25. August 2006 · Comments Off on Secret Code? · Categories: imported, Ramble

Pardon me while I ponder.

I received some spam today (surprise, surprise … or not really … 86 pieces of spam in my folder … grumble). Some spam includes bizarre random lines. Some are from books (I sometimes google them—or goggle, as I typed first—and find out what book is being quoted). And today there was this line:

Apparently musical ability and matter of the alien artifact with a great deal of interest.

So you’ll have to excuse me for a while. I’m certain this means something. Something important. Something that will change my life completely. And cause me to be the Perfect Reedmaker.


Or not.

24. August 2006 · Comments Off on MQOD · Categories: imported, Quotes

When you’re doing what you love, you can just let the beauty pass through you. You don’t have to own it.

Robin Moore (More magazine.)

Thanks, Pam, for the quote!

24. August 2006 · Comments Off on A Good Read? · Categories: imported, Ramble

… and no, I didn’t mean good reed!

But I just read an article about a new book and this paragraph telling about the book just made me think, “Hmmm. Maybe I need to read this”:

Yakov is a member of that generation of the Russian intelligentsia which was shaped during Soviet times and faced significant challenges, both economic and philosophical, after the collapse of communism. The son of an opera singer who went blind after identifying too strongly with her character, Iolanta, Yakov plays the oboe in an orchestra until it is disbanded in the 1990s and its rehearsal space gets taken over by a martial-arts club. Yakov then finds a job with a mysterious company that seems to make money out of thin air, and where everything is focused on material gain.

Now of course I’m not at all sure the book is available here and if it is published in English, nor do I know if I’d like it at all, but, well, there’s that oboe player … and he’s the main character.

23. August 2006 · Comments Off on Depp Test · Categories: imported, Ramble

I had read news that Johnny Depp was to be singing Sweeney Todd in the movie that Tim Burton will be directing. Jameson, our seventeen year old, thought this preposterous, but I’m a Depp fan to the max, so I was ready to accept it, even while I understood his reaction.

But now he may or may not be in the movie.

It is reported that Stephen Sondheim is insisting on a voice test. He thinks Depp might be too rock-n-roll for his work.

I’m so thankful no composer checks us all out when we play new works in Opera San Jose, Symphony Silicon Valley or San Jose Chamber Orchestra. Whew!

And Mr. Sondheim never asked to hear me play before I played Sweeney Todd or A Little Night Music. I wouldn’t have minded meeting the man, though.

I’ve written before about the work called Gabriel’s Oboe, from the movie The Mission. The work is named Gabriel’s Oboe because the oboist is a Jesuit named Gabriel; it has nothing to do with the angel Gabriel, in case you were wondering! The movie itself is, to me, painful and beautiful and very troubling. The oboe work is gorgeous and is often used in weddings, although I always wonder if those who use it have seen the movie; the connection to the movie would make it impossible for me to use! (Although I’ve used it at someone else’s wedding, per their request.)

In any case, rambling along … if you want to hear the piece (and see an oboist play it), watch this. I think she sounds lovely.

You might note that the oboist holds her oboe up much higher than I do, and also moves more than I usually do. This is a German orchestra and I’ve heard that they do a lot more moving around (and, in fact, one person on a double reed list said that one of the orchestras there judge people using movement as a factor; they believe you must move a lot to really be making music!). I suspect that that oboe being held higher might have something to do with the different sort of reed they play.

Yes. A different reed. And yes, oboists from different countries can sound different. I love the variety. Some here in the humble good old USA only think US oboists are good and want only the good old American dark sound. I guess I just like variety, and don’t think of the US as the Country That Judges All Things Oboe (or all things anything else, for that matter).

But, rambling back to oboes and reeds … here in the US we use what is often called the American scrape. Sometimes it’s called the long scrape. And the Philadelphia scrape. (Or maybe all of these have slight differences? Hmmm. I didn’t think so, but maybe someone else can tell me if I”m wrong.)

If you look here you’ll see a German reed maker’s reed. Notice the wire? Most players I know wouldn’t use wire on our oboe reeds, but we scrape further down the back, which, I think, makes it unnecessary. (I do use wire on my English horn reeds.)

