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Klarinet Archive - Posting 001196.txt from 1999/04

From: Richard Bush <>
Subj: Re: [kl] Wind Ensemble v. Band (was section deafness)
Date: Thu, 29 Apr 1999 20:42:25 -0400

Kevin Fay (LCA) wrote:
> David Hattner wrote:
> <<<So much for symphonic band being 'educational.'>>>
> To which Roger Garrett replied:
> <<<The Goldman Band was legendary for playing too loud - low brass edgy and
> brassy, cornets edgy and brassy. The clarinets had no choice but to play
> similarly or not be heard. It was much worse under Richard Franko - Edwin
> Franko kept it a bit more sonorous. . . The Michigan Band under Revelli and
> later under Reynolds never had this problem. I would assume neither did U.
> Illinois with Hindsley or (later) Begian. There are many university bands
> that played magnificently.>>>
> There have been many fine bands that have managed to hold back the urge to
> resemble Mongol hordes. For the vast majority of bands, unfortunately, the
> tendency is to play like Mr. Hattner described. The base problem, IMHO, is
> that you can have too @-----. It's
> for precisely this reason--and the accompanying stereotype--that Frederick
> Fennel pushed the development of the modern Wind Ensemble, a very different
> creature indeed.

I think one major problem with most amateur musicians is that they think being
big and sounding big is confused with the big sound that great orchestras get.
A fine ensemble sounds full and big because of high quality sound being
produced by all of the players and, very importantly, because they play in
tune. They are not canceling out each other's sounds by introducing pitches
that conflict with the overtone latticework of the chord, the unison or what
other intervals they are playing together. We should continue to take
Frederick Fennel's example to heart. Big is not necessarily better.
> I prefer to think of wind ensembles as an orchestra with the strings out of
> the way (albeit with some added saxophones and euphoniums). If the Chicago
> Symphony can get by with 1 player to a part, I don't see why my wind
> ensemble can't.
> In my orchestra, I'm forced (by the size of the stage) to sit with the bell
> of the 1st trumpet in one ear and the 2nd in the other. Since they're both
> excellent players, I get to hear some glorious sounds! In short doses, it's
> the best seat in the house. Fortunately, our rehearsal space allows them to
> sit in the next county over . . .


We could even go a step farther and extoll the virtues of cornets vs. trumpets
and continue making that distinction as honorable composers and arrangers of
the past have done.

I grew up in large bands. Fennel's concept, put to practice was a wonderful
experience for all of us, wasn't it?
> All this loud stuff leads to some bad habits. My hearing is not damaged
> (it's been tested), but I still tend to like to listen to recorded music at
> the same volume level as if I were sitting in the middle of the group.
> Between my wife & the neighbors, though, I only get to do this in my car.
> Final point--get plugs. I started using them while playing alto in a big
> band. (While orchestral trumpet players are loud, no question, they pale in
> comparison with the testosterone-laden primates trying to squeal out double
> high Gs.) The more electricity the instruments in the group use, the more
> you need them.

I do have hearing loss. Got popped on one ear when fighting the neighborhood
bully who was trying to beat up my little brother--worked twelve hour shifts
in a canning factory for one summer while in college--have had to sit next to
too many loud trap drummers, including a stint with Stan Kenton, the loudest
of the loud. Back then, people didn't understand "industrial hearing loss."
Hope all will heed your advice.
> Do not cheap out here. Your ears are far more important to how well you
> play than your instrument. A good set of plugs costs about the same as 3
> boxes of reeds and lasts longer--new ears can't be bought at any price.
> kjf

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