Tuesday, February 21, 2006

What an Excellent Day for an Exorcism

A comment has been made to my last post that my reeds get a great deal of blog time. There's a reason for this. Mental illness.

Reeds are a constant source of frustration and joy for single and double reed players. Blair Tindall, a fellow North Carolina School of the Arts High School alum, discusses this in her book Mozart in the Jungle. (I'd recommend reading this book, both for the kiss-and-tell dirty reasons as well as the honest look at the realities of our business.)

Poor reeds can all but sink our ability to perform with any quality. Great reeds can sometimes make me feel like I can play anything. A sad fact is that the reeds aren't usually the problem for me. If I'm having reed problems, it's indicative of a larger issue having to do with my breathing or embouchure. When I can't get a new box of reeds to answer my pleas, I know that **I'm** in trouble, not the reeds. Of course, once I've worked out the creeping issues with high breath, biting embouchure, or the like, I've got to break in an entirely new set of reeds. Why? Because my funky problems managed to screw up the last batch. Reeds tend to want to vibrate one way. Once they learn that way, it's difficult to convince them to go along with any changes you institute.

Of course, these reeds don't vibrate that way forever. They slowly change for the worse, and we follow them. My air gets all caught up in the contortions necessary for making an over the hill reed sound like a gem. Of course, that means that my approach to breathing will cause the next new reed to get a funky play-in. The viscious cycle continues.

Can you tell that mental illness is really the problem here? Looking back at my post, I find it barely legible and not at all logical. That's the problem...We're held hostage by this cane. You wouldn't believe how gullible we are to advertisements and reports of new cane that responds better for longer. We're constantly looking for a way to make life easier.

All of this would be at least twice as bad if I were an oboist or bassoonist.

Just to add a needless complication: What about the fact that a reed I need to project a solo in Orchestra is almost certainly too clangy and ugly for an intimate chamber music performance? Yup...That's where multiple personalities come in handy.


Blogger Marie said...

Blair Tindall married Billy Nye, the Science Guy! That's my fun fact for the day. Thank you for explaning the beauty/horror of reeds.

2/21/2006 08:12:00 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home