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Klarinet Archive - Posting 000303.txt from 1997/09

From: Roger Garrett <>
Subj: Re: Well, here we go again
Date: Sun, 7 Sep 1997 12:58:28 -0400

I am simply amazed.....dazed.....but amazed. I really had fun reading

Roger Garrett

On Sun, 7 Sep 1997, Dan Leeson: wrote:

> Don Yungkurth has said, "...if you want to play in an orchestra,
> you had better own an A and be able to transpose C parts. I think
> that discussions in the past on Klarinet would tend to support
> the view that professionals transpose as necessary, C parts on
> Bb as well as A on Bb and Bb on A now and then."
> This subject and its status causes me to think that we ought to
> have a KLARINET equivalent of the American Civil Liberties
> UNION. The purpose of the ACLU is to focus on the meaning
> of the constitution and the bill of rights. That this is
> necessary is both clear and unambiguous. Without constant
> watching, democracies turn into dictatorships, almost overnight.
> Fundamental rights get trampled onand the interpretation of
> what constitutes the rights of people gets smashed to hell.
> So we have such a group in the ACLUand they constantly
> remind us what the constitution and bill of rights say as
> different organizations attempt to change, dilute, and subvert
> the text and its meaning.
> So what does this have to do with C, B-flat, and A clarinets?
> It is a matter of perspective and of something called the
> "orchestral palette of sound."
> Like studying geometry, we have to lay out the basic
> principles:
> (1) unless strong evidence is given to the contrary,
> I presume that the composer of a composition is in
> the best position to tell the performer what he
> wants. Thus, I presume that a clarinetist being
> directed by the composer to perform on a clarinet
> of a certain ptich, is being told by the composer
> to perform on a clarinet of a certain pitch and for
> a reason that, perhaps, neither s/he, nor you, nor
> I will ever know. All we know for certain is what
> the composer said. We don't know what the composer
> meant. It is a national game for the performer to
> say, "what s/he REALLY meant is ..." But the fact
> is that we don't know. We guess, speculate,
> conjecture, and fudge. We only know what is written.
> It is a problem in performance notation. The
> composer says, "Use this" and we have no way to find
> out "Why?".
> (2) performers presume that directions to them
> may be interpreted differently in certain respects,
> and these different interpretations have no
> consequences. Don infers that the practice of
> clarinet substitution (C on B-flat, A on B-flat,
> B-flat on A, etc.) has no negative consequences.
> That is to say, though the composer may have
> requested a clarinet of a certain pitch, there are
> almost an infinite number of reasons why these
> clear, explicit, and unambiguous communications
> from a composer may be ignored. Or at least we
> have talked ourselves into that position for the
> last century.
> (3) the influence of a particular instrument on
> the orchestral palette of sound is important, but
> not critical when other factors combine to
> require the performer to make substitutions of
> this nature.
> So it is natural that when the question arises about the necessity
> to learn to transpose (a requirement that I fully recognize),
> the KLARINET equivalent of the ACLU is off doing something else
> and does not have an opportunity to remind everyone that
> clarinet substitution is an abbertation, often done without
> consideration of the consequences involved, demonstrable of
> a monumental arrogance on the part of clarinet players who
> do not give sufficient consideration to their actions, and,
> finally, not what was asked of the performer by the composer.
> To be blunt, it is the equivalent of suggesting that the
> composer does not know what the hell he is talking about, so
> we're going to do it the way it needs to be done.
> There is an alternative to transposition, namely the owning
> of clarinets pitched in C, B-flat, and A. The argument
> that clarinet substitution is necessary because of
> peculiarities in the part writing is now offered as
> justification for doing anything. In some cases, players
> do everything on one instrument so that they do not have to
> carry additional instruments. Somehow this strikes me as
> disingenuous. Sort of a performance practice dictated by
> the weight of load.
> There probably are passages so poorly written that changing
> clarinets as directed presents logistical and mechanical
> problems of a significant nature, but not nearly so many
> as we are led to believe.
> Frankly, I think the whole environment is out of control.
> The matter is influenced by musical taste ("I can't STAND
> the sound of the C clarinet, so I don't use it"), cost
> ("Do you realize how much money I'm going to have to spend
> to own all those instruments?), and a genuine ignorance
> of the history of clarinet development.
> If one is going to play clarinet seriously, one has to come
> to grips with this problem eventually; i.e., who is the
> boss, me, or the composer?
> Don is correct when he said (at an earlier point in his note),
> something like, "You don't hear conductors insisting on the
> called-for clarinet, do you?" And that's a correctly stated
> point, to be sure, but irrelevant to the issue. Conductors
> have bigger fish to fry and have fallen into the same
> musical trap as clarinet players. No one has ever slammed
> them up against a wall and said, "Schmuck!!! Do you know
> what the hell it is you are doing?"
> Conductors also need a conductorial equivalent of the ACLU.
> But who wants to make their musical decisions based on
> what conductors don't know? That would be too enormous a
> problem to solve.
> But has anyone noticed what a thoughtful orchestral clarinet
> section plays when the music says, "Clarinet in C"? Like
> the Chicago Symphony, for example?
> For the newer members of this list, you will now see the
> equivalent of the famous vulgar joke about "Where were you
> when it hit the fan?" And to which I will respond, as
> I have done 4 years ago and 3 years ago and 2 years ago, and
> now, "Schmuck!!! Do you know what the hell it is you
> are doing?"
> It never ends. It just never ends. The minute you relax
> your guard, clarinet players go bezerk, invent things, and
> thumb their noses at yesterday. On one hand that is a good
> characteristic to have. But there are some negative
> consequences to it, too. And this clarinet substitution
> business is just one of them.
> As I said. The environment is out of control
> =======================================
> Dan Leeson, Los Altos, California
> Rosanne Leeson, Los Altos, California
> =======================================

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