which originated in Southern Lower Saxony, presumably imported in the Hanseatic trade. It is reasonable to conjecture that the recorder might also be of North German origin.
The fragment of a fifth possible medieval recorder, is preserved in the Mainfrankisches Museum at Würzburg in Germany (#50779) and has been dated between 1200 and 1300 (Moeck 1967). This instrument was also found during an archaeological excavation. It was discovered in a well and dates from the fourteenth century. However, only the bottom part of the instrument has survived. Kunkel (1953) and Weber (1976) have described this fragment in considerable detail. It also is made of fruitwood (again, a species of Prunus). In its bore and the size and disposition of its fingerholes it corresponds closely to the Dordrecht recorder. A curious feature of the Würzburg fragment is the presence of a small lateral hole just above the end of the bore. A shallow external groove is inscribed around the circumference of the fragment near the end of the bore. A crack runs through the lateral hole. Hakelberg (1995: 11) argues that this fragment cannot be identified with complete certainty as part of a recorder and that it could well be part of a reed-pipe instrument.
A sixth possible medieval recorder has been reported by Jack Campin of Edinburgh (pers. comm., 2005). This is a bone-flute in the Museum of the Palace of the Knights of St John at Rhodes, tucked away inaccessibly in a rarely-opened glass case. The head is missing, but it is probably a duct-flute, as reed instruments were more likely to be made of cane. Campin writes that it has "holes in the usual recorderish places, including the thumb-hole; it looks very much like my Susato G sopranino". The Knights were at Rhodes from 1309 to 1522, before they withdrew to Malta in the face of the advancing Ottomans. The bone-flute has not yet been more closely dated; it is possible that it could be before 1400 (Rowland-Jones, 2006b: 14). In the late fourteenth century, and well into the fifteenth century, there were cultivated Aragonese courts with musical establishments in Cyprus and Sicily that the Knights would almost certainly have visited. But as Campin remarks, this bone-flute fragment could have originated anywhere from Portugal to the Ukraine.
A seventh medieval recorder has been found in a latrine in the old Hanseatic city Elblag (in former times Elbing) southeast from Danzig in Poland (Naumann 1999; Kirnbauer & Young 2000; Kirnbauer 2002, Poplawska 2004). This instrument is intact and has been dated to the mid-fifteenth century. It is made of maple in one-piece 30 cm long and appears to have a vibrating air column of 27 cm. Like the Dordrecht, Göttingen and Tartu recorders, the Elblag recorder lacks the beak-shaped mouth-piece characteristic of the modern instrument. Carefully worked details of this recorder, including undercut finger-holes and the edge of the labium point to a professional maker. This is supported by the presence of a maker's mark in the form of a circle with a central dot burned in the top of the instrument, a feature unique to this instrument. As with the other surviving late medieval recorders, the lowest interval of the Elblag recorder seems to have been a semitone. It was thus likely to have been pitched around d', a tone higher than a modern soprano recorder.
Medieval soprano recorder from Elblag, Poland
Mateusz Lacki (pers. comm. 2011) reports that an eighth medieval recorder found after the Second World War in a latrine in the city of Nysa in Silesia, Poland, dates from the fourteenth century. It is housed in the Muzeum w Nysie. The instrument, made from elderwood, is ca 27 cm long. Although the block is missing, details of the window and labium are unmistakable. The blowing end of the instrument is truncate rather than beaked. It has single holes for seven fingers as well as the usual thumbhole. Again, the lowest interval of the Nysa recorder seems to have been a semitone.
In earlier times moats, mill-channels and wells were probably all pretty putrid and not so different from latrines. Thus it is tempting to give significance to the observation that all five surviving unequivocal medieval recorders described above were found in such foul places, where they may have been discarded. However, the key fact linking these finds is surely not scatalogical, nor is it that the instrument were all discarded (a mere surmise, although there is convincing evidence that this was the case with the Dordrecht Recorder). It is simply that all these environments involve water which allows wooden articles to survive for long periods.
On inspection, the ambiguous illustrations of wind instruments fall into two camps namely:
Internal bore profiles of recorders are shown diagramataically by Loretto (1995) who has quite rightly cautioned against the practice of extrapolating the bore of a recorder from an illustration of its external profile and, to some extent, the context in which it is depicted. Thus it should be noted that any attempt to do so (here or elsewhere) is a matter for informed speculation.
Perhaps the earliest illustration of a recorder as such is The mocking of Jesus (after 1315), a fresco from the Church of St George, Staro Nagoricvino, a village E of near Kumanova in (Yugoslav) Macedonia, painted by the court painters Michael Astrapas and Eutychios, in which a musician plays a cylindrical duct-flute, the window/labium of which is clearly visible, and at the foot of which there is an open finger hole for the little finger of the lowermost hand. This fresco is very different from the sterotyped frescos found elsewhere in the region, and it is possible that it records a theatrical performance of the time (see Marjanovic 1995). Rowland-Jones (1999b, loc. cit.) doubts that the artist here "has shown us the first recorder", arguing that "the length of the instrument between the lower hole to the bell-end, however, although there is no flare, is characterstic of shawms." To this writer the instrument in question looks absolutely nothing like a shawm and much more like a duct-flute – its slender profile, the existence of a window/labium and the hole for the little finger of the lowermost hand are entirely consistent with the recorder.
The Angel Orchestra, carved in the vaulted ceiling above the Great East Window of the Presbytery at Gloucester Cathedral includes one angel who plays a soprano duct-flute (flageol or recorder) which has a window/labium. The player's lower (left) hand is drawn slightly away from the instrument and from the floor one cannot see any finger holes. The vault was completed c. 1360 but was repainted by Clayton and Bell between 1870 and 1895, presumably after some restoration of the stonework. If this is a recorder than it is amongst its very earliest representations.
There is a carved misericord (ca 1330) from Chichester Cathedral which depicts a possible recorder and harp duo. In a wood-carved nativity scene (ca 1430) from Exeter Cathedral one of the shepherds holds a large cylindrical duct-flute which surely must be a recorder, given the offset postion of the lowest finger hole.
