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Klarinet Archive - Posting 000133.txt from 1993/12

From: "Dan Leeson: LEESON@-----.EDU>
Subj: Darkness/brightness of sound
Date: Wed, 8 Dec 1993 20:02:13 -0500

I think that there is an excellent opportunity for
the various clarinet faculty in Internetland to try
and duplicate (or do a variation) on the experiment
I mentioned.

An interesting variation would be to have a player
(behind a screen) make a notation of what kind of
sound s/he will play with; i.e., dark, bright, etc.
That notation is recorded before the person plays a
single note.

Then, to an audience of players, that person plays
for a while attempting to achieve the color of sound
that s/he has notated. The audience notates what they
think the sound is. Then, after the experimnet, the
player's notation is contrasted with the observation of
the various listeners.

How much agreement do you think there would be? My
suspicion is that such a series of experiments would
demonstrate that sound color is very subjective and
depends on the listener's personal inclinations which,
probably, don't match anyone else's.

I want to make clear that I am not suggesting that
clarinet sound does not have a character. Only that
that character, when described by color, is ambiguous,
unscientific, and subjective.

Diana suggests, for example, that a bright sound is one
that approaches but does not achieve stridency. On the
surface that sounds reasonable, but it defines something
in the negative; i.e., what it is not. And how much
should it approach this thing that it is not before it
becomes what it no longer should be? (I am not poking
fun at your notion, Diana. I think that such a notion
may very well be clear and precise to you. But what it
fails to be is clear and precise to me. That may be my

You all know the story about how the conductor asked
the clarinet player to play with a color that connotes
sadness, yet with a soupcon of mystery and a hint of
delights not yet achieved. So the clarinet player said,
"Do you want me to play loud or soft?"

Dan Leeson, Los Altos, California

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