One of my first assignments was to make a medieval soprano recorder. That immediately was a challenge, because what is a medieval recorder? Since there are so few left, it’s very much open to interpretation. I decided to start by making a close reproduction of the Dordrecht recorder, of which I happened to have the measurements. This soprano recorder was excavated in the 20th century from a castle moat near Dordrecht in the Netherlands and dates from the 14th century. It has a narrow cylindrical bore and a very high cut up of the window. The sound is therefore a little unrefined with a nice ‘chiff’, but also quite sweet and gentle. Because of the narrow bore, the range is quite large with at least two octaves. Tuned in C, the pitch is about 460 Hz. I’ve decided not to adapt the voicing, like I have seen other makers do, because I think it adds to the character and originality. The pitch can be adapted to 466 or 440 Hz. Another adaptation I did was to make two wooden rings at the top and bottom of the instrument, because these are missing from the original.
Another medieval recorder I experimented with is the double recorder. I again started with using measurements I found of an original in Oxford. The result was quite a sweet little instrument, rather for folk music than for playing full two part Machaut with. Its eccentricity makes it surprising for both player and audience.
Dordrecht soprano made of pear and walnut.
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Tom de Vries Recorders
Eysingapad 30, 9064 KK Aldtsjerk, The Netherlands
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