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Klarinet Archive - Posting 000398.txt from 1995/01

From: "Dan Leeson: LEESON@-----.EDU>
Subj: Thank you Virginia Benade
Date: Thu, 26 Jan 1995 01:43:11 -0500

Virginia has shared with us the remarks of her late husband who suggested
that we should pay attention to our ears and not to the opinions of
people who are purported to be (or maybe very well be) experts.

Good words. And very welcome, too. But it is just not that easy to
make a cherished belief die. No matter how objective one tries to be in
assessing the complex subject of older clarinets somehow being subject to
the ravages of time, at the level of the subconscious there is the knowledge
that "everyone thinks so." Thus this problem is dwelt on even at the
level of the subconscious over which we have little control.

One of the difficulties in assessing the truth or falsity of any technical
assertion is that there has to be some rational explanation to its
existence. At least a dozen have been put forward in support of the
"blow out" hypothesis, and many of them have the ring of truth. Clarke
Fobes of San Francisco is a strong proponent of the fact that years of
swabbing change the shape of the interior of the clarinet. Others suggest
that the wood dries out. Other note that years of vibration change the
very nature of the material. All of these ideas sound good and may very
well be true. But except for theories on what happens, we are offered
theories on what might have happened. And that is not too far away from the
old saw "If wishes were horses, beggars would ride."

As these theories are accepted unequivocally by some pretty big names,
the phenomenon of "the expert" takes over. There are some magnificent
clarinet players in America, but few of them know anything substantive
of the physics of wood. Alternatively, there are some great specialists
in wood in America (and the world, too) but few of them are sufficiently
interested in this arcane subject to spend 10 minutes on it.

It would make a great doctoral dissertation to find 20 clarinets that
are, purportedly, blown out, and then have them sold as almost new
instruments as an experiment to see if their character is more
determined by their newness or by their utility.

Whatever it is, it is not an easy question.
Dan Leeson, Los Altos, California

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