Tuesday, October 24, 2017

No, a carbon fiber clarinet is not going to fix your terrible fundamentals

Carbon fiber clarinets, cryogenically treated ligatures, reeds formed by space-age polymers, an endless selection of exotic woods to customize your clarinet sound to your liking: we live in an age of unprecedented innovation and experimentation when it comes to the equipment we use to produce our art. While this is exciting and fascinating in many ways, it is also a terrifying phenomenon. I say this because all of this wondrous technology and development has created a situation in which work on solid fundamentals (air, technique, tuning, etc.) is being ignored and replaced with a desperate search to get the "best" equipment, as if a fancy mouthpiece or a special ligature will magically give ring and focus to an undeveloped sound.

My current set-up, which I adore,
is entirely composed of these
new technologies
The victim of this "equipment culture" is the student, specifically the advanced student studying music at the university level. I have seen countless students that are unhappy with their articulation, so they look for a new barrel, dissatisfied with their tone so they seek out a new mouthpiece, struggle with intonation so they drop thousands of dollars on this week's flagship model clarinet, when all of these issues, at their core, can be fixed through fundamental work. As a teacher, I have to work hard to stress the importance of fundamentals to my students. It is especially difficult because my set-up is comprised of many of these new technologies. I remember taking a lesson as a high school student with my local university teacher and hearing him play. I loved his tone and for some reason assumed that the reason I didn't sound like him was because I didn't have as fancy a ligature as he did. I truly thought if I shelled out the $80 I would instantly sound like him. I was too young to realize that long tones are worth more than a solid gold ligature, Kell more than any barrel made of rare woods, Baermann more than any ergonomic keywork, and time with my tuner more than any boutique-style clarinet setup.

 These technologies and innovations are exciting and I have adopted many of them. I think they offer an incredible opportunity to experiment with sound and can aid us in finding the elusive qualities that many of us search for our entire lives. At the same time, however, I think extreme caution should be used when introducing these products to students, especially younger ones, as they can often get in the way of the development of the basic tenants of clarinet playing, especially when touted as a quick fix for things that can only be improved by hours upon hours of deep, quality practice.

Monday, February 29, 2016

Chamber Music Michigan: The Midwest's Newest Chamber Music Organization

Based in Ann Arbor, Chamber Music Michigan is an organization that is committed to presenting high-quality chamber music performances. Beyond that, CMM strives to be an organization that is actively involved in the community through educational and other outreach opportunities.

The organization's inaugural performance is coming up on March 26th at 7:30PM in the parlor room of the beautiful Earhart Manor, located at Concordia University, Ann Arbor. Admission is free (suggested donation $10) and includes works by Beethoven and Mozart. If you are interested in attending, please RSVP to the Facebook event below, as space is limited. RSVP HERE

Check out their website below!

CMM: Chamber Music Michigan, Music at the Manor

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Anthony McGill and the Pacifica String Quartet (samples)

Anthony McGill and the Pacifica String Quartet have recorded the Brahms and Mozart Clarinet Quintets on a CD that comes out on Tuesday, May 6th. You can preorder the album on iTunes today.

Check out these samples!

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Cantata Profana - Chamber Music of a Grander Scale

Cantata Profana, founded in 2013 by students from the Yale School of Music and the Institute of Sacred Music, is a unique ensemble as it is committed to performing works written for larger-sized vocal and instrumental ensembles. According to manager and founder, Jacob Ashworth, "There are earlier precedents, but Arnold Schönberg’s Pierrot Lunaire kind of split the roof open for this sort of group. So many composers followed suit and started writing for eclectic combinations of instruments with voice... It’s hard to find the group that wants to devote themselves to making the organizational effort and spending the rehearsal time on a Webern piece with eight instruments and singer, if it is only going to yield two minutes of music on a program. But that’s us. We’re that group."

The group has already given two very successful concerts on the Yale campus and will be taking their hit show, Eight Songs for a Mad King, to Brooklyn's Roulette Theater on May 22 at 8:00pm. Tickets available HERE

This is a group made up of stunning musicians dedicated to presenting chamber works that are rarely performed. If you have the opportunity, be sure to check them out on May 22nd. Audio clips at top. 

Tickets for the May 22nd Show at Roulette, Brooklyn HERE

Cantata Profana Website HERE

Interview with Jacob Ashworth, the ensemble's manager and founder, HERE

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Joel Puckett's Concert Duo - Listen tomorrow at 11:35am CST

Tomorrow at 11:35 AM CST Troy University Public Radio will be playing a segment from Tim Phillip's Clarinet Corner featuring the premiere recording of Joel Puckett's Concert Duo. You can tune in online HERE to catch the great recording featuring Anthony and Demarre McGill with the Chicago Youth Symphony. 

You can keep up with the latest from composer Joel Puckett by following him through the links below.
     Twitter - https://twitter.com/joelpuckett

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Choma Academy of Music

The Choma Academy of Music is a music school located in Zambia, Africa where students are given the opportunity to receive formal music education while at the same time being given access to assistance for traditional schooling, AIDS and human trafficking prevention education, basic needs provisions, and career development/vocation skills training. There "Music... offer[s] an alternative to a life lived in fear of sickness and slavery. The Academy of Music in Choma, Zambia is battling AIDS and human trafficking by offering students life through the arts."

A colleague and friend of mine, Derek Thompson, will be traveling to Zambia this summer to teach music, bring along much needed music supplies, and to help to grow this institution which is helping to combat the issues of poverty, AIDS, and human trafficking. If you are able, please consider making a donation to help fund his trip. Donations of any size will make a difference! All donations will be used for travel costs, living expenses, and music supplies for the academy. Learn more about Derek and what he will be doing in Zambia at his fundraising page HERE. The Choma Academy of Music Facebook Page can be found HERE

Friday, December 7, 2012

Forestone Reeds

Above are some recordings I made comparing the legato and articulation of the Forestone to those of the Vandoren V12. The answers are at the bottom of this post. More recordings from other players are available on the Forestone website HERE. 

As a clarinet player, I am always on the lookout for ways to make what I do easier. The dream of every reed player is the perfect reed; a reed that could be produced with complete consistency while still maintaining a beautiful sound and great response. Since this cannot be accomplished with traditional cane reeds we are relient on the synthetic reed industry for the realization of this dream.

I recently had the opportunity to experiment with some of Forestone's new Premium Cut synthetic reeds. These reeds retail for $30.95 and are available direct from Forestone's Website HERE.  There are things I like about these reeds. For one, they are extremely consistent due to their proprietary injection molding process which allows them to achieve a tip thickness of 0.1mm. They are also unaffected by humidity and require no soaking. This is true of all synthetic reeds, but what makes the Forestone unique is their use of real wood fiber in the reed, 50% of which comes from bamboo.

I disliked the response I experienced from the reeds. I tried different reed thicknesses on a few different mouthpieces and still never felt secure in my articulation or legato. I also found the tone to be thuddy with unwanted overtones and chirps that would sporadically happen when switching registers or tonguing.

Though these issues have been greatly improved since the original Forestone cut, they are still problems that will keep the Forestone from becoming my main reed. I could see relying on them for outdoor concerts or other occasions when humidity can really be an issue, but while reeds have come a long way in this area, they are still not, in my experience, anywhere near where I could play them as a viable alternative to a real cane reed. I will keep my eye on Forestone and other makers as they continue to perfect their design in the hope that someday, there will truly be a perfect reed.

Articulation A - Forestone
Articulation B - V12
Legato A - V12
Legato B - Forestone