Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Carolina Clarinet Quartet

Demonstrating how congenial and generous the clarinet community can be, the members of the Carolina Clarinet Quartet have posted an offer on their website inviting fellow musicians to share and trade original works and arrangements in exchange for access to the group's own arrangements of clarinet quartets.  On their site you will find an index of over 175 pieces containing information on the instrumentation of each piece, timings, brief comments, and audio samples of the group performing selected works. Although some of the linked content and biographies are outdated by a few years, an article covering an in-depth analysis of mouthpiece materials by quartet member Brent Smith is worth checking out.  For those who live in North Carolina, the site also lists over 60 links to musical ensembles across the state for playing opportunities.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Hornsmasher: Clarinet

Ever wonder what would happen if you pumped peanut butter into a clarinet with a pressure hose?  The guys at Hornsmasher.com did, and here is the result:

Monday, December 12, 2011

International Clarinet Association (Dec. 2011 column)

You may have noticed that the International Clarinet Association has recently been working to expand the offerings of the Clarinet.org website and to connect with members via Facebook.  We thought we would dedicate this column to exploring the new features at Clarinet.org and the ICA Facebook page.

The website of the International Clarinet Association, Clarinet.org was created in 1996 by Alan Stanek and Stan Geidel with important contributions from F. Gerard Errante, Mark Charette (of Woodwind.org) and Kevin Jocius.  The site has evolved over the years to offer more content and functionality, and has become a rich resource for members and non-members of the I.C.A. 

Starting with the new additions located under the “Archives” menu, the site now contains a link to the “Clarinet Anthology” and past ClarinetFest®  presentations.  Initiated and developed by past president F. Gerard Errante, these new categories are a great resource for articles from older issues (including several by Daniel Bonade) as well as up-to-date research and presentations courtesy of ICA members who have presented at past ClarinetFests.  

Though it’s been available for years, some of our readers may be unaware that the entire Master Index of The Clarinet is available online.  With over 1,800 articles indexed by Volume, Author, Title, and Category, this is the place to start when doing any clarinet-related research!  Another feature that is perhaps underutilized is the incredible ICA Research Center Library.  Set in motion during Robert Spring’s presidency, the ICA placed a listing of its Research Library Score Collection online making it easier and more convenient for members to peruse and borrow materials.  (You don’t have to be a member to search the Catalog.)  Housed at the University of Maryland, droves of scores supplied by several donors over the past two decades are available and can be checked out for up to two months with minimal cost to cover shipping. Just one of many perks to being a member!

Several other “Members Only” features have been added to the Clarinet.org site in recent years.  Members of the ICA now have access to PDF files of The Clarinet going back to December 2008 and “teaser” preview articles from upcoming issues.  They can also search the ICA Member Directory by name or state/country, making it easier to get in contact with clarinetists from around the world.  And for those who aren’t yet members, it is now very easy for everyone to join the ICA by registering through the web site!

I.C.A. Facebook Page
The ICA Facebook Page was conceived and created several years ago by Diane Barger, who continues to serve as an administrator of the page.  We recently asked Diane to elaborate about this initiative and how it serves the ICA, and we’ve included her remarks below:

“I have found that Facebook serves as a terrific resource for students, professionals, enthusiasts, etc. I remember the days when Facebook was strictly for students, and now people from all walks of life and of all ages are on this popular social media resource. I believe it is one of the best ways in which we can communicate with each other in a creative way.

“The ICA Facebook Group (simply named "International Clarinet Association") is a place where members can post information about things going on in their city/state*, ask questions pertaining to the clarinet, upload video or links, etc. And, it is regularly monitored by myself and a few ICA Board members who administer the site and ensure that all postings are appropriate for the purposes of the group. It is also a popular place for ICA ClarinetFest® Artistic Directors to post information about that year's conference.” -- Diane Barger

Due to changes in the way Facebook formats groups and pages, the page recently migrated to a new address (available here if you are logged in to Facebook).  Be sure to join the new group -- you will also be joining a conversation with clarinetists from around the world!

*Note that many ICA State Chairs have created individual Facebook pages, so it might be more appropriate to list local events there rather than the general ICA Facebook Group.  

We’re excited to be working together with Marco Mazzini (of ClariPeru) and the ICA to create a list of helpful links at Clarinet.org.  This list will feature local, regional, and national clarinet organizations; clarinet equipment retailers; and more. 

Send your favorite clarinet sites to clarinetcache@gmail.com for possible inclusion on our blog or in future columns!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Himie Voxman (1912-2011)

 Legendary educator, administrator, and clarinetist Himie Voxman passed away yesterday at the age of 99.  Voxman, who served as director of the University of Iowa School of Music from 1954-1980, is a familiar name to clarinetists around the world due to his publications of method books and chamber music for woodwinds.
photo by Tom Jorgensen; from uiowa.edu
 According to Hustedt's dissertation (see below), Voxman began traveling to Europe in 1954 in search of unpublished wind music from the 18th and 19th centuries.  As it was not under copyright, he was then able to arrange and adapt much of this music to eventually create hundreds of methods, collections, chamber arrangements, and solo editions for wind instruments. 

Voxman's well-known publications for clarinet include the following:

-Rubank Advanced Method for Clarinet Vol. 1 and 2
-Classical Studies for Clarinet
-Introducing the Alto or Bass Clarinet
-Concert and Contest Collection for Clarinet
-Selected Studies for Clarinet
-Selected Duets for Clarinet Vol. 1 and 2

Further reading:

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Blog Alert: The Curious Clarinetist

A new blog has popped up on our radar-The Curious Clarinetist. Active for just over a year, this blog features numerous posts on master classes, videos, reeds, and teaching, just to name a few topics. Geared towards clarinetists of all ages and levels, this wonderful site collects and presents material in a personal, yet informative manner. Check out the post on a master class by Yehuda Gliad; the seamless flow of the prose and content makes you feel as if you were witnessing it firsthand.  The author has also taken the time to create lists of some of the most commonly requested orchestral excerpts in auditions and offers links to IMSLP for the clarinet parts and scores. If you like what you see, don't forget to "like" the blog on Facebook to stay connected and keep tabs on new postings.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Octocontralto Clarinet

Cyrille Mercadier's videos of the octocontralto clarinet have been flying around the internet this past week, and for good reason -- this particular instrument is very rare and many people have never heard it.  The octocontralto (or sub-contralto) clarinet is pitched in E-flat and plays one octave below the more common contralto clarinet in E-flat.  We recommend listening with good speakers to get the full bass effect - laptop speakers may only sound the upper harmonics of the pitches.