Rowland-Jones (1995, 1996) has argued convincingly that the centre panel of La Virgen con el Niño [Altarpiece of Our Lady of the Angels], depicting a Virgin and Child surrounded by angels playing musical instruments (ca 1390), painted by Pere (Pedro) Serra, painted for the church of Santa Clara, Tortosa, now in the Museo Nacional d'Art de Catalunya Barcelona, shows what is clearly a cylindrical recorder. As can be seen from the detail, the instrument is held with the wrists well below the instrument, which is not the most natural position for playing the six-holed pipe, and beside the little finger of the lowest hand is an additional hole which appears to be plugged, possibly with wax.There is a possible recorder-playing angel high up in the Rosary stained-glass windows in the cathedral at Evreux, between Rouen and Paris. Although the windows were restored in 1893, this particular angel seems to have escaped the restorer's notice. Although the number of finger-holes is not clear, this may well be the first French depiction of a recorder. It is cylindrical in outline and it is turned slightly towards the viewer, as if the artist thought it might be an unfamilar instrument. The glass seems to have been installed between 1387 and 1400 (Rowland-Jones, 2006b).
The Nine Muses, and Francvouloir and Malebouche [Freethinker and Evil Tongue], miniatures from Martin le Franc (1410-1461) Le Champion des Dames (1440-1442 & 1451) depict cylindrical recorders which appear to be consistent with the Dordrecht instrument. Cylindrical recorders continue to appear in art well into the 18th-century, eg paintings by Baglione (1620), Seybold (ca 1730-1740), Boucher (1703-1770).
The brief 'Introductio gescriben uf pfifen', the first known treatise on the recorder is a manuscript booklet, now in the Universitätsbibliothek in Basel, probably written out for the 15-year-old Bonifacius Amerbach ca 1510 (Staehelin 1978; Kmetz 1988; Ehlich & Fiedler 2003; Möhlmeier & Thouvenot 2010, I: 7-10), includes a sketch of a 'Discant' (soprano) recorder in G, with fingerings.
Sebastian Virdung served as chaplain and singer in Heidelberg and other cities, including Basel. His Musica getutscht und Ausgezogen, published in both Basel and Strasburg in 1511 (Virdung 1511: facs. Klaus 1983, transl. Hettrick 1979), shows a quartet of recorders of which there are three sizes. Virdung also illustrates a pair of recorders, of which the thumb-holes are clearly indicated and on one of which the appropriate fingers are numberd. Fingering charts are also provided. These instruments, with their clearly delimited beak and beaded footpiece are strongly suggestive of the Dordrecht-style recorder. Nonetheless, it is probable that they had a wide, somewhat tapering internal bore, but without the choke characteristic of the the later Renaissance-bore recorder.
A very similar quartet to that of Virdung is illustrated by Martin Agricola in his Musica Instrumentalis Deudsch, published in Wittenberg in 1529 and again in 1545. Agricola was the Cantor of the Protestant Latin school in Magdeburg.
Consorts of cylindrical recorders, possibly of the wide-bore style consistent with the recorders depicted by Agricola and Virdung may date from as early as Bernat Martorell's Coronación de la Virgen (1427-1452). Indeed, such trios seem to have represented something of a genre in their own right, examples including: Miquel Nadal's Retablo de los Santos Cosme y Damián con la Virgen (1453-1455), The Master of the Lyversberger Passion's Coronation of the Virgin (ca 1463), the Vallmoll Altarpiece by Jaume Huguet (1414-1492), Gangolf Herlinger's Coronation of the Virgin (ca 1520), and Le Triomphe des vertus sur les vices from the Tapestry of Dance or The Seven Deadly Sins (1519-1524).
The first unequivocal representation of the flared-bell recorder would appear to be del Cossa's delightful April, or the Triumph of Venus (1470), which shows two such instruments (see detail). Li Virghi (A Medieval Recorder, 2012) notes that a special feature documented in this painting, is the absence of the two sidewalls of the window: such a voicing might be expected to give a loud, full sound with a distinctive attack or "chiff". Such instruments continue to be represented well into the eighteenth century. It is possible that these represent choke-bore recorders with a limited range of an octave and a sixth rather than Ganassi-style instruments with a more extended range.
Rowland-Jones (1994, 1995) has argued that the consort of four recorders depicted on the title-page of the first book devoted entirely to recorder-playing, namely Sylvestro Ganassi's Opera intitulata Fontegara published in Venice in 1535, are of the Virdung/Agricola wide-bore kind. However, at least the soprano instrument treated in Ganassi's text had a range of two octaves and a sixth which would clearly have been beyond that possible on recorders of either wide-bore or choke-bore designs. The highly developed technique described by Ganassi and later by Jerome Cardan in his treatise De Musica (ca 1546) demands a recorder of a completely different bore as attempts at its reconstruction have shown (see below).
Bob Marvin (1978) presented an illustrated and detailed article on making recorders exptrapolated from the Fontegara frontispiece, estimating measurements from other details depicted to produce an instrument that worked well with Ganassi's fingerings (Loretto 1995).
Reiners (1997) has pointed out that certain makers marks are referred to by Ganassi and reproduced by him in a table comparing fingerings of recorders by three different makers. Indeed three of these makers marks are clearly reproduced in Ganassi's fingering charts. Of these, two are strikingly similar to those associated with the Schnitzer family (all born in Munich and mostly working in Nürnberg), and Rauch of Schrattenbach (a small town 10 miles S of Memmingen, SW of Munich) respectively. The third, a 'B', probably represents another Nuremberg maker. However, none of the surviving recorders bearing these marks or attributed to these makers exhibit the range and fingering characteristics described by Ganassi.
