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The University of Southampton
MusicPart of Humanities

Reverse engineering Baroque music - recording old recorders

Published: 31 March 2011

On 16 May, eminent recorder player Peter Holtslag will perform at Turner Sims on one of the finest original early instruments, accompanied by Elizabeth Kenny, one of Europe's leading lute players and Head of Early Music at Southampton.

Holtslag will play a famous early instrument – a English-made treble recorder by Peter Bressan (Pierre Jaillard), dating from about 1730, now a part of the University of Oxford’s Bate Collection of historical instruments – only allowed out a few times for each generation of listeners. The Bate Bressan is one of the finest still-playable original recorders in existence, unspoiled by later restorers.

After the concert, Holtslag will spend an afternoon in the University's Institute of Sound and Vibration (ISVR) anechoic chamber. He will play a series of carefully designed test pieces on the Bate Bressan and on modern replicas, while measurement-quality sound recordings are made, to capture the total acoustic field. High resolution CT measurements of the recorder will then be made in Engineering Sciences' advanced X-ray imaging suite, providing detailed external and internal measurements for computer model generation of this delicate, 280 year old instrument.

The Bate Bressan’s legendary status (Stradivarius-equivalent), along with its UK origin are of particular interest. This measurement campaign forms the first step towards an unprecedentedly sophisticated computational model of the aeroacoustics of a unique and historic baroque instrument, able to play an essential part in attempts to separate the cultural mystique and the scientific reality contributing to the reputation of famous instruments.

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