Mercadier claims it is the only one of its kind, made at the Leblanc factory in 1971, although according to Wikipedia they made three contralto clarinets and one octocontrabass clarinet.  This coincides with the Octocontrabass page at Grant D. Green's fascinating site Contrabass.com, a collection of information on the lowest of the low wind instruments.
Mr. Leblanc himself playing the octocontralto clarinet (photo from Contrabass.com and courtesy of G. Leblanc)

And for a truly odd musical coupling, Mercatier and Benjamin Masciotta perform Tchaikovsky's "Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy" on the octracontralto and the A-flat piccolo clarinet!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Streaming Video (Sept 2011 column)

We have written extensively about YouTube in past Clarinet Cache columns, but we haven’t mentioned much about other places to view clarinet videos on the web.  YouTube is just one of many ways to share and search video on the web; also, live video streaming is becoming increasingly popular as the technology improves.  For this column, we’d like to explore some places clarinetists may want to visit to view streaming video on the web.  

InstantEncore is a streaming video and audio sharing site designed with classical musicians in mind.  Ideal for performing artists, ensembles, and composers as a way to share their music, InstantEncore also makes social networking easy for musicians who aren’t web savvy by coordinating YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, and website updates in one place.  Classical music fans can easily search the site for videos and audio by genre, composer, instrument, artist name, etc.  As the site is focused on classical music, content is easier to sort through and generally higher-quality than that found on YouTube.  Also, InstantEncore videos tend to have more complete information about artists and works than other video sharing sites, which often leave out crucial facts like movement numbers, conductors, or performers.

Chamber music seems to be the most well-represented genre on this site. Clarinetist José Franch-Ballester is featured in several videos with the Camerata Pacifica, performing movements from Beethoven’s Quintet for Piano and Winds Op. 16 and Harbison’s Wind Quintet. There is also quite a bit of new music, including works with multimedia and electronics. Clarinetists may also be interested in the videos of symphonic works performed by ensembles such as the Chicago Symphony and the New York Philharmonic.

The videos generally tend to be excerpts or single movements, but many complete works can be found in the audio section of the site.  InstantEncore has a nice player for streaming audio that allows you to queue up a playlist of recordings -- we recommend Charles Neidich’s recording of Stravinsky's Three Pieces, Bil Jackson’s recording of Kevin Puts’s Clarinet Concerto with the Aspen Chamber Symphony, and David Shifrin’s performances of Bernstein's Sonata and Bartok's Contrasts.  Universities have even begun to use the site to promote their music schools, with tracks such as the Cleveland Institute of Music’s “New Music Series Highlights Fall 2010.”  

InstantEncore also allows a local or national search for upcoming and past chamber concerts.  There is some advertising on the site, but the sleek interface minimizes the obtrusiveness of the ads (and they presumably have to pay the web developers somehow!).  Hopefully this site will continue to grow as a destination for classical music listening and networking on the web.  

Live Streaming
In an effort to reach larger audiences outside of the concert hall, universities across the U.S. are now live-streaming broadcasts of concerts and programs, often accessible directly through the school’s site.  In addition to live-streamed concerts, the Yale School of Music website also holds a large supply of podcasts of various programs, interviews, and musical discussions.  Several podcasts feature the clarinet, including David Shifrin’s performance of Yale faculty composer Ezra Laderman’s Concerto for Clarinet and Strings. [EDIT: This podcast seems to be no longer available.]

Travelling westward to Indiana University’s Jacobs School of Music, the IU Music Live! website hosts several on-demand videos of past opera and ballet productions and over forty-three video and audio podcasts.  The live streaming project first started in November 2007 and all video production is student-run and managed by the Department of Recording Arts.  The number of programs available for viewing has grown to include performances of groups such as the IU Philharmonic Orchestra and Jazz Ensemble.  When browsing through the list of podcasts, be sure to check out the 2008 chamber music performance by the ensemble Trio Cayanne playing Jean Francaix’s Divertissement with Steve Cohen on clarinet.

Heading further south to our neck of the woods in Denton, Texas, the College of Music at the University of North Texas regularly broadcasts classical programs, with over eighty concerts streamed live during the 2010-2011 season.  Unlike the sites mentioned above, UNT unfortunately restricts access to archived programs, making them available only to UNT students, staff, and faculty.  However, what sets UNT’s live streaming video apart from the content on other websites is the ability for viewers to interact with each other during concerts.  Through the live broadcast platform Ustream, viewers watching the UNT concerts can interact and chat in real time with others, including those sitting in the audience using an iPhone app or with family members around the world. Blair Liikala, Director of Recording Services for the College of Music, often monitors these chats to find ways to enhance the live-streaming experience; for example, if a parent mentions which player is their child, Liikala can relay this information to the camera crew, instructing them to get a close up of that student.  It is this type of live interaction and instant feedback that allow remote viewers to experience the concert in ways that were previously not possible.

Ustream and Vimeo
Used not only by universities, Ustream is an interactive public website with a variety of live-streamed content.  Although the listing for clarinet-related videos is lacking in high-quality entries, a few videos stand out such as bass clarinetist Martin Moore playing Isang Yun's Monolog.  Another site worth visiting is Vimeo. With a seemingly endless supply of clarinet entries, this is probably the only place where you will find video of a man playing clarinet in the nude!!  Such alternatives to YouTube are becoming increasingly popular, and as faster internet connections allow video quality to increase, we look forward to watching more and more clarinet videos on the web.