Interestingly, an inarsio panel from S. Nicola e S. Domenico, Bologna, made beween 1528 and 1549 by Damiano Zambelli (1480-1549) includes two cylindrical recorders each with makers marks (a trefoil with a right-pointing stem) under the window and on the foot. These trefoil maker's marks are very similar (though inverted) to the third of those illustrated by Ganassi, and now thought to represent Hans Rauch von Schrattenbach. In St Joseph and a Shepherd (1519), a painting by Paolo Zacchia (op. 1519 - ca 1561) in the Pinacoteca di Brera, Milan, a recorder held by the shepherd also bears a clearly depicted single trefoil. A tenor recorder in the Moeck collection (Celle) bears a mark with a single trefoil, as do bassets in Paris and Vienna. I note that Silvestro Ganassi belonged to a large family of musicians and instrument makers, probably originally from Bologna.
Lyndon-Jones (1998) has presented evidence that the from Catajo, now in the Vienna collection (SAM 135), widely used as the model for so-called 'Ganassi' recorders, was in fact part of a consort. In the Vienna collection is a case (SAM 171) bearing the same variation of the maker's mark as SAM 135, and the recorder fits into it perfectly. The case was made to hold four recorders: an alto, two tenors, and a basset. The same variation of the mark is found on three tenor recorders in the Vienna collection (SAM 146, 149 and 150), so they must have originally been part of at least two sets. Thus this instrument seems never to have been the evolutionary "missing link" between renaissance and baroque recorders as had been previously thought (Brown (2005, 2006). Indeed Marvin (2007) has suggested that the large fingerholes and reamed-out bottom of SAM 135 was perhaps the result of a major effort to raise its pitch to match that of its higher-pitched bretheren.
It seems that the anonymous Italian fourteenth-century poem L'Intelligenza which enumerates the instruments housed in a palace room set aside for music fails to mention the recorder (Brown 1995).
The Sienese poet, Folgore da San Gimignano (fl. 1309-1317) included among the joys of April in the Sienese countryside:
e gente costumata a la francesca;
cantar, danzar a la provenzalesca
con istrumenti novi d’Alemagna
|the people dressed in French mode
singing and dancing in the Provençal style
with new instruments from Germany
D'Accone (1996) comments: "The poet was referring to newly developed forms of woodwind instruments – shawms, recorders, bombard and others – that had rarely been seen or heard in Italy before his time and were now being played by musicians freshly arrived from the north and by others eumulating them". It is true that Folgore also wrote about the "the sound of trumpeters, fifes, flutes and shawms" rallying the victors at a joust ("e sonara a raccolata i trombatori, e sufoli e flauti e ciramelle, e toccar a le schiere i feritori"). But were the flauti recorders or still only generic duct-flutes?
The German wind musicians did stay in Siena, where the deeds – and misdeeds – of their descendants are recorded in the city archives into the early 17th century. The earliest records of the city's pifferi menton only shawms and trombones, the first documentation of the recorder being a group of visiting Florentine piferi in 1468 who played in the "soft" combination of lute, rebec, and recorder ("1 di leiuto, 1 di ribechino e 1 di fliuto"). A case of recorders used by the pifferi is first mentioned in 1547 ("una cassa di flauti all'italiana"). In 1556 the five pifferi with their "recorders, trombones and cornetts" were ordered to be be "in constant readiness to play for the captain of the people and the lord priors" The 1573 inventory of the Palace lists among the items "on loan to the musicians" a case with six recorders ("una cassa co' sei flauti dritti"). In 1602, when the celebrated wind player Sirmone Nodi died, the instruments his heirs returned to the Palace included two cases of recorders, one black the other yellowish ("Due casse di flauti dritti, una neara e l'altra gialliccia").
In Florence, three fifteenth-century inventories employ the term zufoli. The inventory of the possessions of Piero di Cosimo de’ Medici "Il Gottoso", (1463) diffeentiates between "Quattro zufoli fiaminghi" (four Flemish zufoli) and "Tre zufoli nostrali" (three of our zufoli), and also mentions "Tre zufoli forniti d’ariento" (three zufoli decorated with silver). The inventory of the possessions of Lorenzo de' Medici, known as "Il Magnifico", made upon his death in 1492 contains entries for "Uno giuocho di zufoli grossi in una guaina" [a set of large zufoli in a case], "Uno giuocho di zufoli a uso di pifferi cholle ghiere nere e bianche, sono zufoli cinque" [a set of zufoli for the use of the pifferi, with black and white ferrules: there are five zufoli], and "Tre zufoli chon ghiere d'argento in una guaina guernita d'argento" [three zufoli with silver ferrules in a case garnished with silver] (Castellano 1997). The word giuocho implies a set of objects of the same size, still in use for knitting needles and playing cards. The word zufolo is derived from the verb zufolare or sufolare, meaning to whistle with the lips or a musical instrument and may thus refer to recorders or flutes in general. The pifferi in question may well have been the court or municipal wind players (Lasocki 2000). Castellano (loc. cit.) argues that the instruments in the second set are recorders, presumably because flutes tended to be played by military musicians, originally Swiss. The three separate zufoli, on the other hand, are likely to have been flutes of different sizes (soprano, tenor, bass). As for large instruments in the first set, they could be either flutes or recorders.
During the course of his 30-year career in Italy between the early 1470s and the first years of the sixteenth century, the Flemish-born composer and musical theorist Johannes Tinctoris published in Naples a fragmentary thesis entitled De inventione et usu musice (ca 1481-1483). In it he mentions fistula (a pipe or tube), as a particular type of woodwind instrument (tibia) with "septem ante ac unum aliud retro instar fistule" [seven holes in front and one behind]. Tinctoris also remarks on the doubling of the seventh finger-hole, so that it could be reached with the little finger and so that the instrument could be held with either hand lowermost:
Si tamen Varroni credendum sit: antique tibie quaterna habebant foramina. Alii dicunt (ut Acro refert) non plus quam tria. Discursu vero temporis eo ventum est: ut tibia que vulgo celimela nuncupatur: nunc septem foraminum sit. Quibus quidem arte recta proportionatis ad omnem cantum proferendum: ipsa tibia effecta est perfectissima. Illa tamen quam dulcinam a dulcedine sua nominant: licet totidem habeat foramina: hoc est septem ante ac unum aliud retro instar fistule: quia cantus omnis editioni non suppetit: imperfecta censetur. Sciendumque est: ubi foramen septimum cujusvis tibie in unum latus declinaverit: octavumque in alterum fuerit appositum: vocem eandem ab utroque emitti. hoc enim invenerunt propter minimi digitorum brevitatem: qui (si foramen septimum alia sex ordine recto sequeretur) illud (quando opus esset) claudere non posset.
