Klarinet Archive - Posting 001203.txt from 1998/04
From: Lee Hickling <hickling@-----.Net>
Subj: Re: Light and dark clarinet sounds
Date: Tue, 21 Apr 1998 21:19:29 -0400
To define dark and light (I prefer the word bright) sounds in words is not
possible. The vocabulary we use to talk about music, like the one graphic
artists use to talk about colors, is meaningless to someone who has not had
the experiences to which it refers. You can point to a color and say
"That's cerise" and to another and say "That's crimson," and from then on
both you and the person with whom you're talking have a common referent and
Because I'm a swing era product, I have my own way of defining the words
bright and dark. I play a Benny Goodman record and say "That's bright," and
then play an Artie Shaw record and say, "That's dark." Someone else might
say that what I call bright is a jazz sound and what I call dark is a legit
sound. I wouldn't argue. The words are only pointers, and we shouldn't get
hung up on them.
Zen parable: A student points at the moon and says, "Master, what do you
The master says, "Finger.".
Talking about music is like talking about colors, or flavors, or tactile
sensations. Basically, it can't be done. I think music is a self-referring,
self-contained system, intelligible only to those who have acquired its
non-verbal "vocabulary." You can't learn music from a book, or a lecture.
You learn it from other musicians, or from records. That's why the best
teachers are those who play an instrument themselves, and provide the
student with a model to emulate. My high school teacher was a trumpet
player who had learned to play the clarinet just well enough to teach it. I
only began to progress when I began taking summer lessons from a teacher in
another school who was a clarinetist.
Lee Hickling <hickling@-----.net>