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Klarinet Archive - Posting 000417.txt from 1995/03

From: Thomas Labadorf <Labadorf@-----.COM>
Subj: Bright & Dark, a question of degrees
Date: Tue, 14 Mar 1995 22:06:09 -0500

Niel, this message is definately not for you. Since I was away during this
past weekend, I only just arrived at this very interesting topic. I, too,
have some thoughts which I'd like to offer.

If I may use Andy's example of an orange: If a martian just landed on earth
and asked us "What is an orange?" We would need to offer all kinds of
descriptive words for him to conjure a concept. We could say it's round,
then add the color orange, and as we add more descriptions, we give him a
closer idea of what *we* think an orange is. The concept our martian then
has would fall somewhere between the word "orange" and the actual object.
The more precisely you describe the better his imagery will be. But he is
never going to get as clear and personal a concept of the orange unless we
simply give him one.

The terms "dark" or "bright" fall far shorter to describing a clarinet sound
than "sweet" or "sour" does for an orange. Yes, indeed. We are treading
into a nebulous area when describing something that is as intangable as
sound. Because a sound is such an intangable thing, and everybody's grey
cells and senses are different, the quality of any clarinet tone is as
individual as a thumb print. (Try describing your thumb print to our martian

On the assumption that this esoteric discussion is designed to help us deal
with reality, let's put this conclusion to a practical test. How do you
describe to a student the concept of good tone? Answer: Tell him/her to
listen to *many* different clarinetists through recordings and prefereably
live performances. And make sure you don't leave anyone out! I dare say, a
person can learn about tone quality listening to Pete Fountain, Benny Goodman
(maybe even his K. 622 recording), Richard Stolzman as he/she can listening
to Larry Combs, Robert Marsellus, Eddie Daniels, Thea King, Gervase de Peyer,
etc. etc. etc. If, as a teacher, you like the way *you* sound, use your
tone as a model and have your student emulate it, although this would be a
rather limiting approach. If your students are smart, they will develope
their own concept of good clarinet tone.

Sorry, Andy, but I agree with Dan Leeson. (Hope you're feeling better, Dan.)
Why even bother to describe clarinet sound in words? Instead ask the
student, "Do you like the way you sound?" Some students wouldn't know how
to answer which means they probably haven't thought about it much. (Spending
too much time on scales and etudes and not enough on long tones maybe). And
if a martian comes up to you and asks, "What is a good clarinet sound?"
don't say a word. Just play it for him as I know you can.

Duke Ellington said, "When it sounds good, it *is* good." Couldn't be any
simpler than that.

Tom L.

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