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Klarinet Archive - Posting 000511.txt from 2000/09

Subj: [kl]old instruments
Date: Sat, 16 Sep 2000 17:51:57 -0400

Jim Lande wrote,
>Also, it may be true that most mutations are fatal, but that
>doesn't stop manufacturers from introducing them. (I did
>like the fins on cars in the 50s.)

Me, too. I also liked wind-wings. Remember those nifty little
crank-operated triangular windows in the front? Fresh air in the rain, fresh
air without hats blowing off.... Sigh.

But "new and improved" models aren't the result of *random* mutations. A
manufacturer introduces specific changes deliberately, and chooses which
changes to introduce, based on a designer's opinion that these changes would
improve a model. Thus they fundamentally differ from the types of
uncontrolled changes Bill Wright was talking about. Unintended variables --
*mistakes* -- in the manufacturing process, and random changes because of
later exposure to unpredictably varying temperatures, humidity and use or
abuse by the musician, are what I meant by random mutations. Still, I didn't
think carefully enough about what "random" really means.

Occasionally someone might "make a mistake and get it right," but I don't
think it happens often. Imagine, for instance, what would happen if I want
to sand a reed, and I decide what to use to sand it by reaching blindfolded
into a shoebox. I don't know what's in the box. What are the odds I will
reach in and find something good for sanding reeds? Consider all the things
that could fit in a shoebox. It could be 000 sandpaper. It could be a book.
It could be popcorn. It could be a rattlesnake. It could be shoes! If,
instead, I could reach into a box full of random scraps of sandpaper and take
the first piece I touched, then the odds would improve, but consider all the
types of sandpaper between 000 and 30-grit. What are the odds that a
randomly-chosen piece of sandpaper would do a reed any good? If I did the
same test with a box full of sandpaper *all owned by a clarinet player*, then
that limitation would greatly improve the odds. If the box only contained
*sandpaper the clarinetist bought to use on reeds*, then the odds would favor
selecting a good sandpaper for reeds. At what point did the variables stop
being random?

They never were random. The size of the shoebox limited the variables from
the beginning. I could not reach into a shoebox and pull out the sun.

So my example was a poor one. I think it's rare for a clarinet to be
subjected to truly random variables. We decide where to store our clarinets,
whether or not to dry them before putting them away, etc.. We subject
clarinets to a mixture of variables, some more controlled than others. But
still, I think the odds of producing a useful change improve as control over
the variables increases -- as we decide what we want and take steps to get
it. I don't much like the odds of letting Nature take her course and hoping
for the best. Mother Nature's such a dirty old hag.


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