Thanks to Chris Raddatz for giving us the heads-up about InstantEncore’s collection of clarinet video and audio!  If you have suggestions for websites we should take a look at, please e-mail us at clarinetcache@gmail.com.  

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

ClarinetFest: Day 4

Saturday at ClarinetFest was another day of difficult choices, as so many incredible events were happening at one time.  I was sorry to miss the Festival Features concert (Peter Wright and Robert Spring, among others), but the distance of the venues made it hard to get back and forth quickly across campus.  I ended up staying in the area of the VPAC for Shannon Scott's lecture and performance of Boulez' Domaines, and Henri Bok's bass clarinet master class. 
Shannon Scott performing Boulez's Domaines

Scott, who has performed Domaines for Boulez himself, gave an interesting lecture about the piece and the various decisions the performer must make in order to perform it.  If I understood everything correctly, the piece has six "Cahiers" and each Cahier has a "Miroir" which is a reverse of the music in the corresponding Cahier.  The performer may choose which order to perform the Cahiers, each of which sits on a different stand, and then may choose the order of the six Miroirs as well.  The performance had a theatrical element as Scott stood in the middle of a circle of music stands, moving around to each stand and flipping over each Cahier or Miroir after she performed it. 

Near the beginning of his master class, Henri Bok picked up his bass clarinet and said: "This is not a clarinet.  The only thing it has in common with a clarinet is the name."  Many of us in the class were in agreement, having had experience with the differences between the two instruments.  Bok spoke about the open fingerings he uses for the altissimo register on bass, and noted that the upper clarion range can be stuffy.  He also coached students in performing the famous Bozza Ballade and a solo bass clarinet piece by Genzmer.  Bok's statement that "squeaks don't exist; just high notes" also got some laughs from the audience!

I began the afternoon with Caroline Hartig's recital in the Grand Salon.  It was hard to pass up Richie Hawley's master class and Philippe Cuper's lecture, but as a former student of hers I was really looking forward to Hartig's performance.  I certainly wasn't disappointed!  She won over quite a few new fans with her stellar performance of virtuosic show pieces by Bloch, Demersseman, and della Giacoma.  Hartig revised and edited the Demersseman Morceau de Concert and della Giacoma Cavalleria Rusticana, both works with beautiful, singing melodies and fluid scales and arpeggios--more notes than I thought was possible to fit in a half hour recital!  Such works are often dismissed as "flash and trash," but in Hartig's hands they made for a truly engaging and expressive performance.

The highlight of the entire festival, for me, was Philippe Berrod's performance of Boulez's Dialogue de l'hombre double in the Plaza del Sol hall. The piece involves a great deal of spatialization of sound, both by the performer moving around between music stands placed onstage, and the prerecorded tape part moving through the surround sound speakers.  It was quite incredible how the taped clarinet part seemed to rotate around the room and then seamlessly transition into Berrod's live playing.  Spotlights onstage further emphasized the "dialogue" between the live performer and his electronic "double."  I realize I may be biased due to my interest in music for clarinet and electronics, but I was absolutely blown away by the sound engineering, Berrod's execution of the difficult music, and the overall impact of the performance.  And I was not the only one - the small but appreciative audience gave Berrod four curtain calls.  Congratulations to Berrod and his sound engineer (from IRCAM in Paris, no less) for a sensational realization of this rarely performed piece of music.

At ClarinetFest, the action seemingly never ends, and next it was time for the Brahms Quintet with Joaquin Valdepeñas and the Aiana String Quartet in the Grand Salon.  Even with the best of players, performances of this lengthy work can sometimes sound uninspired or underrehearsed.  Not so with this group; their attention to nuance and detail made for a gorgeous performance from start to finish.

Though I wasn't sure if anything could top such an incredible day of performances, I headed to the Valley Performing Arts Center for the evening concerts of soloists with orchestra.  Unfortunately, Russian clarinetist Ivan Stolbov was unable to perform due to visa issues, so the concert began with an overture by Glinka in his honor.  Next, it was a treat to hear Naomi and Stanley Drucker perform Edward Thomas' Fantasy for Two Clarinets.  Philipe Cuper's Francaix Concerto was exciting and impressive, and the difficult orchestra part was handled well by the ClarinetFest orchestra and conductor John Roscigno.

The second half included Alcides Rodriguez's polished performance of Weber's Andante and Hungarian Rondo on bass clarinet, followed by Anthony Girard playing Merrer's Cercles dans le ciel for E-flat clarinet and orchestra.  Stanley Drucker captivated and charmed the audience with Rossini's Introduction, Theme, and Variations, and as an encore we were treated to Rimsky-Korsakov's Flight of the Bumblebee as performed by Rodriguez, Girard, Cuper, the Druckers, and Peter Wright with orchestra! 

On Saturday, I was so caught up in the exciting performances that I stopped taking pictures, so if you have some please e-mail and I will post them!  These ClarinetFest recaps are by no means definitive but simply represent my (probably biased) view of the festival and what I was able to attend.  It would be great to hear from our readers about your experience at ClarinetFest, especially since I had to leave before the Sunday events.  What were your favorite performances?  What did you learn?  Feel free to leave comments below.

I could not have been more impressed and pleased with this year's ClarinetFest, and I congratulate the I.C.A. and co-artistic directors Julia Heinen and Bill Powell for their hard work in bringing this level of clarinet artistry, pedagogy, and research together in one place.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

ClarinetFest: Day 3

I started off the day Friday with a dose of Berio, as Rocco Parisi performed the Sequenza IXc for bass clarinet on his morning recital.  Parisi collaborated with Berio to create the bass clarinet version and performed the world premiere, so it was certainly a special performance that had the audience cheering - even at 9:00 in the morning!
Rocco Parisi

Next, I attended a concert featuring works by Matthias Müller, played by an all-star ensemble including Robert Spring, Philippe Cuper, and Henri Bok. 
Matthias Müller and friends
Especially notable was the world premiere of L'histoire de la clarinette, which Müller said was inspired by his teacher Hans Stalder.  Stalder famously researched and recorded the first modern basset clarinet version of the Mozart concerto, but was also active in commissioning new works for clarinet. Müller's L'histoire was a stream-of-consciousness romp through clarinet history, with quotations from so many works it was impossible to catch them all.  I heard references to the Debussy Rhapsodie, Poulenc Sonata, Stravinsky Three Pieces, Messiaen's Quatuor, concertos of Nielsen, Mozart, and Molter, Berio Sequenza IX, Sutermeister Capriccio, and both Stravinsky and Piazzolla's "L'Histoire" pieces.  In the hands of someone less talented, this piece could have sounded trite or confused, but Müller's clever juxtaposition of elements and the incredible group of performers really made it work.