[Note that when the seventh hole of any tibia is set to one side and has an eighth hole set opposite to it, each of these holes gives the same note. This arrangement was adopted to accommodate the little finger, which is normally not long enough to close the seventh hole if it is aligned with the other six. In consequence some players prefer to place the right hand uppermost and use the hole on the left side, while others prefer the opposite.]The thirteenth-century French Lai du Chèvrefeuille [The Lay of the Honeysuckl] is associated with the legend of Tristan, who played it himself on 'un flagueil':
En sa main a pris un flagueil|
Molr doucement en flajola
Et par dedans le flaguel a
Noté le 'Lai del Chievrefueil'
Et puis a mis jus le flagueil.
Li rois et li barons l'Oïrent
A merveille s'en esjoïrent.
Yseut l'ot, molt fu esmaire:
'Ha, fet-ele, Sainte Marie,
Je quit c'est Tristans, mes ami!
He took in his hand a flageolet,|
most gently piped upon it,
and from within the pipe
did play the Lay of the 'Honeysuckle',
then set aside the flageolet;
the kings and the barons heard it
and enjoyed it most wondrously.
Isolde, too, was most glad:
'O, Holy Mary,
I think it is Tristan my beloved!'
In his famous lists of musical instruments in La Prise d'Alexandrie and Remède de Fortune (ca 1330), Guillaume Machaut (ca 1300-1377) notes fretiau, flauste, flaios (or flajos), fistule, flajos de Scens, flaustes dont droit joues quand tu flaustes, pipe, flëuste brehaingne and flauste traversienne. The last is obviously a transverse flute, as may be the second-last 'Bohemian flute'. The remainder have been taken to represent internal-duct-flutes of various kinds, including recorders (Godwin 1977; Brown 1995), notably the flaustes dont droit joues quand tu flaustes 'flutes held vertically when played' (Braggard & Hen 1967: 57).
In his translation of Aristotle's Economics, Oresme (1357) replaces the word Latin fistula with flageol.
Boragno (1998) notes that three principal terms recur throughout French literature from the 12th century, namely flaüte, flageol and frestel. That they sometimes appear together would seem to indicate that they represented different instruments:
|Devant le roi sonent frestel
Et flahutes et chalemel,
Et de flajoz et des vieles
I sunt les melodies beles.
|Before the king are played frestels|
And flautes and shawms,
And the flageols and vielles
With their beautiful melodies
Durmart le Galois, Villanova (early thirteenth century)
Cors et buisine est frestealsThe flageol, on the other hand, is more given to sweetness. Here is the flageol with which Mercury puts Argus to sleep before decapitating him:
Et fleütes et chalemeals
Sonnent si que les montaignes
En retintoent et les pleignes. Guillaume de Saint-Pair Roman du Mont Saint Michel
Les le vacher a son flagel,And a fifteenth-century saying had it that:
Et par son chant fist le vacher
De .ii de ces iex somiller,
Qui delés lui s'estoit assis,
Et puis de .iii et puis de .vi;
Si se penoit de chanter miex,
Tant que cil de tout ces. c.iex
Au chant dou flagol s'endormi.
Et quant il le vit enormi.
Le chef lui trencha ou s'espec. Le bestiaire d'amour rimé (mid-thirteenth century)
a peu de vent gros flaïos, accorde on.As Boragno notes, not only shepherds played the flajeol: Jean Molinet, L'arbre de Bourgogne (after 1486)
Il advint ou tempz de son pere Conrat, que ce Henry estoir encore enffant et jeune; ainsi, comme il se juoit avecques ung lerjon qui avoit un flajoeul d'argent, si lui prmist qu'il lui douroit un eveschié, quant il seroit empereur mais qu'il donnast ce flajoeul. Et quant il fut empereur, lui demanda ce qu'il luiavoit promis, et l'empereur luie accomplist tantost.Boragno also points out that the flagol d'argent is not an isolated occurence. Renart le Contrefait (1328 & 1342).
Cil calimel i sonent et cil flagol d'argent,And Adam de la Halle's Marion sings:
Li Sarrasin carolent et cantent belement Graindor de Douai, La chanson d'Antioche (late 12th century).
J'oi Robin flajoler au flajol d'argent,
Au flajol d'argent
Biau sire car vous en alés! Adam de la Halle, Le jeu de Robin et Marion (before 1288)
In Le séjour d'honneur, Octavien de Saint-Gelais (1490) speaks of flütes argentines. And flutes made of ivory or decorated with precious metals and jewels are mentioned in a number of French medieval sources.
In Le Lay de franchise, a letter in verse form written on 23 February 1378 by the poet Eustace Deschamps on behalf of Pierre de Navarre, the latter says:
Je n'ay mie si mal en l'ongleRowland-Jones, 2006b): 20) has translated this as "My nail(s) haven't been so bad as to prevent me from learning to play the checker and the flageol." One hardly needs nails to play a keyboard instrument or the six-holed pipe. A recorder, however, does require the use of a thumb-nail in order play the upper-octave notes effectively. Thus Rowland-jones concludes that the use of the word ongle here in the singular, can surely only refer to the recorder, which makes this letter the earliest-yet known reference to the recorder. Lasocki (2008: 17) questions the translation of the word l'ongle as 'nail' noting that in the fourteenth century it had the further meanings of a "Kind of sickness of the eye: the layer which is thick, large, and strongly attached to the conjunctiva is difficult to cure"; and an "Ache of the fingers ends in extremity of cold weather; also, a painful slipping of the flesh, or swelling of it over, the nail." Lasocki considers that problems with the eyes or the fingers in general are a much more likely explanation of Deschamps' statement than anything to do with the thumb-nail specifically, and that his flaioler refers simply to playing on duct-flutes of any kind.
