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#3631 elemimele

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Posted 03 August 2019 - 11:52

yes, I'm sure you're right. In fact I think maybe music in general is taken less seriously within the UK. I don't mean that in a bad sense: I mean that the UK has a tradition of amateurism, which is a double-edged sword. We probably have more tacky jewellery than the rest of Europe put together, and are world-leaders in slightly dodgy-looking vases. But we also have a thriving amateur music scene with copious choruses, orchestras and operatic societies full of people who wouldn't consider themselves particularly good musicians, but are just people who happen to enjoy it and want to give it a good shot. Cultures that take music more seriously tend to produce very good musicians, but perhaps less of them? My European friends tend to take a more all-or-nothing approach, but perhaps that's just a chance effect amongst those I happen to know? Many friends from more serious cultures gave up their musical interests (if they ever had them) at some point in childhood, either because it was obvious they weren't going to be professional, or because the whole process became too arduous.

 

The recorder is currently in an interesting situation. It became both popular, and trivialised, because of its role in school music. It's now much less popular in schools - it's disappearing fast. This could be an opportunity for it to become a serious instrument, a choice alongside all the other instruments that people can select as individual studies if they get the chance. But it could also mark the end of the recorder as a cheap and universal instrument. I'm guessing aulos and Yamaha can only sell at the current price because of the sheer number that are sold. Whether it will remain popular when an introductory plastic recorder costs >£100 I don't know. Maybe the Dutch and Germans can sustain the world trade, and we'll continue to benefit?


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#3632 old_and_grumpy

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Posted 03 August 2019 - 16:02

The recorder is currently in an interesting situation. It became both popular, and trivialised, because of its role in school music. It's now much less popular in schools - it's disappearing fast. This could be an opportunity for it to become a serious instrument, a choice alongside all the other instruments that people can select as individual studies if they get the chance. But it could also mark the end of the recorder as a cheap and universal instrument.

 

You are right, it is at something of a crossroads.

 

I only know one child who attends primary school in the UK, so it's not a big sample, but she plays ukelele at school.  She's 7, and I think that a few decades ago she would have been much more likely to play recorder.  I suppose part of the issue is that, in several ways, recorder was not a good choice for a school instrument, because although it's cheap to make (moulded plastic ones at least) it's not particularly easy to play.  I don't know how much a ukelele costs.  It looks as if it should be more expensive than a recorder.  I don't suppose a basic one costs a great deal though, and the average person nowadays is simply better off than they were a couple of generations ago, so extreme cheapness is not as important as it was. 

 

At the other end of the spectrum, I gather that the recorder is declining in popularity amongst what might be called "serious" players - people who want to play recorder because it's a period instrument.  I don't have much evidence for this assertion either - basically, I'm using Tim Cranmore as my sole source.  I met him recently as he taught the recorder course I took.  He says he knows most recorder makers who have been around for the last few decades, and they all report a general falling away of interest.  I don't suppose there is a single clear reason: perhaps interest in early music is waning (people are choosing world music or contemporary music or whatever instead); perhaps there are more options as you can get viols, harpsichords, hautbois, etc much more easily than you could, say, 40 years ago.

 

So, we might be living through the end of the (second) golden age of the recorder even as we speak.


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#3633 elemimele

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Posted 03 August 2019 - 19:07

Ukulele in school annoys me a little as I think it's also an awful choice of first instrument. Teaching an instrument in a class nowadays has shakier foundations because kids will have spent less time singing before they get given a ukulele/recorder. And in the end, the ideal teaching instrument would probably have its notes in a simple order (like a xylophone). I really don't know what is right. Basic ukuleles are very cheap. I am slightly suspicious that maybe they are in use in schools because walls are thin and teachers' ears are less robust than they used to be (teachers are a more harrassed breed than ever before; I don't blame them for cutting unnecessary stress in the work place).

 

Perhaps the fall-off in school recorder will also be causing a fall-off in Tim Cranmore's trade, because there will be less people around thinking "well, I'm half-way there already...". Also, the high-end market in good instruments is vulnerable to general recession. At the moment many people haven't got huge amounts of spare cash. I don't think early music will die - I'd be more worried about the recorder's modern-rediscovery repertoire, which belongs to a small time-window itself receding into the past, and which was never well-known anyway. It'll be ripe for rediscovery one day! Early music will hang on because humans love a bit of pageant from time to time, we all enjoy a costume drama, and it sets the scene in many a good film! And it's a whole lot cheaper to put on than classical orchestral music, which is itself rapidly becoming early music as time marches on... If so, things will level out eventually, and there will be a point where there is steady but not enormous demand for good instruments.

 

Going back to the school thing, I'm more worried about instrumental music in general. Less kids seem to get a chance nowadays, or maybe I'm seeing the past through rose-tinted glasses. The beauty of the world is that strange opportunities pop up when least expected: who could have guessed even 30 years ago that an electronic game industry would grow and employ musicians, and that composers would specialise in writing for games?