The day of bass clarinet in the Grand Salon continued with Eric Mandat performing a new work composed for himself and Edmund Welles, the bass clarinet quartet.  In five movements, Shadows from Flames was alternately beautiful and completely "metal".  It's a rocking work I definitely look forward to hearing again at some point.
Eric Mandat and Edmund Welles
I then headed over to the Plaza del Sol hall to hear Gerry Errante and D Gause performing as the Clarion Synthesis Duo.  It was great to hear William O. Smith's Duo for Clarinet and Tape, which is the first known piece written for clarinet and tape.  I was surprised to learn that no performer other than William O. Smith had previously performed it, according to Errante.  The concert also included new works by Craig Walsh and Larry Austin, the latter featuring incredible visuals by David Stout.
Clarion Synthesis

The Rico Bass Clarinet Blowout continued the bass clarinet madness in the Grand Salon.  Michael Norsworthy, Rocco Parisi, Richard Nunemaker, and Henri Bok each performed a solo bass clarinet piece, and Tim Bonenfant played a contrabass clarinet solo.  Judging by audience reaction, the biggest hit of the concert was the premiere of Arthur Gottschalk's The Kaleidoscopic Pocket Hockets Boogaloo for bass clarinet ensemble, which had lots of Herbie Hancock-inspired funk along with fun theatrical gestures by the performers.
Bass Clarinet Blow-Out

The sound of a bass clarinet quartet or choir is rarely heard and completely unique, so it was a real treat to hear so much bass clarinet in one day!  Hopefully these new works will be performed again in the future. 

I wasn't able to attend the evening concert on Friday, but I heard quite a bit of buzz about Robert Spring's performance of Black Dog as well as the works by Roger Zare and Frank Ticheli for clarinet and wind ensemble.  It sounded like quite a few people were experiencing "clarinet overload" and did not stay for the Eddie Daniels/Stéphane Chausse jazz concert, but those who did had a great time.  Were you there?  If so, please comment below with your thoughts!

Saturday, August 6, 2011

ClarinetFest: Day 2

As always, it is so easy to get behind in these reports when so much is going on!  On Thursday, I actually spent a lot of time away from campus, as I did a tour of the Rico factory and attended the Hollywood Bowl concert. But I started out the day at Elsa Ludewig-Verdehr's master class in Cypress Hall, which was very well-attended, and for good reason: the way she runs a master class is superb.
Elsa Ludewig-Verdehr master class
 Verdehr manages to give very specific suggestions to the player as well as discussing the big-picture concept of the piece, and at the same time the pedagogues in the audience can learn from her efficient, practical approach to teaching. I had a few favorite quotations:  "I want to turn out a thinking clarinet player when they leave my studio," and (on the second movement of Brahms' 2), "Viola players always do it in one, so I think we should do it in three."

Afterwards, I took some time to visit the exhibit hall and purchase some sheet music.  As usual, the hall was filled with clarinetists of all ages and nationalities trying out equipment, catching up with old friends, and making new ones.  Next, it was time for the Rico tour.  The Rico company offered several tours throughout the week, conveniently busing people to the nearby Rico factory and back.  There were about fifteen people on the tour with me, and as we arrived we saw some very cool reed artwork decorating the walls at the entrance to the factory.

Reed artwork at the Rico factory
The tour leader took us through a hallway lined with pictures of the company's history and reed-making process, starting with Joseph Rico himself.

Joseph Rico

Harvesting Arundo donax
From there, we toured the facility where the reeds are cut, sorted, and packaged.  I was surprised to find that Rico has musicians on the factory floor all day, measuring and playing reeds to check for quality.  For an inside look at the reed-making process, check out the video below.

After the tour, we were treated to refreshments and handed a goody bag, which included a free box of reeds, swab, mouthpiece cap, and some samples of the reed cane at various stages in the manufacturing process.  I don't mean to sound like a commercial for Rico as there are many other great reed companies out there, but in recent years I have been impressed with Rico's commitment to working with artists to continually improve their product, and this tour certainly reinforced that for me.

The buses for the Hollywood Bowl concert left at 5:30, which gave everyone plenty of time to eat once we got there.  Many people were picnicking with bottles of wine, and the location is simply beautiful.

Hollywood Bowl

 After a Nielsen overture, Kari Krikku came on stage to perform the Lindberg Concerto, which was written for him in 2002.  It was a truly remarkable performance of the piece, which is so technically demanding that "it makes the Nielsen sound easy," as a friend remarked to me that evening.  In the Concerto, Lindberg seamlessly integrates diverse elements such as jazz/blues, extended techniques, and "Oriental"-sounding scales, creating a work that is at once extremely referential but also abstract.  Next was Paul Meyer performing the Copland Concerto.  The opening was beautiful, but there were some ensemble problems here and there, perhaps caused by amplification issues (the soloists and orchestra were all amplified throughout the concert).  It was certainly remarkable to see thousands of people listening with rapt attention to these two clarinet concertos!  The Los Angeles Philharmonic then played Copland's Appalachian Spring Suite, and we got on the buses to return to CSUN.  Congratulations to Julia Heinen and William Powell on coordinating such an extraordinary event for ClarinetFest participants!

Friday, August 5, 2011

ClarinetFest 2011: Day One

Rachel here, reporting from ClarinetFest 2011 at Cal State Northridge!
Valley Performing Arts Center

Palm trees and orange groves really let you know that you're in California on this beautiful campus!  The weather has been sunny and a bit hot for the long walks between the dorms and the various concert venues, but personally I'm just glad to be avoiding the 110-degree heat back in Texas. 

