Masato Honda plays recorder

May 31, 2008

I’ve been practicing the Telemann recorder suite this summer, and I had been meaning to write a recorder-related post. I thought I might mention this video of Masato Honda, a Japanese woodwind doubler and fusion/smooth jazz artist, but Gandalfe at The Bis Key Chronicles beat me to the punch today with this post featuring another video, of Mr. Honda’s really nice saxophone playing.

Anyway, in the video below, Mr. Honda makes surprisingly effective use of not one but four recorders (in order of appearance: alto [or “treble”], sopranino, tenor, then sopranino again, alto, sopranino, and finally soprano [or “descant”]). The video is a little over ten minutes; if you’re the impatient type, make sure you at least catch the soprano segment at about 8:20 where he uses an electronic harmonizer. Pretty cool.

Here’s the video. A little additional commentary below.

A few gear observations. The recorders appear to be some of Yamaha’s plastic models, which are excellent instruments and quite inexpensive. They have a very pure sound, which works well for what Mr. Honda is doing, and which also works well for consort (recorder ensemble) playing. My current favorite high-end plastic recorders are by Aulos, and have a reedier, more complex sound that I like for Baroque solo playing. I’ve got a set of Aulos recorders sized from Garklein (smaller than sopranino) to bass; maybe someday I’ll decide I need a set of Yamahas, too.

I’d be curious to know more about his microphone setup. The headset mike plus another mike on a stand seem to work really well.

And the fishing line contraption is a slick idea, if visually a little silly. A while back a composer friend wrote me a solo piece using seven instruments, including several large ones. The logistics were a nightmare. Too bad I didn’t have the ingenuity (or strong enough fishing line!) to suspend them all.

A few technique observations. Mr. Honda’s playing on all his instruments is extremely polished, but I can’t help but recognize in his playing some of the recorder issues that I also struggle with: weak low notes, tenative high notes, chirpy articulation, awkwardness in chromatic passages. I’d like to think I’m a fairly strong recorder player (and so, certainly, is Mr. Honda), but it’s the subtle things that separate a jack-of-all-trades like me from a serious recorder specialist.

I think the reason the recorder sounds fairly natural in this context is because we’ve hear these kinds of pure, near-sine-wave sounds frequently in this kind of music, but usually played by synthesizers (Mr. Honda is a masterful EWI player, too).

Not much about Masato Honda on the web (yet), other than his Japanese-language website and lots of YouTubeage. This one is fun (you’ll recognize the tune if you watched the recorder video): he plays baritone saxophone and what appears to be most of a flute, suspended; he plays something else in this clip, too, but I’ll leave you in suspense. Suffice it to say that it’s a feat of doubling I haven’t felt the need to explore. Enjoy!

Comments

  1. Gandalfe

    The airstream necessary is so much less than that of a sax, flute or clarinet. Or is is that just me. It is so easy to overblow this instrument (I have a full set of Aulos). I should spend more time on this instrument.

    Recent blog post: The Paper Flute (December 30, 2010)

    Reply

    • Bret Pimentel (Your host)

      You’re right—a recorder can’t be blown as aggressively as a “modern” woodwind.

      With a flute or reed instrument, you can increase the volume of air for louder dynamics, because you can use the embouchure to compensate for the effects on pitch, register, etc. With the recorder, the “embouchure” is formed for you by the mouthpiece duct, so it can’t be changed. More air means sharper pitch and cracking into the next partial.

      This is a likely reason that the recorder was more or less replaced by the transverse flute in Western music—despite its many charms, it didn’t have the dynamic range to keep up with the musical demands of the Classical period and beyond.

      Reply

  2. Robin

    Hey. Ive been playing for 11 years now and remember when this video was up, I managed to download a copy before it got removed. Id love to play this piece and just wandered if you knew what it was called?

    Recent blog post: What Is This Feeling, Recorder Duet (January 22, 2011)

    Reply

    • Bret Pimentel (Your host)

      Hi Robin — As I recall, it was a medley of some of his tunes, arranged for recorders. If any videos of him are still available on YouTube, you may be able to identify some of the titles.

      Reply

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