Recent publications have shown that the tone-to-tone variability of timbre is a characteristic feature of historical flutes and their replica. This can easily be demonstrated by means of recordings with artificially normalized pitch whereby objective analysis verifies the appearance of various spectral types in single instruments. Because historical flutes of the Renaissance and Baroque eras exhibit a simpler design than the modern flute, specific fingering patterns are needed to achieve the full chromatic scale. This technique furthermore enhances the characteristic variation of timbres from tone to tone. Listening to music played according to historically informed performance (HIP) shows that instrument-driven variations of timbre also affect the expression of other classes of historical instruments, such as the cornett and oboe. The natural high variability of timbres from tone to tone appears to also be an essential feature of historical flute music. This applies to recorders, but also to transverse flutes. In this contribution, firstly new findings regarding the timbre variability of alto recorders in Renaissance and Baroque design are presented. In a second step, an examination of the literature addresses the question of how the variability of timbre may be referred to by contemporary musicians, composers, and instrument makers.

This content is only available via PDF.