Que je n'aie aprins a jouer
A l'eschequier et flaioler.
By a most curious process of exclusion, Brown (1995) has argued that the flustes listed in the fifteenth-century French romance Cleriadus et Meliadice most likely refers to recorders rather than transverse flutes, tabor-pipes, double pipes or some other kind of duct flute.
Wright (1964) has argued that there are a number of mid-late fifteenth-century French references to recorders. Amongst the musical items listed in Mathieu d'Escouchy's account of the Banquet du Voeu, a feast held at Lille in 1454 by the Duke of Burgundy, we read:
… aprez, ou pasté, jouèent quatre menestreux de fleutres.And four years later, at the marriage of the Duke of Burgundy with Margaret of York, there were four recorder players dressed as wolves:
Et la se comparurent quatre loups ayant fluctes en leurs pattes; et commencèrent les dictz loups à jouer une chanson.It seems that the performance of vocal music on recorders was particularly popular in early renaissance France. Nicole de la Chesnaye in the Condamnacion des Banquets (1507) wrote:
Sus Galland qui avez l'usaigeThe author lists many more chanson titles. Indeed a chanson collection published by Pierre Attaignant in 1533 has the title:
De harper ou instrumenter,
Trop Longuement faictes d'usaige,
Une chanson convient fleuter:
Savez vous oint: J'ay mis mon cuer;
Ou Non pas, ou Quand ce viendra;
D'ung autre aymer, Le serviteur …
Vingt et sept chanson musicales à quatre parties desqauelles le plus convenables à la feuste d'allemant … et à la fleuste à neuf trous … et pour les deux …The 'fleuste a neuf trous' are unmistakably recorders, referring to the characteristic paired offset little finger-holes of early recorders which allow for both left-hand down and right-hand down playing, the unused hole being sealed with wax. Indeed the entry 'Recorder a pype fleute a ix neufte trous' appears in Palsgrave's Lesclarcissement de la langue Francoyse (1530), an English-French vocabulary. And it occurs again in Philbert Jambe de Fer's instruction manual Epitome musical de tons, sons et accordz, es voix humains, fleuste d'Alleman, fleustes à neuf trous, violes, & violins. (1556).
Wright (1964) notes that about 1530, a new metaphor was adopted into the French Language, 'accordez vos flûtes', meaning 'agree among yourselves'. The problem of tuning recorders is nothing new! Although the expression finds use as late as 1732 it enjoyed its greatest popularity in the sixteenth century. It is used by Molière in L'Etourdi:
… et vous, filous, fieffés … mettez pour me jouer vos flutes mieux d'accord!Renaissance recorders were made in sets of four, six, or more, which were kept in a case so that they could be played together. In the accounts of the Court of Burgundy for 10 May 1426 we read:
A Loys Willay demourant a Bruges, al somme de 31 livres 4 solz du prix de 40 gros monnoie de Flanders la livre, a lui deue pour quatre grans instruments de menestrelz, quatre douchaines, et quatre feutes, tous garniz d'estuiz de cuir et de coffres, que Mgr., part Latin de Conninglant son escuier d'escuierie, a fait prendre et acheter de lui pour lez envoyer a M. le Marquis de Ferrare.According to Page (1982), the descriptions of flatilla, the Latin version of the German floite or floet, by Konrad of Megenberg (1309-1374) in his des Yconomica (1348-1352) probably covered transverse as well as internal-duct-flutes. However, Konrad divided wind players into into two types, namely macrofistulus and microfistullus. The latter 'is the one who makes music on a smaller pipe (fistula): and I call those smaller pipes – named flattilas in the vernacular – because they give sound with little blowing of the breath of the mouth, but their sound is weak and feeble. Whence they sometimes play together with fiddles.' Later Konrad writes that flattile 'arouse or exasperate amorous spirits, and to an extent move them to the sweetness of [religious] devotion. Organs, therefore, on account of their variety and multitude [of flute pipes], are fittingly allotted a place in churches where divine services are celebrated.'
Arnt von Aich's songbook, published around 1519 has the title:
… lustick zu syngen. Auch etlich zu fleiten, scwegelen, und anderen Musicalisch Instrumentet zu gebrauchenin which the 'fleiten' must be recorders, not flutes, for both Virdung and Agricola use the world 'flöte' to mean recorder. Confirmation of this exists in the memoirs of the Duc de la Viellevile who suggests that the Germans did not play flutes in consort at this time:
Il y avait une espinette, une joeur de luth, dessus les violes, et une fleuste traverse, qaue l'on apelle à grand tort, sleuste d'Allemand: car les Franç s'en aydent mieulx et plus musicalement qaue toute aultre nations, et jamais en Allemaigne n'en fut joué à quatre parties, comme il se fait orndinairement en France.
Braggard & Hen (1967: 57) assert that a fistula anglica mentioned in a 12th-century manuscript at Glasgow University refers to the recorder. This appears to be a garbled combined reference to an illustration in the so-called Hunterian Psalter showing King David tuning his harp and surrounded by musicians, including players of the triple pipe and bagpipe; and the Latin name for the recorder used by Marin Mersenne in L'Harmonie Universelle (1636: 230–232) in which he describes the English Flute as Fistula dulcis seu Anglica (fistula dulcis or fistula anglica).
Although the Canterbury Tales of Geofrey Chaucer (ca 1340-1400) makes no direct reference to the recorder, it is possible that his Squire, who was syngynge … and floytynge, al the day, played a recorder (Welch 1911, Rowland-Jones 1959, Hunt 1977/2002, Rasmussen & Huene 1982: 34, footnote 5). In his House of Fame, Chaucer's reference to woodwind musicians 'That craftely begunne to pipe, Bothe in doucet and in rede' has been taken by various authors to imply recorders and shawms respectively (Welch 1911, Galpin 1965, Hunt 1977/2002).