I spent most of Wednesday preparing for and attending the Research Competition, as I was one of the finalists.  Topics ranged from Denner and Molter to Poulenc and Hindemith, and everyone had put a great deal of work into their presentations.  First prize went to Boja Kragulj (USA/Turkey), who presented about the "rock star" status of the clarinet in Turkey, and her studies with Serkan Cagri there.  David Kirby (U.K.) took second prize with his presentation about the Poulenc Sonata and the sixteen (!) editions published by Chester since its composition in 1962.  The panel of judges included Mary Kantor, Douglas Monroe, and Albert Rice, who is known to the clarinet world for his excellent books on the clarinet in the Baroque and Classical periods.  After each presentation, questions from the judge and the audience were taken, providing an opportunity for a dialogue in the room about each topic.

Heicke Fricke presenting about the "J.C. Denner" clarinet in the U.C. Berkeley collection
 The Wednesday evening concert featured rare U.S. performances by two of India's greatest clarinetists performing in the Indian classical music style.  In the first half, clarinetist A.K.C. Natarajan played music of South India along with a violinist and mridangam (percussion).  Next, Narasimhalu Vadavat played music of North India with violin and tabla.  All the musicians performed seated, cross-legged, on stage.  The amplified clarinet was very loud, especially in the first half, and I wondered what it would have sounded like if the musicians had not been amplified.  In addition to the incredible clarinet playing, highlights included the virtuoso tabla playing of Swapan Chaudhuri and the piece that Narasimhalu Vadavat played with the CalArts Balinese Gamelan Ensemble to conclude the concert.

Next, Stéphane Chausse played with a jazz combo for the welcome reception outside in the Valley Performing Arts Center courtyard, while everyone milled around and socialized. 

As always, it is impossible to attend all events so I welcome comments or guest posts from people who have things to add to my daily reports! 
One of the dorms on campus at CalState Northridge

Sunday, July 31, 2011

"Opera on the Clarinet": A Prelude to ClarinetFest 2011

For those of you wanting to get a heads up on ClarinetFest 2011 activities, check out tonight's radio broadcast "Opera on the Clarinet" on The KCSN Opera House radio show at www.kcsn.org at 8pm Pacific Standard Time. Show host Bill Toutant and ClarinetFest 2011 artist director Julia Heinen will present interviews and performances of artists featured in various programs during the festival. The broadcast's line up includes Corrado Gioffredi, Robert Spring, the Vendome Quartet, and other artists.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

ClarinetFest 2011, Here We Come!

It's hard to believe that it's already almost time for another ClarinetFest, this time hosted by Julia Heinen and William Powell at California State University, Northridge.  Kellie and I have been reporting on ClarinetFests for four years now here at Clarinet Cache.  Our coverage began with the 2008 festival in Kansas City, and in 2009 we had a series of guest posts from those who attended the festival in Portugal.  Last year we reported from just down the road in Austin, TX, and this year I'll be on my own covering the festival in L.A. 

I'm excited to be participating in the I.C.A. Research Competition, and I've signed up for a tour of the Rico factory in L.A., so I'll definitely be reporting on those experiences as well as all the concerts and other events I can attend!  Don't forget to follow us on Twitter (@clarinetcache) for live updates.

As always, it is impossible to get to everything, so I would like to invite festival attendees to contact us if you are interested in submitting a guest post.  We could use reports on concerts, master classes, and especially the Young Artist and Orchestra Audition Competitions. 

For more information, visit the ClarinetFest 2011 page.  See you in L.A.!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

In Memoriam: Stanley Hasty

It is hard to think of a clarinetist and teacher in the recent past who has left a greater legacy than Stanley Hasty.  He performed as principal clarinet with the National Symphony Orchestra, Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra, Cleveland Orchestra, Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, and Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra.  He taught at Indiana University, the Peabody Conservatory, the Cleveland Institute, the Carnegie Institute, the New England Conservatory, the Juilliard School of Music, and the Eastman School of Music.  Many of his students have already become legendary themselves, among them Larry Combs and Elsa Ludewig-Verdehr. 

Stanley Hasty passed away on June 22 at the age of 91 due to injuries related to a car accident.  A memorial service will be held on Saturday, August 6, at 11am at St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Rochester.  In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Saint Paul's David Craighead Organ Restoration Fund.

For more information, see:
Eastman School of Music article including quotations from many of Hasty's students
Obituary from Rochester Democrat and Chronicle
Wikipedia article on Hasty including partial list of students
Elisabeth Marie Gunlogson: Stanley Hasty - His Life and Teaching, A treatise submitted to the Florida State University College of Music, 2006

Friday, July 15, 2011

Alternative Keywork

Almost every clarinet player at one point or another has asked ourselves is there an easier way to finger this passage?  Although most players own only one type of instrument, there are many different makes and models of clarinets available with modified mechanisms that can facilitate certain intervals or registers. Several models containing alternative keywork have been manufactured and patented over the years; however, not all have survived in today's mainstream market.

Back in our June 2009 column we covered websites that featured equipment and we briefly mentioned the ClarinetPerfection.com site.  For those of you who have not had the chance to delve deeper into the website's content, the page for Alternative Keywork is a great resource for information on the various improvements and keywork modifications.  Not only does it give an outline of the different models, it also contains numerous up-close photos of keywork so viewers can easily examine the differences.  The systems listed include: Mazzeo system, McIntyre, Stubbins, van Perck, Pupeschi, and Full Boehm keywork.  At the bottom of the page, links to the National Music Museum provide additional photos and information on 5-key, 6-key, Ottensteiner, and Haynes Thermo clarinets.  Pages like this one remind us that our instrument does not reside in a static environment, and maybe the next big improvement is just around the corner.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

U.S. Military Band Clarinets (June 2011 column)

The United States military employs more musicians than any other organization in the country.  According to a recent NPR feature on military bands, the U.S. Army alone employs an estimated four to five thousand musicians!  Since so many of these musicians are clarinetists, we decided to dedicate this column to some of the online resources created by U.S. military bands and their clarinetists.