 

(edit: I'm not necessarily saying xylophone is any good as a school teaching instrument either; I got in trouble for liking boomwhackers once, without expressing any feelings about their use in schools! I'm leaving it to teachers to decide what they think works... but ukulele isn't perfect)


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#3634 Bagpuss

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Posted 04 August 2019 - 05:51

Don't get me started here....!!!

Now I have removed myself from the teaching profession, the school I have left has NO recorders in it at all. My one-to-one pupils have had to cease and the groups have stopped bar one which one of my Year 12s took on although the Head refused to pay her.

I built up 5 groups and a significant number of girls having individual lessons from absolutely nothing and to see it all wiped out is heart breaking. None of the other peris would take it on and the DoM couldn't be bothered to find someone else.

Well, it is only the recorder after all.....

One of my new colleague's eldest child goes into Year 4 in September where all kids will 'learn' the recorder for one term (!) before moving on to a 'proper' instrument....

What a sorry state of affairs....

Bag xx
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#3635 Zixi

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Posted 04 August 2019 - 08:36

Does anyone else get the impression there's a bit of a 'fad' around ukuleles at the moment? I wonder if they are kind of a first step to learning guitar - say. I can't help thinking that if that's the case then perhaps parents will ask when their ukulele-playing offspring will play a 'proper' instrument too...

 

re- the recorder. I can't help feeling that the problem is that it's easy to learn and extremely hard to play well. And when it's played badly, it is truly dire. Trust me... I hear it played badly every time I practise! rolleyes.gif

 

The beauty of the world is that strange opportunities pop up when least expected: who could have guessed even 30 years ago that an electronic game industry would grow and employ musicians, and that composers would specialise in writing for games?

 

 

And some of them (Jeremy Soule, for example) are brilliant!!!  The Dragonborn theme on descant recorder is something I'd love to be able to play well... But 30 years ago computer specialists didn't predict the rise of games either... they thought 'spreadsheet', 'word-processing' 'databases' and they wondered why people would want to do that at home...


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#3636 elemimele

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Posted 04 August 2019 - 10:01

Bagpuss, I'm so sad. It's horrible to see everything fall apart. It will have had a huge influence on all those kids who passed through during the golden years that your groups were running, and maybe in years to come, one of them will remember at a critical moment, and maybe it will start again. These things come in waves, as we make mistakes, and then enlightened individuals rediscover good things from the past. At the moment there is no money in education, heads are being hard as nails because they've got no funding for teaching assistants, and everything's a mess. It can't stay this bad for ever. Maybe we are having to plumb the depths at the moment to become aware of how bad things can get, so we can rebuild in genuine dread of what we're avoiding?

 

Yes, I think the ukukele is a fad, and being used very much as recorder was in many cases. Again, to twang a few notes is easy, but to play well is very hard.

 

I'm intrigued, too, by the variety of plastic introductory instruments produced by people with serious intent. I'm thinking of the P-Buzz, the nuvo TooT and other such things. I am not sure they're getting any take-up in education in my area. I'm not sure what to think - is it better to stick to a real recorder, or go straight for a real flute or clarinet, rather than go through a phase of using a special plastic instrument? Or would these instruments be a cost-effective way to teach instrumental music in schools? The manufacturer has certainly put serious, and honest effort into their design. The problems will be budget and expertise. Who would want to train as a music teacher nowadays? And given that my kid's school's art budget last year was less than £3 per kid for all art materials in total summed over a year, how can any school handle music? Meanwhile, this week lawyers think it's reasonable to spend £93,000 deciding whether a dog was barking too loudly, and no one can say anything about it. Strewth, it's time someone got education in proportion.


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#3637 old_and_grumpy

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Posted 04 August 2019 - 14:17

... fall-off in Tim Cranmore's trade, because there will be less people around thinking "well, I'm half-way there already...". Also, the high-end market in good instruments is vulnerable to general recession. At the moment many people haven't got huge amounts of spare cash. I don't think early music will die

 

I don't think early music will die either (I certainly hope not) but perhaps most of the people interested in playing it have now bought their expensive authentic recorders and the rate of new buyers has slowed.

 

It's always difficult half-quoting someone else, and I don't want to put words into Tim's mouth that he might not say, but I got the impression from him that sales were down throughout Europe, not just in the UK, including in places like Germany that perhaps haven't felt the effects of recession so strongly. 

 

It's not that things aren't selling at all, it's just that traditional high-end recorders (traditional in the sense of what has been popular for the last few decades, the Küng Superio type of thing) are giving way to other things, eg Mollenhauer's Elody and Helder models.  Makers are looking for that "something a bit different" because there are more buyers for those items, so Adriana Breukink has her Eagle (and Dream I suppose), Philippe Bolton has his Electroacoustic model, Tim Cranmore has his Dragon Flute.  All these examples make a point about the instruments being suitable for a wider repertoire, including jazz and rock. 

 

Perhaps, then, it's more about diversification than anything else.  NB that these are just the "idle thoughts of an idle fellow" - I'm not trying to make any serious predictions about the future of the recorder.


