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Klarinet Archive - Posting 000084.txt from 2005/04

From: Tony Pay <>
Subj: Re: [kl] Slow fingers (reply to Tony Pay)
Date: Wed, 06 Apr 2005 05:23:06 -0400

--- Margaret Thornhill <> wrote:

> 1. not everyone is a natural
> 2. sometimes--frequently, in fact-- even people who are naturals are helped
> by reflecting on how they do what they do (I think I fell into this
> category, fingerwise).


> With respect, your comment "legato of varying degrees" means nothing to me.
> Do you mean a clarinet equivalent of portamento? Do you --in any substantive
> way--move your fingers differently for Brahms than, for example, Copland?

Well, as an example that has a simple mechanical correlate, if you're changing
notes by putting a finger down, you can vary the speed with which your finger
hits the tone-hole.

Below a certain speed, you get an effect that probably you don't *ever* want.
But above that speed, the clarity of the change between one note and another
varies, and you might indeed want different things in different sorts of music.

Just the one legato change might pass unnoticed. But the character of a
*passage* can be more evident. And in a resonant church acoustic, like the one
I was playing Brahms in last night, what counts as legato can be very different
from what counts as legato in a dry hall. You're trying to get the effect to
the audience, and you need to change what you do in order to give them the best
possible chance of receiving it.

Actually, the characterisation of note-beginnings (whether at the beginning of
a phrase or within a phrase), and how those beginnings contribute to musical
expression, is a much more complicated issue than a prescriptive
characterisation of finger movement can capture. It involves sound modulation,
and hence diaphragm and embouchure too. That's why I said that, *seen as a
controversy*, the difference between Mazzeo and Russianoff on one small bit of
it isn't very interesting. (Controversy over such a matter would surely be
beneath them, if they were any good.) And thinking of it as a controversy also
tends to support the notion that I often want to argue against here, that there
is *A Right Way to Achieve X on the clarinet*, where X is some aspect of music.

> And since you asked, in Rosario Mazzeo's spare time he was a damn good
> clarinetist, photographer and amateur ornithologist. He also really liked
> people.

No, I know that. Sorry to have sounded ratty. (I can't *stand* people, of
course, and it sometimes comes out a bit strong;-)


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