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Klarinet Archive - Posting 000138.txt from 1993/12

From: Cary Karp <nrm-karp@-----.SE>
Subj: Re: Darkness/brightness of sound
Date: Thu, 9 Dec 1993 03:04:21 -0500

On Wed, 8 Dec 1993, Dan Leeson wrote:

> 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.

Virtually all terminology that I have ever heard musicians use when
discussing sound is subjective; its meaning comes from consensus.
Most acousticians would regard a nonambiguous, scientific and
objective description of what they usually call tone *color* as
requiring the use of numbers rather than words.

Given the two distinguishable tonal characteristics that I personally would
differentiate in terms of lightness and darkness, I know on the basis of
having done the spectral analysis that the brighter sound is the one having
greater relative amplitudes of higher partials. All other things being
equal, this could be directly related to nothing other than the reed. If you
like, an infinitely thick reed will produce an infinitely dark sound, and
an infinitely thin reed will produce an infinitely light sound (where
decreasing thickness provides an increasing ability to excite higher
partials in the air column).

The way the concept was explained to me in oboistic terms was by
comparing the sound produced by old-style V-profile reeds (bright) with
the sound produced by the profile then (still?) in use in NYC (T-shaped?
high spine and abrupt straight drop off to the tip). Further analogies were
the sounds produced by Leon Goosens (bright) and Harold Gomberg (dark),
and the sounds produced by thin-walled instruments (light) and
thick-walled instruments (dark).

In the single-reed world, I hear my colleagues refer to old Conn
saxophones as dark and new Selmers as light. I hesitate to proceed into
the realm of the clarinet . . .

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