There is no reference to the recorder in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight (ca 1370), despite the detailed accounts of Christmas and New year festivities, including music.
It has long been suggested that the earliest reference to the recorder by name is provided by the household accounts of the Earl of Derby (later King Henry IV) for 1388 which mention i. fistula in nomine Ricordo, a flute called a Ricordo. Trowell (1957) remarks that ricordo is Italian for a "remembrance, souvenir, keepsake, memento, sign of friend-ship, token", derived from the Latin recordari (to remember), and notes further that during the Middle Ages, the gift of a musical instrument was a recognised custom of civility and a means to obtaining a reward, and indeed an excellent 'memento' of favours received or expected. Although the Italian origin of ricordo itself has been questioned (Bornstein 1987: 45-56; Griscom & Lasocki 1994: 19), Higbee (1965: 128) supports Trowell's derivation of 'recorder' from a form of the Latin recordari. Wright (1965: 341) suggests an origin from the English 'to record', meaning to memorise, to recall, to practice and to recite, to sing or to play and thus the Earl of Derby's ricordo may represent no more than an attempt to render a pre-existing English word 'recorder' in a Latin document.
Anthony Rowland-Jones (2000) has uncovered evidence that the future Henry IV really did have a new-fangled duct-flute bought for him in London at a cost of around £500 in present day equivalence. An examination of the original accounts document (DL 28 1/2) in the Public Record Office in London shows that hitherto the entry in question has been completely mistranscribed: it in fact reads as follows:
Et pro j fistula nomine Recordo empta London' pro domino iij s iij dThe superscript horizontal line following the 'o' is an abbreviation for 'ur' in English court hand. Thus although the critical word looks like 'Recordo' it should really be rendered 'Recordour' and the entire entry should translated:
'and for one flute by name of Recordour bought in London for my lord, three shillings and four pence'.Rowland-Jones (loc. cit) points out that wheras the word 'fistula' (flute) is treated as a common noun, 'Recordour' is treated as if it were a proper noun like 'London', and that it is qualified by the word 'nomine'. This would seem to indicate that the word (and probably the recorder itself) was new to the language or at least unfamiliar.
It is possible that the recorder purchased on behalf of the Earl of Derby was for his own use. The future Henry IV was a keen amateur musician (Trowell 1957). Indeed, a piece in the early fifteenth-century Old Hall manuscript is ascribed 'Roy Henry', though the latter might refer to his more famous son who became Henry V. It is tempting to think of the Earl of Derby playing music with his wife. Among the purchases 'pro domina' for the Countess of Derby are strings and pegs, presumably for her gittern.
The words 'recorderis', 'recorders', 'recorde', 'recordour', 'recordres', 'recordys' appear in a number of fifteenth and early sixteenth-century sources.
From John Lydgate's The Fall of Princes.(1431-1438) we learn that:
Pan, god off Kynde, with his pipes seuene,
Off recorderis fond first the melodies.
The anonymous poem The Squier of Lowe Degree (ca 1450) contains the following reference:
There was myrth and melodyThe Scottish Buke of the Howlate (ca 1450) notes the recorder in one of those lists of which the medieval mind was so fond:
With harp, getron and sautry,
With rote, ribible and clokarde,
With pypes, organs and bumbade,
With other mynstrelles them amonge,
With sytolphe and with sautry songe,
With fydle, recorde, and dowcemere,
With trompette and with claryon clere,
With dulcet pipes of many cordes.
All thus our ladye they lofe, with liking and listIn Ranulf Higden's Polychronicon. (fifteenth-century) we are told that:
Menstralis and musicians mo than I mene may,
The psaltery, the citholis, the soft cytharist,
The croude, and the monycordis, the gythornis gay,
The rote, and the recordour, the ribup, and rist,
The trump, and the taburn, the tympane but tray;
The dulsate, and the dulsacordis, the schalm of assay;
The amyable organis usit full oft,
Clarions loude knelis,
Portativis and bellis,
Cymbaclanis in the cellis
That soundis so soft.
Seynte Aldelme, bischop of Schirburn … [had] … in habite and in use instrumentes off the arte of musike, as in harpes, pipes, recordres.An anonymous Cornish miracle play, Ordinale de Origine Mundi (fifteenth-century) puts the following words into the mouth of King David:
|Wethong menstrels ha tabours
trey-hans harpes ha trompours
cythol crowd fylh ha savtry
psalmus gyttrens ha nakrys
organs in weth cymbalys
recordys ha symphony.
|Blow minstrels and tabors
three hundred harps and trumpets
citole, crowd, fiddle, and psaltery
shawms, gitterns and nakers
organs, also cymbals
recorders and symphony.
The earliest extant English-Latin dictionary, Galfridus Anglicus' Promptorium Parvulorum (compiled ca 1440, printed 1499), gives "Recorder litell pype. Canula … C. f. in coraula". An earlier work, Campus Florum (ca 1359), as yet unlocated – not the book of the same title in the library of Peterhouse, Cambridge – is given as the authority for this translation. A work with this title known to have been authored by Thomas Gualensis (Walleys), a Dominican monk from Oxford, in 1359, seems not to have survived. Whilst it is possible that Campus Florum mentioned the recorder it is more likely that the work passed on earlier definitions of 'choraules' [Gk, the leader of the chorus who played either canulae or fistulae] and that the compiler of Promptorium simply added the up-to-date equation with recorder (Lasocki 2012: 53).