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#3638 Gran'piano

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Posted 04 August 2019 - 14:47

yes, I'm sure you're right. In fact I think maybe music in general is taken less seriously within the UK. I don't mean that in a bad sense: I mean that the UK has a tradition of amateurism, which is a double-edged sword. We probably have more tacky jewellery than the rest of Europe put together, and are world-leaders in slightly dodgy-looking vases. But we also have a thriving amateur music scene with copious choruses, orchestras and operatic societies full of people who wouldn't consider themselves particularly good musicians, but are just people who happen to enjoy it and want to give it a good shot. Cultures that take music more seriously tend to produce very good musicians, but perhaps less of them? My European friends tend to take a more all-or-nothing approach, but perhaps that's just a chance effect amongst those I happen to know? Many friends from more serious cultures gave up their musical interests (if they ever had them) at some point in childhood, either because it was obvious they weren't going to be professional, or because the whole process became too arduous.

Having been at the other end of this situation, I think this is very true. Here, our children had the opportunity to have good descant recorder lessons in groups of two or three from the age of eight, subsidised by the town. It was taken seriously and the elder one later added the treble. When we came to England for two years, we had other children of the same age in our tiny village church, they said they played the recorder and I asked if they would like to play in a group with ours. I had expected the same level...  Oh dear.
On the other hand, when we had earlier been to a Mother and Children camp here in Switzerland, all the children brought their recorders along and played quite passably for their age, but with one exception, all the mothers had had years of lessons as children but had long since given it up and it had occurred to no-one to bring music suitable for children to play together. All or nothing.


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#3639 Gran'piano

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Posted 04 August 2019 - 15:04

Don't get me started here....!!!

Now I have removed myself from the teaching profession, the school I have left has NO recorders in it at all. My one-to-one pupils have had to cease and the groups have stopped bar one which one of my Year 12s took on although the Head refused to pay her.

I built up 5 groups and a significant number of girls having individual lessons from absolutely nothing and to see it all wiped out is heart breaking. None of the other peris would take it on and the DoM couldn't be bothered to find someone else.

Well, it is only the recorder after all.....

One of my new colleague's eldest child goes into Year 4 in September where all kids will 'learn' the recorder for one term (!) before moving on to a 'proper' instrument....

What a sorry state of affairs....

Bag xx

I can well understand the frustration, disappointment and anger when this sort of thing happens. Been there, done that, Twelve years of work undone, discarded, thrown out in about six months by idiots who knew everything better.

A word or two of comfort. This happened to me over ten years ago and occasionally I meet one of the 'old' pupils. They haven't forgotten everything. Some found similar challenges somewhere else. They had learned things about practice, discipline and 'life qualities' which they appreciate now. It's not much compensation, but it is good to know that respect and gratitude are there. I'm sure your pupils will have gained a love for the instrument and understanding of music generally which they otherwise might have missed out on.

In my case, a couple of years back, someone came up with a brilliant idea... and started building up the same thing from scratch again.  Let's hope it happens in Britain before too much damage is done.


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#3640 elemimele

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Posted 04 August 2019 - 16:44

Yes, Gran'piano, that was the thought I was trying to express too. 'Old' pupils don't forget, and the consequences of what they learned may pop up in all sorts of unexpected ways, much later. Who knows, it can even pass to another generation ("my Mum told me that when she was a girl... I wonder whether we could..."). Thank you for putting it better than I could!


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#3641 Aquarelle

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Posted 10 August 2019 - 18:51

I teach descant recorder to our different classes once a week, on Friday afternoons. It is possible to get a reasonable sound and to instill the idea that the recorder is a real musical instrument. However this takes time - more time than I have with the children , though I do my best. I am also fortunate in that the classes are small and as this is a small school each class teacher has more than one age group in her classroom. This means  that I can, to some extent, group the children according to ability. You need constantly to hear them individually and this means organizing other activities so that they don't waste time waiting for their turn. You also have to be prepared to go very, very slowly.

 

The real secret of getting children to understand the true value of the recorder as a solo instrument is to get them on to the treble as soon as possible. (Of course their hands have to be big enough.) I have managed this in the past but these days it is increasingly difficult.

 

I certainly take the point that it is dreadful to learn the recorder with the attitude "until you can start a proper instrument." I try to get over this by playing CDs so that they can hear what can actually be done.  The fact remains though that many children either will discard the recorder in favour of something more "cool" and others will never play anything else anyway - and will also drop the recorder.  But then that must also be true of the ukulele.

 

However I do not despair. I watch both the Protestant and Catholic services on TV on Sunday Mornings here and  very often you see some excellent recorder playing by a church music group - particularly if the service is Protestant and coming from the north of France.

 

I have, over the years, had several treble recorder players get to Grade 5 and one even to Grade 6. I have one treble player at the moment - a little girl of 10 who got a distinction at Grade 1 in June.

 

The idea of class teaching  the  ukulele horrifies me.


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