Welcome to my new-and-improved website, now including a blog! This is my first foray into blogging, so I’m not sure how it will go. But hopefully, here you will find my ramblings on new instrument acquisitions, musical/woodwind equipment, gigs, etc. It will mostly be focused on woodwinds, but there will probably be posts applicable to musicians of all types.
A few months ago, an unusual tenor recorder showed up on the big auction site. It was keyed (almost) like an eight-key flute. Other than "Made in Germany", there were apparently no other indications of a maker. The headjoint was clearly cracked in the photos. But it was unusual enough that I decided to place a bid, and surprisingly I won the auction. There was some competition, but I think the cracked head scared most people away. It was obviously a high-end recorder from back in the day....rosewood, keys, adjustable thumbrest, nice case.
The night that I won the auction, the same seller listed another tenor recorder by the same maker. The headjoint and footjoint were shaped exactly the same and the wood looked the same. This time it was a "normal" one, and it had the name Klingson stamped on it. I knew I'd seen that name before, so after some quick research, I found Klingson was a brand name used by woodwind maker Karl Hammerschmidt. I could also see that the headjoint on this one seemed to be fine. Would that headjoint fit the keyed one, or were they possibly switched at some point? I decided I needed to try for that one as well. After waiting a week for the auction to end, I won that one too. Oddly, I was the only bidder. Normally a rosewood tenor would have a lot of interest.
When the first one showed up, the crack was indeed pretty bad. It also had two old cracks that had been "repaired" at some point. Cracks can always be fixed, but I was hopeful the other headjoint would fit when it arrived. A week later, the "normal" one arrived. The headjoint was a tad too small to fit on the keyed one. The normal one had a nice tone, but intonation was a bit wonky. The keyed one was going to have to be restored, and I had just saved a website of a recorder repairman that had been posted in a Facebook recorder page a few weeks prior.
So I contacted Werner John at TLC Recorder Optimization to see if he would take a look at it/them. We decided I should have the pads replaced locally since he would have to special order them, then send both recorders to him to do the rest of the restorations. Jon Goodman at Goodman Custom Woodwinds replaced the pads and polished the keys (they were so tarnished, I originally thought they were brass). Then off to Vermont they went. After receiving them, Werner called to discuss options. We decided since the headjoint cracks were quite extensive on the keyed one, and the normal one had a good headjoint, the best option would be to make the good one fit both recorders and leave the cracked one alone.
The recorders just arrived back from Werner. He did an amazing job! The good headjoint now fits both instruments perfectly. I can tell he did a lot of work on both instruments. They both play beautifully. The wood is just gorgeous on both as well. Pictures don't do them justice. And he was able to fix the wonky intonation on the normal one. He also worked out and included a fingering chart for the highest octave on the keyed recorder. I highly recommend Werner for any recorder repair you may need. And also thanks to Jon Goodman for his work on the keyed recorder as well.
A couple more vintage music items arrived last week. I don't really do any conducting. My one and only time actually conducting happened quite by accident in a pit in Salt Lake City. But that's a whole different story. Even though I don't do any conducting, I love picking up vintage conductors batons when I can find them at a reasonable price.
Last week two batons made by the Elton Musical Products Co. arrived. I'd been watching the "telescopic" baton on "the auction" site for quite awhile. It was priced a little more than I really wanted to spend. Then an "illuminated" baton by Elton showed up. I did a little research and found a scan from a 1963 Elton catalog that showed both (and only those two) batons. I took that as a sign that I should pick up both of them. They each had a "make an offer" button, so I made offers on both and they were both accepted.
They are both really kind of cool and gimmicky. The telescopic one is about the size of a pen and has a clip to keep it in your pocket, but is 18" long when fully extended. It's aluminum, so it's pretty lightweight. The illuminated one is 16" long with an aluminum handle that housed a lightbulb and a battery. The shaft is a long piece of lucite. This one is missing the bulb and I haven't figured out what kind of battery it would take. That will take some investigating. For now I have a laser pointer that fits in the handle perfectly.
Shooting Star Ocarina Octet's January video was made for the 2022 Latin American Ocarina Festival (online) happening January 28th through 30th. Our submission for the festival was an arrangement by Timothy Chernobrov of the Mexican folk song, La Cucaracha.
Most people think of recorders as coming in a couple of sizes. Soprano and alto are the most common. As with other woodwind instruments, there is a whole family of recorders. Typically they alternate between the keys of C and F (sopranino in F, soprano in C, alto in F, etc). Recorders also come in more obscure keys.....sopranos in Bb and A, altos in G, tenors in D. I've recently picked up a tenor in D (AKA voice flute).
It is branded "Peter Harlan Markneukirchen". Peter Harlan is credited with developing the German system recorder. He wasn't really a wind instrument maker (I think I read he did make some, though), and hired various other instrument makers in Markneukirchen, Germany to make his recorders. Most of these were made by Martin Kehr. This one is made from beautifully striped rosewood and is the German fingering system typical of Peter Harlan instruments.