Full-time orchestral position openings are few and far between these days, so military bands are a popular option for clarinetists looking for a professional performing career. While the audition process for the premier bands is just as rigorous as that for orchestral positions, military band positions are more numerous and provide more financial stability.  With some of the best orchestras in the country cutting pay, canceling concerts, and engaging in tense negotiations with musicians, many top performers in the U.S. are turning to the military bands first, lured by steady funding and perks such as student loan repayment. Clarinetists in these bands perform constantly with concert bands and chamber ensembles, and contribute greatly to music education efforts across the country. They are featured in several videos and websites that we’d like to encourage our readers to explore.

U.S. Army Field Band Educational Videos
The U.S. Army Field Band produced a series of educational videos in VHS format, presumably sometime in the 1980s (original publication date unknown).  These videos are now available online through the Field Band website, including a series of four videos called “Improving your Clarinet Section”. In the videos, members of the Army Field Band Clarinet Quartet discuss the use of clarinet quartets to develop musicianship in band programs. The videos include discussion of appropriate repertoire for each grade level, with musical excerpts performed by the Army Field Band Clarinet Quartet. Band directors and clarinet teachers will love the tips on embouchure, tonguing, phrasing, blending, balance, jazz style, and more.  This video series is a great resource for learning about different levels of repertoire for clarinet quartet and musical concepts that can be taught with each piece.

U.S. Military Bands on YouTube 
There are many military band performances available online that feature clarinetists. The “usarmyband” YouTube Channel features an Army Band clarinet ensemble performing “Let’s Dance” (think Benny Goodman, not David Bowie!).  We also enjoyed a medley of klezmer tunes played by Tom Puwalski accompanied by the U.S. Army Field band, and a 1960 recording of Harold Malsh playing Bassi’s Fantasy on Themes from Verdi’s Rigoletto with the United States Marine Band.

To see the clarinet section of the U.S. Army Band in action, check out their 2009 performance of Clarinet Candy in front of the U.S. Capital building in Washington, D.C.  Aimed directly at the entire section performing standing up, this YouTube video captures the agility, precision, and fast fingers of the clarinet section, including footage of the principal clarinetist realizing that each member of the clarinet section behind him has sat down and gradually dropped out of the music. This moment of surprise is caught on camera as he turns around to see his all of his colleagues seated, leaving him to finish off the piece as the last clarinetist standing. Check out our “Military Bands” YouTube playlist to watch these videos and more.

Clarineticus Intergalacticus
Kristen Mather’s newly formulated blog, Clarineticus Intergalacticus, has made its own niche in the blog world by highlighting the careers of clarinetists in military bands.  Already starting off the year with twelve entries as of February 2011, her blog is not limited to writing about the clarinet in the armed services, but also includes various topics of interest and educational resources.  As a military musician herself, Mather has been a clarinetist in the West Point Band since 2007 and also performs with the chamber ensemble Quintette 7 (featured in a February 2011 post on our blog), which includes members from the West Point Concert Band and the West Point’s Field Music Group, the Hellcats.
Starting off with a list of questions sent out to clarinetists within the various Army bands, Mather has already begun to gather a handful of interviews of clarinet players, some of which hold positions in the West Point Concert Band and The United States Army Band “Pershing’s Own.”  The interviewees answer candidly to questions about their favorite memories of basic training, the average work week, and the weirdest thing they do at their job, sharing their personal experiences as clarinetists in the military bands.  We found ourselves wishing for a post containing Mather’s own responses to the list of questions she poses to her colleagues!
Another category on her blog includes “What am I Listening to Today.”  In these posts she features videos of groups or performers that have sparked her interest.  Wandering away from the mainstream musical path, Mather writes about music involving the clarinet in a variety of musical contexts.  Her recommended artists and ensembles to date include jazz clarinetist Anat Cohen in the Choro Ensemble, the Claudia Quintet with clarinetist Chris Speed, and Turkish music featuring the gypsy clarinet sounds of Hüsnü Şenlendirici. Offering a sample of her musical tastes as a musician who makes a living performing concert band repertoire, Mather opens her readers up to possibly new and unfamiliar music or unknown artists.  Although Clarineticus Intergalacticus is a relatively new blog, it is a must-read for any clarinetist interested in pursuing a career in the military service bands.  

Have we missed anything?  Let us know about military band clarinetists in the U.S. and other countries by e-mailing us or leaving your comments on this post.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Metronome Apps in Review

Every clarinetist needs a metronome for practicing and teaching.  An increasing number of people are using metronome apps rather than traditional metronomes, but the number of metronome applications available for iPod/iPhone is overwhelming.  A metronome is a seemingly simple concept, but these apps vary wildly in tempo ranges, options for subdivisions and meters, and even accuracy.  We compared some of the cheapest and most popular metronome apps to guide you in selecting one that fits your needs.

The most important attribute in a metronome for professional musicians is accuracy, and a surprising number of these apps failed to keep time when we tested them in comparison with a Dr. Beat DB-66.  Extreme low and high metronome settings can also be useful - why stop at 210 bpm when you can go to 800?  We looked at these features and more, and came up with a list that we hope will be helpful to those of you searching for the perfect app.  Here are the metronomes we tested, in order from best to worst:

(Note: We were only able to test metronome apps for iOS platforms, but we've heard that "Mobile Metronome" works great on Android devices.)

Metronome: Tempo by Frozen Ape - $1.99
Verdict: Lives up to the hype

This app was recommended to us by quite a few people, and for good reason: $1.99 is a small price to pay for a good metronome, and this one has lots of adjustable settings for visuals and sounds.  It offers an accurate tap feature, and the "setlist" function lets you save multiple metronome settings and switch between them quickly.

Accuracy: good
Range: 10 - 800
Sound: medium loud, offers choice of 9 different sound sets
Rhythms: Offers all common meters and subdivisions, but no odd meters like 5/4.  Allows muting of any beat within the meter.
Visuals: very small pendulum; can also turn on a flash which makes the whole screen flash red on each beat.

