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Klarinet Archive - Posting 000619.txt from 1997/12

From: Neil Leupold <>
Subj: Practitioner vs. Musician
Date: Fri, 12 Dec 1997 00:29:51 -0500

On Thu, 11 Dec 1997, Melissa Norman wrote (in reference to Kenny G.):

> Does he play an instrument? Yes, therefore it is music. Whether or not
> you think it is good music, that is a different point.

This is a very interesting statement, and (in my opinion) well-worth
discussing. The question: Is it true what Melissa Norman says? Do
the sounds that come out of an instrument constitute music by default,
or is there an additional ingredient involved which qualifies those
sounds as such? My brother, a non-musician (but the person who in-
spired me to take up the clarinet 20 years ago) made a similar state-
ment to me a few days ago, and I internally balked at it. Why? Be-
cause my perspective on the subject is based on the notion that an
instrumentalist is not a musician by default. I've come to perceive
the clarinet as a tool, a means to an end, and not an end in itself.
That is one of the dangers of having an instrument-specific mailing
list: we become so focused on the activity of manipulating the tool
that we lose sight of the real object of desire,..namely, making music.
If the clarinet is similar to, say, a hammer, then just becoming a
skilled practitioner -- as admirable as such an achievement might be
-- does not result in the intended purpose for doing so in the first
place. You can hammer all the nails you like -- and quite skillfully
at that -- but ultimately, what's the point? A carpenter becomes a
virtuoso hammer-handler so that he can ultimately build a house, or
a boat, or something else as a result of endeavoring to get so good
at using a hammer. Otherwise, (s)he ends up simply driving nails into
pieces of wood, an nothing else comes of it. For some, I suppose that
might very well be fulfilling. But it's hard to imagine, except in
the case of kids. Is the clarinet vastly different in this regard?
An example: personally, I find Stanley Drucker's tone thin and edgy
and thoroughly unappealing. It is sometimes hard for me, as a trained
practitioner of playing the clarinet, to suspend my developed notion
of what constitutes good clarinet tone and listen for the music which
Stanley Drucker is making. Violinists, flautists, trumpeters, per-
cussionists -- when these people hear Drucker play, they're quite
impressed with the music he is making, and I feel it is a weakness
on my part that my tool-based bias inhibits me from recognizing
the music beyond the manner in which Drucker utilizes his particular

How do others feel about these ideas?


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