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Klarinet Archive - Posting 000331.txt from 2002/06

From: (William Wright)
Subj: [kl] Is any 'tone' always awful?
Date: Mon, 10 Jun 2002 23:47:02 -0400

A few weeks ago, we were discussing whether a particular brand of
clarinet had good tone or bad tone (or was it intonation? I forget now)

Anyway, someone posted the web address for a sample of a truly terrible
clarinet tone. My comment was that no tone (sound character) is always
bad. In some context, any tone (any sound character) would not only
fit the situation, but the musician would be praised for creating the
tone when appropriate.

Afterwards, I listened again to this sound sample, and I asked myself:
"Honestly, Bill, this sound *is* pretty terrible. Where could it
possibly be used to good effect? Can you find even one example?"

....well, today I heard the example, and it was not a momentary 'yip' or
'raw note' or 'special effect'. It was not pop music, nor jazz, nor
ancient folk music. It was many minutes of symphonic music in the
'classical' vein --- by which I mean new music written for the same
Western audiences who listen to Mozart, Beethoven, etc.

Namely: Takemitsu's series of "nature" compositions --- Riverrun,
Water Ways, Rain Coming, Rain Spell, and Tree Line.

In these pieces, the clarinetist plays sometimes in a 'normal classical'
voice such as you would expect to hear in Brahms, Mozart, Saint Saens,
and so forth. But especially in Water Way, the clarinetist must come
up with several minutes of exposed grating, screeching, nerve-fraying
howl that (imo) matches the allegedly awful sound sample. Then it's
back to the resonant and 'golden' [sorry!] voice that we normally expect
from a clarinet --- albeit this voice is frequently buried amidst much

A few months ago, I had to get a copy of "Marita and Her Heart's
Desire", which (in part) demonstrates to school children the sounds of
the various families of orchestral instrument. (but Marita is also
pleasurable listening for adults, IMO) Now that I've heard the
Takemitsu myself, I think that any child who listens to "Marita" should
listen immediately afterwards to the Takemitsu. Let the students hear
that the 'classical' sound character is not the only one available!
Nor is it the only one that can fit with a demanding audience!

Cheers, and thanks for listening, I just had to get it off my chest,


If I had Stadler's mouthpiece, would I play better? Or do I need his
ligature also? Or perhaps he and I are different persons? If I had
Mozart's pen, would I compose better?


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