Welch (1911) notes that an even earlier treatise compiled in Paris by Thomas de Hibernia, a collection of authoritative Latin quotations on a variety of moral and theological topics entitled Manipulus Florum (1280-1306) existing in a large number of early imprints (at least 26 editions between 1550 and 1600 alone), was said by Grattan Flood (History of Irish Music, ? edn 2, 1906) to mention the recorder by name. However, Chris L. Nighman (pers. comm., 2008) reports that the Manipulus Florum is really not a source for an early reference to the recorder after all. He notes that only the word 'tybie' (tibie/tibiae) which is from a biblical text (Ecclesiasticus 40:21) is cited by the compiler of the Manipulus. A check of the modern edition of the Vulgate Bible (Vatican, 1979) shows that the term 'tibiae' is indeed used in this line. In the Oxford Annotated Bible with Apocrypha (1962) it is translated as 'flute'.
Ballester (2000: 10-12) notes that before he succeeded to the throne of Aragon the music-loving Infante (Crown Prince) Juan of Catalonia wrote a letter (in Catalan) from Saragossa dated 23 July 1378 to his chamberlain, Petro d'Artes, asking him to obtain a harp from Ponçz, an instrument-maker in Valencia, and also for lutes and "flahutes" to be sent to him as fast as possible f. As we have seen, "flutes" in various spellings could refer to a variety of instruments including duct-flutes of sundry kinds as well as transverse flutes. Thus the reference in this context may have been to recorders, 10 years before the unequivocal account of the purchase of a 'Recourdour' in London for the heir to the throne of England, the future Henry IV. Furthermore, the French spelling flahute might indicate a French origin.
Loretto (1998) also argues for a partially closed extension covering the foot tenon of the Dordrecht recorder to give a lowest note of c#'' at A440. In support of this he notes the exceptionally large cut-up of 7.6 mm (a bass recorder works well with a cut-up of 7 mm!) which leads him to suspect that the original labium was damaged and that the cut-up was at first ca 4 mm. Loretto reasons that slicing away the damaged labium increased the cut-up; the block was pushed further into the windway (it now protrudes 3.5 mm) to compensate for the unfocussed sound; and, since this didn't work, the instrument was discarded.
In support of his conjectural mouth-cap and foot designs, Fitzpatrick (1975) cites an illumination from a thirteenth-century, Ms Douce 62 and The Month of April, a painting by Francesco del Cossa of ca 1470 (Palazzo Schifanoia, Ferrara) as illustrations of recorders with with an implied headcap and beaded foot like those of the Dordrecht instrument. From the excellent reproduction of the latter painting in Grunfield (1974), Moeck (1984: April) and elsewhere, it would appear that Fitzpatrick is in serious error on this count since the instruments here are clearly of the one-piece, flared-bell (possibly choke-bore) style. Horace Fitzpatrick, Brian Carlick, and Alec Loretto (Simpson & Loretto 1986: 2-5, fig p. 4) have reconstructed the Dordrecht instrument as more or less conventional open-ended recorders resembling the recorder-like instruments depicted in medieval art.
The slight extension of the bore achieved by means of the addition of such a foot-piece allows the instrument to be be played fairly well in tune at the octave at ca C=517, close to modern pitch (click here for photograph). With suitable fingerings and in the hands of a skilled player a two-octave range is possible. These instruments are sweet and keen in tone, but rather quiet. Using his Dordrecht copy as a model, Fitzpatrick has made similar instruments a fourth higher and a fifth lower to produce sopranino and alto models respectively, thus creating (a high-pitched consort), as has Loretto. Gary Cook has recently made a soprano recorder for me based very loosely on the Dordrecht recorder at a=440Hz which plays with a sweet, reedy tone over more than two octaves and uses neo-baroque (so-called 'English') fingering for the notes. Only ab / g# needs an additional finger. An article on how to make such an instrument has been published by Cook (1997).
Italian recorder-maker Francesco Li Virghi has made reconstructions of the instruments depicted by Cossa (see above) which are of cylindrical bore and lack the sidewalls of the window. Their tone is bold and characterful with a decided "chiff" to the attack.
Hans Reiners (Hakelberg 1995, Reiners 1997) has made a reconstruction of the Göttingen recorder described as strident and penetrating in sound, which has a range of an unexpected two octaves , extending into a third octave with fingerings rather like those provided by Ganassi, although the cats fled in anguish when the instrument's higher reaches were sounded. Reiners describes the tone as not very subtle, but remarkably even and strong throughout . Interestingly, his reconstruction showed that the interval obtained by opening the seventh finger hole was semitone rather than a whole tone. Hakelberg (1995) has suggested that this may have been true of the Dordrecht recorder, too, and that the desirabilty of a leading note as the bottom note of a recorder based on a Dorian or Ionian scale makes perfect sense. Doht (2006) reports that the range of another reconstruction of this recorder has an smaller range, namely an octave plus a minor second in the lower register and a fifth in the upper register.
Ukrainian recorder-maker Eugene Iliarionov has made reconstructions of the Elblag recorder in d'' and c'' which also have the interval obtained by opening the seventh finger hole a semitone rather than a whole tone.
Several contemporary makers have constructed medieval-style recorders to their own largely speculative designs. James Bartram used to make a cylindrically bored alto recorder in g' which he describes as having a bright, intense sound well suited to mixed-consort use. Phil Bleazey makes a cylindrical bore recorder with open voicing which plays over two octaves with accurate tunings and is available in simple, Dordrecht or Göttingen profiles. Bleazy notes that the dents around the bulbous end of the original Göttingen instrument may indicate it's possible use as a drum beater. As well as his reconstructions of the Dordrecht recorder, Brian Carlick produces wider bore instruments of louder tone in a range of sizes. John Hanchet has made sopranino and soprano recorders based on a study of the Dordrecht instrument, modern folk instruments and iconography which have a bright and uninhibited tone indeed (Snelling 1986) and which are capable of playing chromatically into the third octave and an alto which plays almost two octaves (Rowland-Jones, pers. com.) Thea Miller & Susan Anderson have made a consort of cylindrical-bore recorders pitched in f'', c'', g', f' and c' each with a one-and-a-half octave range: they describe the tone of their instruments as open, clear … and overall less forceful and penetrating than later recorders.
Details of current makers of medieval-style recorders can be retrieved here.
