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Reconstructing the Recorder ...

by Jim Walch

During the All Hallows' elongated weekend, I had the opportunity to participate in a recorder “Baukurs” organized by Herbert Paetzold at his wonderful workshop-cum-coneference-concert centre in the small south Bavarian village of Ebenhofen. Thanks to the low-fare airlines, I could come down from Stockholm to Munich and catch a train almost to the doorstep of the “Flötenhof” and come home with a beautiful, well sounding Renaissance recorder. I was one one four participants—several dropped out at the last minute. Pity, since this is a rare opportunity to learn something of the art from a master craftsman. The other three participants were German recorder teachers, working in the schools. About myself: I am  a retired teacher, with three of four decades in teacher education. A folk musician who has made several of his own instruments, the Swedish nyckelharpa, and more recently a recorder player and maker.

The course itself was at entry level of woodworking skills,  how to file smoothly in narrow places along with the cutting of the window- the basic skills, for making and caring for the windway and labium of a recorder- the musical heart of the art. Plus an introduction to tuning in both registers. The rest is woodworking and Herbert had done the lathe work, otherwise this would be an entirely different course. So, what we learned were some basics on how to voice a recorder. Mainly how many parameters there are that need to be considered.

Since I've written a lot of curriculum in teacher education, I was a bit surprised to learn that woodworking is not part of the teacher education curriculum (or school syllabus for that matter) in Germany, at least not in the States I heard about. Based on the Swedish artisan tradition of “slojd”, woodworking is a mandatory subject in schools and has been in teacher education. My fellow course participants agreed that a course in recorder-making would have been a very useful part of their teacher education. Learning how your instrument is made and cared for ought to be self-evident. Let's hope it becomes so or that at least far-sighted headmasters send their recorder teachers for in-service training to courses such those at Flötenhof – the Flute Garden.



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