Book Review: Music from Around the World for Three-Part Recorder Ensembles December 17 2018

Music from Around the World for Three-Part Recorder Ensembles, edition II, by Michael Preston, is a robust collection of wonderful tunes and arrangements representing cultures of the world, designed and composed for three recorders — soprano, alto, and tenor.

Michael Preston’s book has in it all that is needed to envelop youngsters in beautiful harmony. His thoughtful and beautiful arrangements are fashioned to avoid technical difficulties that can be found in some recorder arrangements. Smooth and lovely are all of the tunes and harmonies. The “Around the World” part of his beautiful collection brings a multicultural element, rare in most collections that supports world geography and history lessons. A universe of understanding comes to a class through music that defies explanation in words — all in one marvelous collection!

With this book comes a CD, performed by professional musicians, that is a delight to listen to even if you are not teaching a class how to play the recorder.  It helps in understanding how wonderfully sweet the final results in using these pieces can sound and inspires through example.

The significance of recorder playing in the Waldorf curriculum is considerable and represents the commitment in our schools to having every child graduate musically literate.  Recorder playing is the next technical step up from singing or making music with the breath, and using the breath to woo music from the air trains an ear for music, an ability to read music, and the capacity to listen to several parts while playing one’s own. These are lessons for life regarding understanding the need for many layers and attentive listening to create harmony. Playing the recorder develops the discipline necessary to master any instrument and the fun of finding music with a group of people.

In Waldorf schools, children play flutes from the first grade, often using pentatonic flutes made by Choroi. These unique instruments are designed to mimic the work of the larynx in human vocalizing. The five-tone pentatonic scale is one understood around the world and is universally found in children’s playing songs and nursery rhyme tunes. It isn’t possible to make mistakes that sound bad with this scale. 

Once a child passes the age of nine, it becomes possible for her to master the diatonic scale, the eight-toned scale we are accustomed to learning to read music. Hearing a C scale (as it is also called) helps a child with growing up. Mastery of any musical instrument underscores a child’s sense of accomplishment and success. Playing with his whole class emphasizes a feeling of belonging and contributing to overall beauty and harmony in the community.

When a child attains puberty, the many deeper tones of larger recorders prompt a higher level of mastery and precision (we go high when the recorder goes low!).  The pursed lips needed for the embouchure of the recorder, the posture required and the correctness of fingering all demand attention from young players, leading to increased capacity for self-mastery while learning the recorder.

That students play recorders in Waldorf schools every week of every year is quite a privilege and promotes a sense of tonal recognition unparalleled in schools that do not include this.  The human being is made of music — eighths and twelfths and fifths and sevenths in bone counts, rhythms, and structures in the body. Singing and playing music support the very physical development of the young.  It wasn’t until very recently that education left behind the necessary understanding of music as an essential part of its approach.

Buy this book and use it, teachers and parents!  Every page holds beauty and potential in glorious music!