The Story of the Electro-Acoustic Recorder

an electro-acoustic tenor recorder     The electro-acoustic recorder is neither new nor revolutionary now. It was invented and patented in 1995.

It all began during a concert given by the French jazz musician Didier Lockwood. First of all I was amazed by his brilliant playing, but I was also struck by the variety of sonuds his electric violin could produce. When I left the hall I had decided to attempt something similar with my recorders.

Considering how the recorder works I considered that the best way to set about it would be to mike the inside of the instrument. Through my experience and intuition as a recorder maker it seemed obvious to me that I should bore a hole in the head of the instrument, just next to the labium, the only place where there is a velocity antinode in the air column for every note.

I discussed the question with some of my colleagues who had experience in amplifying string instruments (Olivier Pont, Maurice Dupont, Christoper Schuetz). Amplifying techniques are not the same for string and for winds, but that gave me some ideas, and I bought a small microphone to test. I then hesitantly bored a hole in the head of one of my recorders and screwed it in.

The result was beyond all my expectations.

I also wanted the instrument to be able to be played as a normal recorder, without any loss of sound quality, when no amplification was needed, so I equiped the instrument with a plug that could replace the microphone when not in use.

I then applied for a patent for my invention and this gave me the possibility of examining attempts prior to mine, since I had not been the first person wanting to do this.

As far as I know, none of these former devices had been put on the market. None had used the hole bored in the head where I had placed it.

Here are two of these ideas that I found particularly interesting:

I was granted the patent in 1995.

My initial idea had been to overcome the recorder's low volume level, and give it acces to the world of jazz, in which most instruments are amplified anyway. My first electro-acoustic alto was sold to a jazz musician, and my first electro-acoustic soprano to a girl playing in a rock group.

The purchase of an effects processor broadened the instrument's horizons. New sounds could be generated giving more possibilities to the recorder in the field of contemporary music.

Pieces very soon began to be written by composers like François Rossé (T'so, Renrew, Oranges Chromatiques, Liminaire, etc.). These pieces were all performed for the first time by Philippe Renard, a musician particularly committed to the development of this recorder for the last 15 years. Philippe has been working for many composers from France and abroad, who have written around 30 pieces for this instrument, solo or in an ensemble, such as Fragments de Larmes, for voice, piano and electroacoustic tenor recorder. Some of these have been published by Qdt (Questions de Tempérament). Etienne Rolin in cooperation with Philippe Renard, wrote and played Effets Papillon, Eclipse, Boisé, Matière Céleste, for accordeon, cristal Baschet and electro-acoustic recorders, recorded on Erol Records EROL 7028. Another piece by Etienne Rolin is worthy of mention : Galerie des Glaces for electro-acoustic tenor recorder, and an ensemble of at least 20 recorders. Donald Bousted wrote The Evolution of Line for this recorder (published by Composer Press, and later by Moeck Verlag). This piece was written in close collaboration with Philippe Renard, and first performed by him in the Théâtre Paris-Villette during one of the Musicora events in Paris.

These are just a few examples of the development of this recorder, which is now on the forefront of electronic music with the Noise Consort trio (computer, electro-acousic harpsichord and electro-acoustic recorder) which has already appeared in international festivals like " Electricty ", Lieu Unique de Nantes etc...

You can listen to Evolution of Line here, played by Gaëlle Lecoq.

Little by little the equipment has evolved over the years. The microphone has become smaller and more efficient. Being situated inside the bore, it is insensitive to outside sounds and there is practically no risk of feedback. A preamplifier has been added (carried on a belt or in a pocket), giving the player some control over the volume and sound quality.

Pedals can be used with an effects processor to change effects easily, or even to modify them in real time while playing

alto with an effects processor     The cable connecting the instrument to the P.A. system can be done away with by using a wireless transmitter. The musician can then move around freely while playing.

The type of electret microphone used here can easily be connected to any effects processor, large or small amplifier or P.A. system via its standard jack plug. It also has a wider and more linear pass-band than piezoelectric sensors commonly used for string instruments, and can therefore give higher sound quality.

Short extracts of some pieces written for the instrument can be found on the Electro-acoustic recorder page and there is one more the electro acoustic system page, which also shows pictures of the microphone and preamplifier.

On this page can be heard a few sound samples from the effects processor giving some idea of what the electro-acoustic recorder can do when connected to this type of unit.

During the past 21 years the electro-acoustic recorder has found its place in the musical world.