French reeds look, to me, somewhat similar to the German. I’ve never tried to play on either, though, and I wonder if they feel a lot different.

I’ve also seen Chinese oboe reeds (because a student had purchased a box of them before being told they wouldn’t work for me, so I couldn’t really teach her well with them). I wish I had taken pictures of them. Ah well! I do recall they were a short scrape and used wire. And were VERY hard.

For a good look at some American scrape reeds, this site works well. And notice those chipped edges? Makes me feel good!

Oboe Reed Styles, by David Ledet, is full of oboe reed pictures from all over the place. (I hear that the books is out of print, though. Sorry, folks, you’ll just have to come over for a visit and go through my nice hardback copy!) When you get to the American section you might get the notion that nearly everyone’s reeds look slightly different. And that reeds can look awfully ugly and still play. Yep!

Ah-hah! Looks aren’t all that important after all. I knew it, I knew it! Never mind about dying the gray out of my hair. Whew.

Oh … back to reeds.

Reeds can be so different, and reed makers all have their special little requirements. I can try to play on a lot of my colleagues reeds, but they never feel quite right. That’s probably a good thing, as I’m less likely to turn into a thief! (Oboists might take note, however; I just might abscond with a reed or two if I can get away with it.)

As always, though, anyone at all may send reeds to me. For free. Really. I’m open to that, and will even post a note here about your generosity! (PO BOX 8655, San Jose, CA 95155-8655 … see how easy that would be?!)

Think of the kudos. Think of the fame.

Think of how I wouldn’t have to spend time on reeds.

IF I could even play on your reeds, that is!

22. August 2006 · Comments Off on Tonight! · Categories: imported, Ramble

I’m going back to see The Light In the Piazza tonight; I bought tickets for Dan’s birthday. I hope he likes it as much as I did! 🙂

22. August 2006 · Comments Off on MQOD – Webber · Categories: imported, Quotes

When people ask me if musical theatre should be taught in music colleges, I reply that there is no need. All anyone needs to study is the second act of La Boheme because it is the most tightly constructed piece of musical theatre that there is. It is practically director-proof: you can’t stage it badly because it just works too well. If you can write La Boheme, you can write anything. I would also recommend studying Britten’s Peter Grimes.

-Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber

21. August 2006 · Comments Off on Music Quote · Categories: imported, Quotes

I fight against the void. I think I’ve written something acceptable, and then, when I look at it again, I find it execrable.

-Charles Gounod

(I’ll be playing Romeo et Juliette, by Gounod, next week with Opera San José.)

What do 200 nearly beginning oboists sound like?


20. August 2006 · Comments Off on Musician Dreams · Categories: imported, Ramble

I was playing English horn on some sort of shortened version of Nutcracker. The second half of the show didn’t need me, but I realized, during intermission, that I was supposed to play something on oboe after the second half ended. Yikes. My reeds were at home (apparently I didn’t play oboe in the first half).

I drove to get my reeds—insert long convoluted story here about using my mother’s car—and finally located them. But not at my house. I was at the General Manager’s house instead. And he was angry, because the night before I had left and not played the oboe part. I explained that he never told me about it (although I had done it last year; I didn’t remind him of that!) so he sort of backed off and took the blame. Whew.

Walking back, suddenly with Dan and Jameson, I realized I’d forgotten my mom’s car. But now I’d lost my way to the GM’s house! (He lived in some sort of bizarre city with castles and cobblestones). I rambled all over. I cried and cried. I wound up at some sort of hall, but not the one at which I was to perform. I finally found his house.

Suddenly I was back at the hall, but I had missed everything. The head of the ballet yelled and yelled but I came back with many tears and a fabulous speech about how, while he was upset, he couldn’t possibly imagine how much more upset I was. I went on and on, and the head of the box office said something that implied I really knew how to convince people of things.

In any case, the dream was much more elaborate, and very troubling.

Musicians have dreams about forgetting concerts, not knowing music, playing an instrument (usually soloing) unknown to them … it runs the gamut.

But now I’m very, very tired. It’s exhausting going up and down cobblestone streets and being yelled at. Really.