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Klarinet Archive - Posting 000313.txt from 2004/10

Subj: [kl] Re: Selmer St. Louis
Date: Sun, 10 Oct 2004 02:34:01 -0400

Bill, apololgies! I want to comment on a term you used, but still say I
understand your main point. If you say that you find Selmers and Buffets to sound
different in your hands, of course I believe you. I respect your experience
in music and the music business and always read your posts carefully. But, in
talking about clarinet sounds you said, "I find that Selmers have more
fundamental and Buffets more higher partials."

I've heard many people use these words, when trying to describe something
they hear in a clarinet sound. I think these terms are even less useful than
'dark' and 'bright' and 'warm' . Whereas 'dark' and 'bright' have at least
emotional weight, 'fundamental' and 'partial' have defined scientific meanings that
makes this kind of usage worthless. The 'fundamental' of a tone is a simple
sine wave, and anyone who's heard a sine wave generator would never describe
any clarinet as sounding anything like it. Any clarinet sound has many, many
higher partials, which vary much depending on all the characteristics we know
about; register, volume, and one million other factors like brand of clarinet
and personal concept of sound, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera.
There might be some value in talking about amounts of even and odd partials
in a clarinet sound. I won't try here; it's complex and probably not useful in
the context of "what does the St. Louis Clarinet sound like?"

Dan is pretty rigorous in challenging the use of subjective terms to describe
clarinet sound. This is usually appropriate. I wish there were words we
could use to communicate how we perceived a clarinet as sounding; but we haven't
found them yet on this list. I don't think 'fundamentals and higher partials'
do the job. (For anyone who has not read this list for very long, the
discussion of 'dark' goes back to the very beginning.)

Reference: the U of New South Wales website with their spectra of clarinet
The many spectra shown there of all the notes a clarinet can play appear as
complex jagged lines. A sound consisting of only a fundamental would consist
of a single peak.

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