Below are pics of the tenor in D, plus some comparison pics of other recorders. I've got one other Peter Harlan instrument, also in an unusual key. It's a soprano in A.
This is my debut with the Shooting Star Ocarina Octet (formerly septet) playing the contrabass G ocarina. I'm incredibly grateful to have been asked to join this talented group of ocarinists. Please subscribe to the YouTube Channel to make sure you don't miss any of the monthly videos.
I've picked up a trio of Dushkin recorders over the past year. Soprano, alto and tenor. I haven't been able to find out a lot of information about them. It seems David Dushkin started making recorders around 1934. And he was the first American recorder maker. He started out in the Chicago area, then moved to Vermont. Other than he and his wife opening two music schools, there's very little information available. And the is virtually nothing about his recorders.
Dushkin's wood of choice seems to have been walnut. Although the tenor I recently received looks like rosewood, with a little walnut on the beak. He also made his headjoints overly complicated. Most recorder headjoints are comprised of two parts, the headjoint body plus a "block" insert. Dushkin's headjoints have four components; the headjoint body, the block, a plastic sleeve that goes around that first two things, and then a wooden sleeve that goes around the plastic sleeve.
They all play very differently, but fairly well. The soprano has a very "reedy" quality. Intonation is a little wonky, but not horrible. The alto has a beautiful tone, but it's super quiet. And you need to blow extremely hard. The (keyless) tenor plays great. The tone is a little reedy like the soprano, but the intonation is really good. The tenor looks to be a later model than the soprano and alto. Overall, they all play really well. I couldn't find any information online about how Dushkins played, but was pleasantly surprised.
I recently picked up a Re.corder by Artinoise. It is an electronic, midi recorder. I'd been looking at them for a little while, and after playing a nightmare gig, decided to use the money from the gig on something fun. At the time (a week ago), you could only buy them online from Thomann in Europe. A few days ago, a US distributor was announced, but the price is considerably higher.
So this thing is pretty interesting. First, even though it is an "electronic" recorder, you can also play it acoustically. There is a plastic plug that needs to be removed to play it that way. And the sound isn't a typical clear recorder tone, but it plays really well just by itself. But its main purpose is to be used as a midi controller. An app needs to be downloaded, then it connects to your device through Bluetooth.
Out of the box with the default settings, it'll take some getting used to. There is a bit of latency, which might be different with different devices. When I start a note, there is a noticeable (slight) delay in me hearing the note which causes me to play slower. That's getting better though with practice. And there are tons of settings that can be changed that may be able to alleviate that problem a bit.
The app comes with quite a few "instrument" sounds to choose from. Some of the sounds are better than others. There are woodwind, brass, string, percussion and synth sounds. The muted trumpet sounds really good. It's still a relatively new product, so I figure there will be updates to the app to make improvements. And there are ways to connect it to other midi apps. I'll have to explore those options at some point. There's also a section of the app which is a learning tool. I haven't explored that side of it.
I'm pleased with the purchase so far. It gets better every time I pick it up. Plus, there are lots of settings that need to be explored. I need to write down the default settings before I get into changing things though. Included with the re.corder is a USB charging cable, an extra plug (which covers the fipple when you are connected to the app), a "quickstart" guide, and a cleaning rod. Comes in red, blue, white, and black.
A vintage Italian ocarina just arrived from Italy. It's an alto G by Emilio Cesari. Cesari was born in Budrio, Italy which was the birthplace of the modern ocarina. He briefly studied ocarina making with Cesare Vicinelli, then he made his own ocarinas in Budrio in the 1920s. He then moved to San Remo, Italy where he was a professional French hornist. He resumed ocarina production there until his death in 1962.
This ocarina is from the San Remo period, although the "mo" is the only part of the San Remo stamp that is visible. It's in pretty good condition (just a little paint loss here and there) and plays really well. The seller was in Milan, so presumably this ocarina spent its whole life in Italy.
This Metronoma metronome arrived today. I have a small collection of metronomes of various vintages. This one was listed as "not working" so I got it pretty inexpensively. The listing said it needed a new vacuum tube and a new light bulb, but I was pleasantly surprised to find that it works fine. The vacuum tube seems fine, and the bulb was dislocated and just needed to be secured back into place. The seller had even just replaced the electrical cord.
This particular Metronoma has a wooden case meaning it's an early one. It's more commonly found with a plastic case (mostly brown with some marbling, but other colors pop up). I found the patent information after a quick search. The patent was applied for on 5-29-1946 and granted on 9-19-1950. This one has "Pat. Applied For" on the back, so it should fall somewhere between those two dates. The case has some worn spots, but overall I think it's in pretty good shape for being 70+ years old.