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Klarinet Archive - Posting 000337.txt from 2001/05

From: "Kevin Fay (LCA)" <kevinfay@-----.com>
Subj: [kl] Reeds
Date: Fri, 11 May 2001 20:18:51 -0400

At 12:06 PM 5/11/2001 +0100, Tony Pay wrote:

<<<Slightly more frivolously: I wonder what would happen if you did an
experiment designed to determine whether listeners could tell whether a
performer had a good reed or not? . . . And if it turned out that an
audience *couldn't* tell the difference between good and less good
reeds, would it mean that the difference >between good and bad reeds was
'only' subjective or psychological?>>>

and Bill Hausmann replied:

<<<The audience is unlikely to be able to tell, unless given the
opportunity to make direct A/B comparisons. One of our jobs as
performers is to only let them hear the good ones anyway.>>>

I feel an anecdote coming . . .=20

Last year my boss sent me to Chicago in the middle of winter (thanks,
boss!). While there, I managed to escape to Symphony Hall to hear the
CSO. (A terrific show, btw). On Greg Smith's recommendation, I managed
to get a seat basically on the left side of the stage, no more than 30
feet from where the clarinet section would sit. (This is cool.)

Because my meeting the next day was in the hinterlands, I came to
Symphony Hall directly from the airport. As luck would have it, I was
about the third person in the auditorium -- me, the usher, and a
clarinet player on stage, fussing over which reed to play that night.
The weather must have changed, because he didn't look very happy. He
went through about five reed-holders' worth, going back and forth to
find the right one.

Well, he finally picked one, got up and walked over to say hello --
turned out to be (not surprisingly) our own Greg Smith. We had a very
nice chat (actually, I gushed about the mouthpiece he made for me and he
graciously put up with the onslaught).

The point? Every one of the reeds he tried sounded exactly the same.
Now I'm sure that the range of variation was pretty narrow -- there
wasn't the odd brown-box Rico 1-1/2 thrown in the mix -- but the
differences he perceived weren't evident to this fairly educated
listener, and I was listening for them. (Plus the fact that he'd sound
terrific on a Geo. Bundy 3 stuck on a garden hose - talent does count,
too!) I don't think this makes the phenomenon merely psychological (or
Greg a psycho) -- only that the variations in response/tone etc.
perceived by the performer aren't anywhere near as evident to the
listener.

The rational conclusion to all of this is that reeds don't matter so
much. Indeed, one of my new-year's resolutions is to stop fussing with
reeds. As soon as I lose the ten pounds, quit drinking coffee and drive
slower, I'll stop. (Really, I will.)

kjf

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