recorder
Posted: 20 February 2009 05:44 PM   [ Ignore ]
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So why is the simple wind instrument called a recorder?

Or, more specifically, how is this meaning logically connected to the meaning of the verb record?

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Posted: 20 February 2009 07:04 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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OP Tipping - 20 February 2009 05:44 PM

how is this meaning logically connected to the meaning of the verb record?

The literal meaning of the verb record is, of course, to remember. AHD suggests that it came from a meaning. to practice a tune, to warble.

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Posted: 20 February 2009 09:44 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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interesting note in etymonline:

The musical instrument is attested by this name from 1430, from record (v.) in the obsolete sense of “practice a tune.” The name, and the thing, were rarely heard by mid-1800s, ousted by the flute, but enjoyed a revival after 1911 as an easy-to-play instrument for musical beginners.

[ Edited: 20 February 2009 09:48 PM by Oecolampadius ]
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Posted: 21 February 2009 03:06 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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Interesting question, OP.

OED too derives it from senses of the verb record, specifically these:

record, v.1

2. a. To practise (a song, tune, etc.). In later use only of birds (cf. 3); freq. (c 1580-1620) = to sing or warble (a tune, etc.).

3. a. intr. Of birds (rarely of persons): To practise or sing a tune in an undertone; to go over it quietly or silently. Now only techn.

OED credits the revival of the instrument to Arnold Dolmetsch, in 1919.

According to the wiki on recorders they are part of the family of the fipple flutes.  (What a marvellous term!)

OED tells us more:

fipple, n.

[Cf. Icel. flipi lip of a horse.]

1. The plug at the mouth of a wind-instrument, by which its volume was contracted. Also attrib., as fipple flute (see quot. 1956).

1626 BACON Sylva §161 Let there be a Recorder made with two Fipples, at each end one. 1911 Encycl. Brit. XXII. 966/2 (heading) Recorder, Fipple Flute or English Flute. Ibid., This channel is so constructed within the mouthpiece that the stream of air impinges with force against the sharp edge of a lip or fipple. 1956 Oxf. Compan. Music (ed. 9) 865/1 Flutes of the end-blown variety are..known as fipple flutes.

2. north. dial. ‘The underlip in men and animals, when it hangs down large and loose’ (Jam.). to hang a (the, one’s) fipple: to look disappointed, discontented, or sulky; also, to weep.

1805 A. SCOTT Poems 23 (Jam.) Condemned to hang a faiple. 1825 BROCKETT N. Country Gloss., ‘See how he hangs his fipple.’ 1892 Northumb. Gloss. s.v. ‘What a fipple!’{em}what a face you’re making.

[ Edited: 21 February 2009 03:09 AM by aldiboronti ]
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Posted: 21 February 2009 10:38 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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It’s always a delight to know something about a subject and suddenly to have its context expanded.

All flutes work in the same way, with a stream of air generating sound energy by flowing over a sharp edge and thus shedding vortices. The two families of flute are the transverse flutes, such as the orchestral flute and the military fife, and the fipple flutes, such as the recorder and the South American quena.

In transverse flutes, the sound generation is controlled by the player’s embouchure directing the airflow at the far edge of the hole in the mouthpiece (the physics is much the same as generating a tone by blowing across to top of a bottle). In a recorder, the mouthpiece has a duct formed by the shaped gap between the main longitudinal hole drilled through the instrument and the fipple plugging the top end of it. The duct accurately directs air onto the sound generating edge, which is an aerofoil section at the bottom of the rectangular hole in the front of the instrument. (This is what makes the recorder so good as a beginner’s instrument; no embouchure required: just stick it in your mouth and blow.)

The interesting instrument from the etymological point of view is the quena (Wikipedia link with pic). This is a fipple flute with no fipple. The upper end of the instrument is just an open hole while the tone-generating edge is the lower edge of a U-shaped notch. You play it by resting the top of the instrument just below your mouth and blowing air so that it just catches the bottom of the notch. Tone and volume are controlled by the speed of airflow, embouchure and the configuration of your lower lip. (The quena has quite a wide bore for its size which, combined with the aerodynamically relatively inefficient sound generating edge, gives it the wonderfully breathy sound that typifies it.)