No originals of the Virdung/Agricola style of recorder survive. John Cousen and Carl Hanson have made conjectural models based on these drawings, namely alto, tenor and basset instruments. These have a near-cylindrical bore and produce a characteristic ringing sound. Roland Kraemer offers a consort of recorders after Virdung. Adrian Brown makes a consort of alto, tenor and basset cylindrical recorders with three differently shaped bells each of which gives the instruments characteristic playing and tonal qualities.
Details of current makers of Virdung/Agricola-style recorders can be retrieved here.
The Ganassi-style recorder has been the subject of a great deal of research and debate (Loretto 1995). Since no instruments survive with the necessary playing characteristics, the accounts of their technique by Ganassi (1535) and Cardan (1546) together with iconographical evidence from the period have provided the springboard for modern reconstructions by a number of makers. For the most part these reconstructions adopt a near-cylindrical bore with a pronounced flare at the bell.
Details of current makers of Ganassi-style recorders can be retrieved here.
In fact, there are eight surviving medieval fragments, and these come from Dordrecht in Holland (dated 1335-1418), Göttingen (mid-fourteenth century) in Germany, Esslingen (fourteenth century) in Germany, Tartu (mid-late fourteenth century) in Estonia, Nysa (fourteenth century) in Poland, Elblag (mid-fifteenth century) in Poland, Rhodes (fourteenth to fifteenth century) and Würtzberg (dated 1200-1300) in Germany respectively. The first six are recorders in all essentials; the last two are ambiguous fragments.
As we have seen, two of the three recorder makers marks depicted by Ganassi (1535) in his fingering tables to illustrate tuning differences between recorders by various makers appear to be those of German craftsmen (the Schnitzer family of Nuremberg, and Rauch von Schrattenbach); the first, a simple 'B', is as yet unassigned, but is likely to represent another Nuremberg maker. However, the earliest books which contain instructions for playing the recorder are actually not Italian but of Swiss (Anonymous 1510, Virdung 1511) and German (Virdung 1511, Agricola 1529) provenance. Significantly, perhaps, the illustrations in these earlier accounts show near-cylindrical recorders quite like the Dordrecht instrument, but presumably of the slightly-tapering wide-bore variety internally. As we have seen, amongst the earliest unequivocal illustrations of the recorder are those of the cylindrical ('Dordrecht') kind by Pere Serra (ca 1390), Anonymous (Exeter, fourteenth century), and Martin le Franc (1410-1461). Thus, as Zaniol (1984) has suggested, the instruments illustrated and discussed by Virdung and Agricola may represent the final development of the medieval recorder which may have overlapped with the emergence of the undoubtably more sophisticated Renaissance-style (choke-bore) recorder. The latter appears to have been well-established as early as Francesco del Cossa's delightful April, or The Triumph of Venus (1470).
The only evidence I can see to support Hunt's hypothesis is that the presumed name Ricordo (1388) may be of Italian origin – a surmise (a mistaken one) which he overlooked in this context, strangely enough. But, as we have seen, the word Ricordo never existed and was simply a 20th-century mistranscription of the original Recordour. There are many English literary references to the recorder dating from the mid-fifteenth century onwards.
Rowland-Jones (in Brown 1995: 22, footnote 8) has suggested, on the basis of a painting by Pere Serra (ca 1390, see above) which depicts a cylindrical duct-flute in company with other soft instruments (lute, organetto, psaltery, mandola and harp), that the recorder may possibly have been invented in the sophisticated musical ambience of the papal court at Avignon in southern France. This hypothesis has since been explored further by Rowland-Jones (1996) who has argued convincingly that the instrument depicted is indeed a recorder (see above). Rowland-Jones (pers. com.) has since sought depictions of recorders in Avignon art of the time without success. Thus he now suggests simply that recorders could have been in use in the Barcelona region from some time earlier during the last part of the fourteenth century. He has presented ample evidence to support this latter suggestion.
Amongst the ambiguous medieval illustrations of wind instruments an even earlier candidate for the first depiction of what is possibly a recorder is the portrait (ca 1340) of Meister Heinrich Frauenlob (see above). In view of this, and the existence of both more or less contemporaneous and much earlier, equally ambiguous illustrations of duct-flutes from Sicily, England, France, Germany, and as far afield as Armenia; taking into account the existence of a more or less complete surviving recorder dating from 1335-1418 found in Holland, of two others found in Germany dated about mid-fourteenth century, of a fourth from the same period found in Estonia and of two more from fourteenth- and fifteenth-century Poland respecitively; noting the existence of a seemingly unambiguous depiction of a recorder in The mocking of Jesus (1315 or later) from the Church of Staro Nagoricino, near Kumanova in Macedonia, and of a fourteenth-century wood-carved misericord from Chichester, England, depicting what might be a recorder and harp, and considering the references to a fistula anglica in a 12th-century manuscript at Glasgow University, to flaustes dont droit joues quand tu flaustes by Machaut (ca 1330), as well as a clear record of the purchase of 'one flute by name of Recordour' (1388) for use at the court of a future English king, the hypothesis advanced by Hunt (1981) is less than convincing.
Indeed, on the basis of the material presented here, the way may even be clear for arguing a northern (ie English, Dutch, northern French, Swiss, German, Estonian, Polish) or even eastern (ie Macedonian) rather than southern (ie southern French, Italian or Spanish) European origin for the recorder. However, no one of these hypotheses explains all of the facts available to us.
If we are to speculate, could it not be that the recorder family is polyphyletic rather than monophyletic, that it emerged at a variety of different times, in a number of places, in a variety of forms each of which underwent subsequent development and modification? This conjecture would account for the disparate morphology of the surviving fragments (ie both open vs end-stopped, cylindrically vs obconically bored), for the various distinctive external forms depicted in illustrations of the medieval and early renaissance period (cylindrical, near-cylindrical, flared-bell), and for the variety of presumed internal bores associated with these forms (cylindrical, wide-bore, choke bore, etc).
© Copyright N.S. Lander, 1996-2012