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Klarinet Archive - Posting 000334.txt from 1997/09

From: Jim Lytthans <>
Subj: Composition of clarinets
Date: Sun, 7 Sep 1997 20:01:51 -0400

Regarding wood vs. composite vs. plastic:

I may have sent this years ago, but I must relate an interesting study
done a USC in the early 1960s. Every music major at USC at that time
was required to take a course called "Musical Acoustics". The class was
taught by a Dr. Bachus, a physicist and fine bassoon player. At the
time, he was doing research on clarinets, relating to alternate
construction materials. Dr. Bachus has invented a mechanical "mouth",
whereby a clarinet could be played on a work bench. Quite a device,
with rubber lips, moisture, lungs and all. Anyway, he decided that
human subjects would be more appropriate, so the clarinetists in the
class were recruited for the study. We recorded spectrum analyzer
charts of our (usually) Buffet clarinets, and then played on his
"instruments", made of acrylic, plastic pipe, glass, and aluminium. Of
course, the key work was very basic, but they did play. The resulting
spectrum analyzer graphs were quite similar, and behind-the-screen
performances (on specific musical passages that could be played on any
of the instruments) showed that the listeners (clarinetists) could not
reliably tell the difference between wood and other dense materials.
Interesting study.... I wonder what ever became of it?

Jim Lytthans "Primo Arundo Donax!"
La Mirada Symphony Orchestra
Claremont Symphonic Winds
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