So a quena is a fipple flute with no fipple, but it seems that aldiboronti’s discovery in the OED explains why: the piece of anatomy that takes the place of the wooden fipple is itself called a fipple to a Northcountryman. This rather suggests that the term fipple flute harks back to a European forerunner to the recorder that was similarly open-topped.

At least two of my music books suggest an origin of the word recorder as meaning ‘keepsake’ (cf Spanish recuerdo), which assumes that recorders were once given thus and may well be complete hogwash. The musicological sense that the OED offers seems far more reasonable.

The German names for the two families of flute are Querflöte and Blockflöte. The former is obviously ‘cross-flute’. I had taken Block in the latter to refer to the wooden fipple, with Block as a noun in the sense of ‘plug’, but now I wonder if it’s actually a verb with the sense of ‘obstruct’. My German isn’t good enough to comment further and my knowledge of German etymology is zero.

[Edited to repair a typo.]

[ Edited: 21 February 2009 10:45 PM by Dr Fortran ]
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Posted: 21 February 2009 11:51 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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"Fipple” is in OED with quotes from Northumberland (Scottish borders) or Scottish.  It doesn’t appear in my north English dialect books, so I assume it’s long since disappeared from English dialect but still survives in Scotland? “The Oxford Companion to Music” (which has two pages on the recorder family) suggests that the German Blockflöte is “apparently the same as fipple flute”. Another German word is Schnabelflöte (Schnabel being the beak of a bird), which corresponds to English “beak flute” (never heard of it, nor has OED, but it seems to be another term for recorder-type instruments, according to GB). The Oxford CTM also says that a peculiarity of recorders is that they give the impression of sounding an octave lower than their actual pitch, “probably owing to the paucity of their high harmonics”.

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Posted: 22 February 2009 08:08 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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The DSL has no entry for the word, so it doesn’t seem ever to have been Scottish.

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Posted: 22 February 2009 09:08 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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The DSL has it under faiple. (It is annoying that a search for fipple gives no results, as the form is listed as an alternative spelling. OED does this too; one would hope that eventually the dictionaries will get round to providing redirects for alternate spellings, but given the sheer numbers of alternates for some words that’s probably a tall order.)

FAIPLE, n. Also faple, faipil, phaple, fipple, fuppul. [Sc. fepl, fɪpl, Fif., Lth. + fipl, Per. fʊpl] 1. A loose drooping underlip, of men or animals (Gall. 1824 MacTaggart Gallov. Encycl. 204; Cld. 1825 Jam.; Kcb.1 1900, fipple; Fif., Lth. 1926 Wilson Cent. Scot. 241; Fif., Dmf. 1952); of horses (Lth. 1825 Jam.; Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.). Freq. in phrs. doon i’ the faiple, down in the mouth, to hang the (a) faiple, to look glum or sour (Sc. 1808 Jam.; Per. 1915 Wilson L. Strathearn 183), to pit on a faiple, id. (Bwk. 1950).

[O.Sc. has feppil, fippill, v., to put out the lower lip (c.1500). Etym. doubtful. The word has affinity of meaning with Flype, v.1, n.1, q.v., and may represent a freq. form flepple, flipple with the loss of the first l by dissimilation.]

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Posted: 22 February 2009 11:25 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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The quena is also known as an end-notched flute.  Another example of this is the Japanese shakuhachi.  The name is composed of the elements shaku, a unit of measurement approximately equal to a foot, and hachi, eight.  So-called because the standard model is about 1.8 shaku long.  It is just a length of bamboo with five fingering holes and a diagonal cut at one end, probably one of the simplest instruments imaginable, but capable of some of the most incredible sounds in the hands of an expert player.

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Posted: 22 February 2009 01:36 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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Thanks, aldi—a useful lesson in searching!

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