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Klarinet Archive - Posting 000090.txt from 2008/05

From: Simon Aldrich <>
Subj: [kl] "tone like a ribbon of caramel"
Date: Thu, 15 May 2008 12:09:17 -0400

Regarding the Washington Post critic who reported that a clarinetist
had "a tone that was like a ribbon of caramel"
and the reaction it set off in people who hate words like "caramel"
when used to describe tone:

My orchestra held auditions for English horn yesterday.
Auditions can be dull affairs and my mind wandered to Audrey Travis's
post of five days ago,
with which I agree and in which she said:
"If use of these words evoke some meaning and help develop tone in
a direction that is beautiful or
useful in some way for the player, then the use of these words has
value. I do not suggest that one can scientifically quantify the tone
colour by using descriptive words, but one perhaps may indicate a
useful direction towards tone colour useful or wanted in a particular
piece or even a passage.
Words, for me, are highly suggestive and creative. This is the point
of writing, speaking reading and hearing them. Each will understand
and perceive the same words differently, but they enrich our world and
our own creative minds. If they make even one musician move in a new
and (to that person) new direction, they then hold great value.
What is banal, trite or laughable to one may be the impetus for a
'light bulb' moment for another."

Now back to the audition. In our deliberations after the final round
a brass player was comparing the tones of the two players in the finals.
When he got to the player whose tone was, as most people would
describe, darker, rounder and wider,
he was stuck for words. He said "Number two's tone is more...........
is more............" and as his eyes searched the ceiling for a word,
I said "Caramel?".
His eyes widened and he thrust a finger at me, saying "That's it!

There is was, lo and behold - Audrey's "light bulb" moment.

Simon Aldrich

Clarinet Faculty - McGill University
Principal Clarinet - Orchestre Metropolitain de Montreal
Principal Clarinet - Orchestre de l'Opera de Montreal
Clarinet - Nouvel Ensemble Moderne
Artistic Director - Jeffery Summer Concerts (


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