09. April 2008 · Comments Off · Categories: Ramble

In the modern world, nothing in music is more tragicomic than the subject of double-reed instruments like the oboe and bassoon. If you’re an oboist or bassoonist in a high-school band, you buy ready-made reeds. Otherwise, you make your own from scratch, using expensive aged cane from particular terroirs, preferably in southern France. Cutting and trimming and binding and shaving reeds consumes a good deal of your days, while other musicians are practicing and regular people are having fun or making love. If you play the oboe seriously, much of your free time is spent making reeds, not love. Besides being ridiculously fragile, reeds are also sensitive to humidity, which on a soggy night can turn an orchestral woodwind section into a squawkfest.
A professional oboist will tell you more than you need to know about what constitutes a Mozart reed, a Mahler reed, a Stravinsky reed, and so on. If he plays in a pops orchestra, there’s probably a Lennon/McCartney reed. If he wants to show you his reed knife, which is razor sharp, you should keep an eye on the exit. Reed making and the pressure on the brain that comes from blowing into an oboe can do unpredictable things to a person.

(Found here.)

Comments closed.