Steinway Metronome by Steinway Musical Instruments - FREE
Verdict: best free app, use with external speakers

Unlike most free metronome apps, this one has a tap function.  It features a circular dial and a visual flash that can be turned on and off.

Accuracy: overall stays on track but slight glitch noticeable at high speeds
Range: 35-224
Sound: quiet, only one choice of sound
Rhythms: choice of many different meters, but no subdivisions
Visuals: can be set to flash on downbeat or all beats

Metronome Plus by Dynamic App Design - $.99
Verdict: Decent app - wait to buy until more features are added

According to the developers, future updates will include a tap function and more features.

Accuracy: good
Range: 30 - 300
Sound: loudest of the apps tested; four different sound choices
Rhythms: good choice of meters; can choose subdivisions but no dotted sixteenth or first-and-third triplet rhythms
Visuals: orange light moves back and forth

EasyBeats LE by Hopefully Useful Software - FREE (Pro version is $4.99)
Verdict: Fun and accurate metronome alternative

A metronome is essentially a simple drum machine, so why not play scales to a rock-n-roll beat, or create a jazz pattern for working on swing rhythms?  This app allows you to create your own beat pattern using sixteen different drum sounds.  The downside is that making beats can take a while, and you have to pay an extra $.99 for the ability to save patterns.

Accuracy: good
Range: 0.0 - 220.0  (allows adjustment to 1/10 of a bpm but slider is difficult to adjust with accuracy)
Sound: loud, offers variety of drumset sounds
Rhythms: many subdivision possibilities, but the basic loop is set up in 4/4
Visuals: can watch beat patterns in two different views - pads (where pads light up as they sound) or patterns (where a line moves across the pattern - see screenshot).

BackBeat Free by Cameron Bytheway (Pro version is $2.99)
Verdict: inaccurate but useful for tone generator

This app has ads, but the pro version is ad-free, and features a tap function and additional sounds.  The preset player doesn't work in free version, and accuracy is poor despite claims of "ultra-accurate timekeeping engine." Good tone generator with 7 octaves, though.

Accuracy: poor
Range: 40 - 220
Sound: quiet, no sound options
Rhythms: has sliders for volume of beat and subdivision - similar to Dr. Beat style metronomes
Visuals: set of lights that flash with each beat.

Metronome - reloaded by Chris & Uwe - FREE
Verdict: avoid this app

A pendulum-style metronome like the one below but with a more modern design and with banner ads.  It allows user to key in the tempo using a keypad.  This metronome has a "timing adjustment" slider to make up for the "metronome timing drift" on different devices.  I tried to match up the speed of this app with my DB-66, and ended up with a 2.1% timing adjustment, a metronome that still wouldn't beat at 120 bpm consistently, and five minutes of my life that I'll never get back. 

Accuracy: poor, even with "timing adjustment" slider. 
Range: 30 - 209
Sound: Quiet, Only one sound
Rhythms: Can choose each number of the time signature from a slider, allowing any combination from 2/2 to 12/12 (useful if you're performing the music of Henry Cowell, perhaps).  No subdivisions available.
Visuals: Pendulum

Metronome by MarketWall.com - FREE
Verdict: avoid this app

This simple app attempts to emulate the old-school pendulum metronome.  It is difficult to adjust the slider to an exact tempo.

Accuracy: poor
Range: 1 - 210
Sounds - very quiet and only one choice of sound
Rhythms - only allows 2/4, 3/4, 4/4
Visuals: pendulum

Friday, May 20, 2011

ClarinetMike Blog

A new blog by Michael Dean is one of our latest discoveries.  In the short time span of only a couple of months, he has already written twenty-five posts on his site ClarinetMike Blog.  An active performer and clinician, Dean is also the Associate Professor of Clarinet and Saxophone at Southeast Missouri State University. His variety of posts include educational entries, time management tips, posts on clarinetists (including a list of famous people who have played clarinet), and video links. One point of interest is a link to Michael Rusinek's video on developing articulation speed found on the Rico website. Dean also includes entries which direct viewers to various articles by him. Although he mainly writes about the clarinet, he has also included a few saxophone posts. Don't forget additional blog sites can be found on the "Links" button on our home page!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Musical Chairs: Steve Williamson and the Chicago Symphony

The word from Facebook's "Clarinet Jobs" is that Steve Williamson has been offered the position of principal clarinet in the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.  This may be the final chapter of a saga that has been ongoing since January of 2008 (!) when preliminary auditions were first held to fill the vacancy left by Larry Combs' retirement at the end of that season.  Steve Williamson, trained at Eastman and Juilliard, has been principal clarinet of the Metropolitan Opera since 2003.  He has not yet accepted the position and there has been no official announcement from the CSO.

If you're on Facebook, you can view the discussion here.

This thread on the Clarinet BBoard continues the conversation, including a cameo from Anthony McGill.

The selection of the next CSO principal clarinet has generated much discussion in the three and a half years since the audition process began.  Clarinetists at the BBoard and Clarinet Jobs (not to mention late-night ClarinetFest debates) have had plenty to say about those who auditioned, those who didn't, Ricardo Morales declining the position, and the state of orchestral auditions and performing positions in general.  For further reading, you might wish to check out this Clarinet BBoard thread from 2008 - an interesting look back at the history of this process.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Sean Osborn

We'd like to direct your attention today to the personal website of Sean Osborn.  A clarinetist and composer, Osborn was the youngest clarinetist to play with the Metropolitan Opera when he joined the orchestra in 1989.  His teachers include Stanley Hasty, Frank Kowalsky and Eric Mandat. 

The "Educational" section of Osborn's website features several articles of interest to clarinetists and teachers, such as an article about establishing a daily warm-up routine, and another on tips on fingerings from Stanley Hasty.  Especially notable are the instructional articles on individual orchestral excerpts including the Beethoven symphonies and Mendelssohn "Scherzo."  Some of the articles have links to videos demonstrating the excerpts -- Osborn's video of himself playing the Mendelssohn excerpt was featured here as one of our top ten videos of 2010.

