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Like harps, dulcimers, and flutes, recorders—which derive their name from the verb “record”—were considered to be bas, or soft-playing, instruments, particularly suited for interior performance. The gentle sonority and clear, sweet tone of recorders led to their Italian name, flauto dolce, or “sweet flute,” and made it natural for Baroque composers such as Telemann and Vivaldi to use them to mimic bird-calls. In this “Record” section each image is suffused with a contemplative air that echoes the softness of the instrument, the gentle warbling indicated by early definitions of the verb “record,” and the quiet murmurings of the “praiseworthy nightingale” depicted in Martin Engelbrecht’s engraving, Flötten, Hautbois, Flachinett, Fagot, und Clarinett (Flutes, Oboe, Flageolet, Bassoon, and Clarinet).

Miller’s Bassano tenor recorder in C is likely the oldest instrument in his collection.  Dating from the early to mid-seventeenth century, it was made approximately one hundred years after the appearance of the earliest books giving definite information about the construction and use of musical instruments. By 1707, Jacques Hotteterre had published a tutor for the recorder, oboe, and transverse flute. This Principes de la Flute Traversiere was the earliest known book of instruction for the transverse flute.  Hotteterre’s publications and reputation as a performer helped the transverse flute displace the recorder in artistic music, although the recorder has enjoyed a modern revival.

Tenor Recorder in C

Tenor Recorder in C. Bassano family (Venetian, active sixteenth to mid-seventeenth century), London. Between 1500 to 1650. Unidentified wood. Dayton C. Miller Collection, Music Division, Library of Congress (023.00.00)
[Digital ID # 1240f1]

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Musica Instrumentalis

“[Agricola was] the most distinguished writer of his time; these works form an epoch in the history of music. He is the first in instrumental music to abandon the Old German Tablature for the modern notation.”—François-Joseph Fétis (1784–1871)

Musica Instrumentalis. Martin Agricola (German, 1486–1556). Wittenberg: Georg Rhau, 1542. Page 2. Dayton C. Miller Collection, Music Division, Library of Congress (024.00.00)
[Digital ID # fl0024]

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Principes de la Flute Traversiere, ou Flute d'Allemagne. De la Flute A Bec, ou Flute Douce, et du Haut-Bois, Divisez part Traitez (Basics of the Flute, the Recorder, and the Oboe, in Three Parts)

“The music of the modern flute begins with this author, the most celebrated flutist of the end of the seventeenth and the beginning of the eighteenth centuries. Hotteterre was Chamber Musician to the King of France, and was the first one to play a transverse flute in the orchestra of the Paris Grand Opera. This extremely rare work is the earliest known books of instructions, in any language, for the transverse flute.”—Dayton C. Miller (1866–1941)

Principes de la Flute Traversiere, ou Flute d'Allemagne. De la Flute A Bec, ou Flute Douce, et du Haut-Bois, Divisez part Traitez (Basics of the Flute, the Recorder, and the Oboe, in Three Parts). Jacques-Martin Hotteterre (French, 1674–1763). Paris: Christopher Ballard, 1707. Dayton C. Miller Collection, Music Division, Library of Congress (025.01.00)
[Digital ID # fl0025]

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Le Fluteur

Le Fluteur. François Bernard Lépicié, père (French, 1698–1755), after Jean-Alexis Grimou (French, ca. 1680–1733). 1740. Etching and engraving. Dayton C. Miller Collection, Music Division, Library of Congress (026.00.00)
[Digital ID # fl0026]

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The Recorder Lesson

The Recorder Lesson. Giovanni Cattini (Italian, 1715–ca. 1800); after Giambattista Piazzetta (Italian, 1682–1754). Mid- to late-eighteenth century. Engraving. Dayton C. Miller Collection, Music Division, Library of Congress (027.01.00)
[Digital ID # fl0027]

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Untitled

“Listen, friend, thus,
I will play for you some marvelous things
On this flute, a song
For the love of your beloved
As well as for dispelling sadness
I am the only one who can teach this to you.”
—Translated from image

Untitled. Jean Ganière (French, d. 1666). Seventeenth century. Hand-colored engraving. Dayton C. Miller Collection, Music Division, Library of Congress (028.00.00)
[Digital ID # fl0028]

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Flötten, Hautbois, Flachinett, Fagot, und Clarinett (Flutes, Oboe, Flageolet, Bassoon, and Clarinet)

“The wind—there’s nothing like it in the world,
Or even in a shadowy vale—
Gives, through turned wooden pipes,
Flutes and flageolet,
Which, when held correctly with tongue and teeth
Can be taken for the praiseworthy nightingale—
Quite wonderful sounds to hear.
One can safely wager
That the amiability of the gentle piper
And the bassoon’s deep roar
Goes beyond all reason.
The bass, in addition, murmurs. . . ."
—Translated from image

Flötten, Hautbois, Flachinett, Fagot, und Clarinett (Flutes, Oboe, Flageolet, Bassoon, and Clarinet). Martin Engelbrecht (German, 1684–1756), ca. 1720. Hand-colored etching and engraving. Dayton C. Miller Collection, Music Division, Library of Congress (029.00.00)
[Digital ID # fl0029]

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