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Klarinet Archive - Posting 000310.txt from 1995/03

From: "Dan Leeson: LEESON@-----.EDU>
Subj: It's starting again and I'm feeling faint!!
Date: Sat, 11 Mar 1995 00:49:29 -0500

It's a conspiracy, to be sure.

For months there has been little said about "this mouthpiece" (or reed
or ligature or clarinet or hair tonic, for that matter) "gives a
nice dark sound."

And in the space of only three days, there were about 15 such statements.
They're doing it on purpose, just to drive me crazy!! Just because I'm
paranoid doesn't mean that they are not out to get me. They are.

And didn't I see someone say that he or she liked a certain Van Doren
mouthpiece because it gave a dark sound, while someone countered that
that was particularly strange, because he or she always thought that
it gave a bright sound.

It has to have been year ago that we all slogged through mud about the
use of the non-descriptive words "dark" and "bright" in describing
clarinet sound characteristics. There was no conclusion except for
several people helpfully describing "dark" as meaning an abundance
overtones (or maybe it was no overtones at all, I forget), while "bright
meant the exact opposite (or maybe it was the other way around, I forget).
And while this was a useful attempt to make order out of chaos, there was
not much agreement with that definition because of the counter, "But I
don't know what to do to get more (or less) overtones in my playing." And
as I think about the conversations, maybe they were talking about a dark
sound having few high partials and bright was vice versa. What do I do
to get few high partials? I didn't even know I was making any of them>

Now I am reading that this thing that no two people can agree on in the
first place is derived from a ligature ("The Rovner string ligatures
gives that nice, dark sound ..."), the moutpiece ("The Van Doren
B45 gives that nice, dark sound ..."), the clarinet ("The new LeBlanc
has that nice, dark sound..."). The LeBlanc catalog of clarinets have
a half dozen instruments ranging from modest price to expensive every
one of which gives "that nice dark sound."

So it is time to find the center of the world again.

Using terms like "dark" to describe the characteristic of the sound of
a clarinet has to be the most common yet least understood term in
clarinetdom. I think I mentioned a double-blind experiment in an
eastern university where a number of clarinetists were told to play
some solo material for an audience.

The players were told to use the darkest sound they could get and that
the audience had been prepared for this.

On the other hand, the audience really had been told that the players
were going to use the brightest sound they could must.

Everybody rated everything and the result was complete chaos. The
audience agreed that these were indeed the brightest sounds they had
ever heard coming out of a clarinet, and the players agreed with each
other that their sounds were the darkest known to mankind.

This dreadful and imprecise idea of using "dark" and "bright" to describe
the character of sound of a clarinet is, IN MY OPINION, among the most
unstable ideas that have consistently survived every rational attempt
to kill them.

I know everyone uses the words. And we all sort of agree and smile.
But I find these terms full of doo-doo, imprecise, non-descriptive,
and of unknown origin. I think that the elbow patches on my suit
jacket are responsible for the darkness of my sound. And who is to
say no? What reasonable, viable, scientifically sound (no pun intended)
experiments have ever established one single truthful thing about the
use of the term "dark" and the term "bright" when referring to the
character of sound of any wind instrument?

If there is any truth to the statement that you can't kill a bad idea,
it is the continual perpetuation of this dark/bright fantasy with
people all over the world buying this or that accoutrement because
it will give them "that nice dark sound."

There were great clarinetists in NY on 48th street who swore that
it was their Vitalis hair lotion that gave them their "nice dark sound."
Is there such a thing as a "not nice dark sound"?

Ever watch Yan Can Cook? Every time he finishes a dish of something, he
says "And as soon as it is nice and ready ..." How long do I have to
cook the damn stuff before it is "nice and ready." Can't it just be
"ready"? I got it: cook for 5 minutes for it to be ready, but 6 minutes
before it is nice and ready.

I'm getting paranoid. I am. I'm seeing triple. They're doing it on
purpose. I know it. They are all trying to get me. The walls are
closing in on me. They are dark walls, or are they bright? I'm not
sure any longer. My head hurts. I am beating my foot to keep time in
Sousa marches. Things are going from dark to verse.


Dan Leeson, Los Altos, California

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