The Recorder: Devil’s music?
Yesterday on The Wright Stuff, a morning panel debate show, one of the topics was about the recorder. In many schools it is an instrument taught to children at a young age to get them interested in music and its history, however, the word on the street is (or rather; has always been) that it instead puts them off altogether, leaving them with a deep loathing of the simple wind instrument. The so-called “devil’s music”.
I would like to offer the suggestion that it is not the instrument itself that is the problem, but rather the teaching of it. It’s the same old tunes the beginners start off with: Frère Jacques, Three Blind Mice, Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, and many more!
It’s boring. It’s no wonder the kids are turned off by the prospect of learning about music through such primitive oldies as these. That is not to say that I disregard them, they are fine little tunes and great for starting out with….but they’re not for everyone.
Something a bit more modern would surely hold their interest for slightly longer. Initially it might seem silly to suggest a complex hit song for a beginner, but when you really think about the main melodies of most songs it really isn’t the greatest feat. And I can guarantee that a kid is bound to be more determined to learn their favourite songs, rather than some old nursery rhymes from the dark ages.
Here’s a good example, this girl has found the enthusiasm to learn a Lady Gaga tune. As you can hear the melody of it isn’t too difficult, and as (I assume) it’s one of her favourite songs she is enthusiastic about sharing her talent with others online. This can only help her confidence in keeping up with the learning. Notice how she has also put up the notation of the song for others to try.
Like a lot of his music that inspired me when I first began playing and creating my own tunes, I found Nobuo Uematsu’s opening theme (’The place i’ll return to some day’) for the Final Fantasy IX soundtrack very influential. In the track he used the recorder and ocarina to create a simple wind duet, which sets up the ensuing adventure (and its medieval imagery) of the game quite nicely. I found myself using the these sounds much more in my own music from this point onwards.
I have also seen many videos online (since the arrival of YouTube) of young fans of the game performing this duet with a friend. They are of course tributes to the game and the memories of its narrative that they invoke, but more importantly they are motivating people to learn the instrument. It’s this more modern approach to learning the recorder that teachers need to adapt to, and realise that the recorder isn’t the devil’s music. It’s a beautiful member of the wind family that is simply misunderstood due to the lack of inspiration.