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Klarinet Archive - Posting 000307.txt from 2004/12

From: Robert Howe <>
Subj: [kl] Strange Doublings
Date: Sat, 18 Dec 2004 05:55:08 -0500

on 12/18/04 4:15 AM, at wrote:

>> ... I attended a performance tonight of Christmas carols and
>> church music that were arranged in Latin style for bongos, tambourines,
>> two acoustic guitars, and flute. The flute player, who was *fully*
>> competent on flute and tremendously exciting to hear, was also the lead
>> bongo player. His flute rhythms were noticeably complex and varied,
>> often non-duple and/or syncopated, and he almost never played full
>> legato.
>> I'm convinced that this fellow was operating at a different level of
>> 'musical thought' than doublers on pitched instruments do.
I often am engaged in community orchestras to play an odd woodwind for one
piece on a program. The conductors and drummmers know that I will gladly
hit a triangle or bass drum on another piece. Thus over the years I have
played, let's see, cymbals in all sorts of configurations, bass drum, gong,
chimes and triangle.

Some of my most wonderful musical experiences have come about this way, for
example a concert in which I played English horn in the Ravel Piano Concerto
in G for the first half and then triangle in the Tchaikowsky 4th Symphony.
Or another in which I played only cymbals, on the Hindemith Mathis der
Mahler--two pairs, one large and one small, and suspended. Or a third in
which, for the Dvorak cello concerto, I hung the triangle on my (oboe) music
stand and sounded it from my usual position in the orchestra.

I take this playing very seriously, practice the parts with a recording, and
have even come to own my own triangle and set of Zildjian orchestral

Percussion is so so very different in mindset than woodwind playing. On
oboe I work like the Dickens to make a pretty sound and wrap it all up in
vibrato; on triangle or cymbals the merest physical effort can drown out the
orchestra. One thus learns very quickly to use a lot of finesse and to seek
ways to adjust and modify tone colour. Playing percussion is also good to
instill habits of rhythm; not just acccuracy, but real perfection.

These observations carry over into my woodwind playing. Thus I agree that
doubling on percussion encourages a more sophisticated level of musical
thought. It also is a lot of fun, what with the drama of adjusting the
cuffs of the tuxedo sleeves, picking up the cymbals early enough to engage
the audience without giving away the climax, and clashing them with the
right look of musical ardor on the my face. But those are things that one
cannot learn...


Robert Howe

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