Video augments several other articles as well; a "legato fingers" article includes videos of incorrect movements that students might make as they try to learn the technique, and an interesting video from inside Osborn's mouth helps to illustrate articulation principles.  He has also uploaded his copy of the solo part to Mozart with phrasing markings written in.

And just for fun, Osborn has developed an extensive collection of "Musician Jokes," including gems like the following:

Q: What do clarinetists use for birth control?
A: Their personalities.


Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Website Watch (March 2011 column)

We are constantly discovering more website that offer interesting resources for the clarinetist.  Here are a few of our favorites we've come across recently.  
Richie Hawley
Immediately upon visiting the personal web site of Richie Hawley the ears are treated to the sounds of his beautiful and exquisite tone.  Recently appointed professor of clarinet at Rice University, Hawley has been principal clarinet of the Cincinnati Symphony since the age of 23.  His site includes not only an impressive biography and calendar of scheduled performances on his site, but also an assortment of audio clips and videos.  The selection of audio files highlights various excerpts from the standard orchestral repertory as well as some solo chamber works.  Although they are not complete in performance, they nonetheless showcase Hawley’s lush sound and impeccable intonation, and would be a great reference recordings for for use in study of orchestral excerpts.  

In his interviews in the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra “Prelude Videos,” Hawley discusses the roles and significance given to the clarinet in pieces such as Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherazade and Respighi’s Pines of Rome.  Offering the insight of an accomplished orchestral player, these interviews are enlightening and interesting to listen to.  Another component of the web site worthy of mention is his blog -- unfortunately there are only three entries listed for the year but hopefully he will continue to add to the roster with future posts.  Check out his posts on an insider’s survey on orchestral etiquette and advice on how to prepare for an audition.  His words of wisdom apply to anyone pursuing orchestral positions or taking auditions.  

Phil Pedler
Phil Pedler’s Clarinet Pages is a remarkable collection of information about different makes and models of clarinets.  Pedler (who holds an M.M. in clarinet performance from the New England Conservatory) repairs and sells clarinets, posting an entry on his website about each new model of clarinet he encounters.  The result is a treasure trove of information on about one hundred different makes and models of clarinets, including close-up photos of mechanisms, serial numbers, intonation tendencies, bore measurements, and more.  He often gives recommendations on whether certain models would be most appropriate for beginners, intermediate players, professionals, or whether they should be avoided altogether.

Pedler has compiled several other reference pages, such as his “Clarinet Shopping Advice” page instructing parents on which brands of clarinet not to buy for their son or daughter, with advice about Ebay scams.  He often makes external references to support and augment his information, linking to resources by Tom Ridenour, Sherman Friedland, and threads at Woodwind.org.  These notes, along with the absence of commercial advertising, make Clarinet Pages a clear cut above most websites about buying and selling clarinets.  Pedler works on clarinets as a hobby, and so his site focuses on answering questions and educating the public.  The only real advertising on this site can be found in his entertaining photo albums of vintage advertisements for mouthpieces and reeds!

John Robert Brown
On the “other side of the pond,” we find the web site of John Robert Brown, chairman of the Clarinet and Saxophone Society of Great Britain.  John Robert Brown’s site is an extensive resource with a large section of articles devoted solely to the clarinet.  With a seemingly endless supply of articles and topics that apply to all types of musicians, an entire day is necessary to browse through all of the content on his site; here, we will take a closer look at some of the clarinet-related materials.  

With focus on English clarinetists, the diverse list of articles covers topics ranging from career decisions to the life achievements of Stanley Drucker.  Also included are interviews with the likes of Morrie Backun, about the development of his business, and Victoria Soames Samek, about managing the Clarinet Classics recording label.  Brown is also familiar with the jazz scene (he wrote the chapter on Jazz Clarinet in The Cambridge Companion to the Clarinet), and there are more jewels to be found in the “jazz” section with articles on artists such as Artie Shaw and others top players from the Swing era in Britain.  

There is also a good read on the woodwind ensemble London Winds, featuring clarinetist Michael Collins, who gives a candid view on the life of an internationally-travelling musician and recording artist.  In the interest of improving and discovering new materials used for pads on woodwind instruments, check out the article on Eddie Ashton’s new type of black plastic pads.   Whether you are looking for information on a particular British artist or just looking for a good read, John Robert Brown’s web site is a great source for all single-reed players.

As always, we welcome recommendations of others websites we should know about!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

ClarinetFest 2010 YouTube videos

For those of you who missed out on this past year's ClarinetFest  2010 in Austin, Texas, we have complied a playlist of YouTube videos of performances and interviews from the annual festival.  With concert and presentation schedules coinciding and overlapping, even those in attendance could not have possibly seen every performance. Fortunately, the selection of videos found on YouTube are a good representation of the types of activities that take place at the ClarinetFest.  You can watch an impromptu gathering of a trio performed by Julian Bliss, Larry Combs, and Ricardo Morales in one of the exhibition halls, or you can see a video of one of the nightly concerts featuring Sergio Bosi performing A. Gabucci's Aria and Scherzo for Clarinet and String Orchestra.  Below is an interview by Ricardo Morales discussing his experiences as the principal player for the New York Metropolitan Opera and principal clarinetist of the Philadelphia Orchestra and how each position requires different approaches to tone color and sensitivity of volume.

In our playlist you will also find another interview by Morales on his favorite orchestral excerpts and the ones he dreads the most.  Due to the multitude of performances and events, not every concert was held on the concert stage. In a video taken in one of the smaller venues, you can listen to Scott McAllister perform one of his own compositions, X Concerto.  It is always a treat to have the opportunity to hear a composer perform one of their own works, especially as one as challenging as this three-movement piece.

To check out the videos mentioned above and much more, click on the "ClarinetFest 2010" playlist on our Clarinet Cache channel at YouTube. 

This year's festival will be held on California State University-Northridge's campus in the sunny San Fernando Valley on August 3rd-7th, 2011.  For more information on the upcoming event visit the ClarinetFest 2011 page on the ICA website.