Tuesday, July 31, 2007

today : The descant recorder : why?

Two tracks are repeating themselves constantly on the stereo at the moment. The first is Sick Sick Sick by Queens of the Stone Age, a tune that quite closely approximates what it might be like to be hit repeatedly with a concrete slab, but in an rather enjoyable way. The second is Rules and Regulations by Rufus Wainright, which apart from it's catchy melodies and nice chord sequence, I admire mainly because it is a recording that features a descant recorder - an instrument rarely, if ever, heard within popular music.

In fact, the descant recorder is rarely heard in any types of music past the age of about 6. At least amongst my generation, every child had a descant recorder and was forced/cajoled into playing it, often in groups. The problem with the descant recorder is that it simply sounds crap. It's neither got the mellifluous tone of a tin whistle, the mellowness of an ocarina, or the subtlety of expression of, well, every other instrument ever invented. In the hands of anything but a truly gifted musician. it has no subtlety of expression. And it's very easy to play it loudly - one of the traits it shares with the bagpipes. The other trait they share is is that they both have the capacity to easily turn otherwise balanced and sane people into mass murdering psychopaths. Forget blaming various school massacres on Marylin Manson, has anyone investigated the role of the descant recorder or bagpipes in such events? (although in defence of the bagpipe, it does kind of have an evocative quality in it's real context i.e. echoing across the moorlands of Scotland signalling the arrival of an impending army with blue faces and big beards, even though Josh was right to mistake it for the sound of sirens).

The question begs itself, what is the descant recorder for? It is an instrument that has little or no musical merit and has little or no use apart from annoying parents and putting children off playing music (and particularly the tune 3 blind mice) for life. Who decided this thing was a good idea? Who is responsible for making the decision to inflict this appalling tuneless horror on the nation?

And don't even get me started on the chime bar...

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