Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Interactive Recordings

Record labels Navona Records and PARMA Recordings (parent company of Navona) have released several new compact discs with enhanced components that complement the listening experience. Accessible by computer, these interactive components on the CDs include PDF files of scores, program notes, videos, and composer biographies.

Back in 2008 Navona Records released Richard Stoltzman's album, Phoenix in Flight, which contained PDF files of all the music recorded on the album. Since then, the companies have improved upon the media content tenfold, adding more interactive options such as digital reproductions of liner notes containing additional information not present on the CD case and web apps for mobile ring tones.

Check out PARMA Recording's website where you can find free downloads of scores and parts of music from their newest release, 2012 PARMA Anthology of Music. Featuring ten contemporary works for small chamber ensembles, this album contains two works that involve the clarinet. Other newly-released recordings under the Navona label that include clarinet music are: Summer Circle, featuring Martin Schlumpf's Clarinet Trio for clarinet, cello, and piano; Slices, with works by various composers, including two pieces for woodwind quintet and a duo for clarinet and violin; and Claviatures: Modern Chamber Works, with Ayala Asherov-Kalus's composition, Three Rivers, written for clarinet, viola, and piano.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Website Watch (Sept 2012 Column)

In recent years the websites of clarinet companies have shifted focus from their products to their sponsored clarinetists by incorporating interviews, videos, and biographies. Although many web sites contain peripheral artist rosters, we have come across a handful of sites that take artist endorsements to the next level.  Clarinet Cache does not endorse any particular equipment or brand; web sites discussed in this column were chosen for their attention to the artists and the resources they provide to clarinetists of all levels.

Backun has created an Artist Community where clarinetists who play on Backun instruments or equipment can create and submit their own artist profile. Launched in April 2012, the community directory currently has over 100 artist profiles containing biographies, current positions held, equipment used, and links to related web sites. Backun also has numerous videos posted on their YouTube channel “backunmusical.”  In addition to the “Tech Tips” and “Backun Studio Series” video segments, videos of Backun Artists such as Ricardo Morales, Jose Franch-Ballester, Jessica Phillips, and Eddie Daniels offer mini-master classes and discussions on various topics.

On the homepage for Rico Reeds, large, colorful photos of Martin Fröst and other Rico artists rotate in a slideshow.  Even the Rico “Products” section is connected with the artists by showing a picture of a famous artist that plays on each type of Rico reeds.  The Rico web site also has a blog with frequent contributions by saxophonist Tim Price, who writes mostly about jazz and improvisation.

Another feature of the Rico page is a link to TheLessonRoom.com (run by the D’Addario company, distributor of Rico reeds).  This useful site has resources including videos, articles, interactive elements, and sheet music.  These can be sorted by category of instrument (e.g. “wind instruments”), but not by specific instrument.  The clarinet videos include lessons by esteemed clarinetists and teachers like Michael Norsworthy, Michele Gingras, Mark Nuccio, Richie Hawley, and the late, great David Etheridge. The articles are mostly aimed at beginner to intermediate students and address topics such as intonation and purchasing a clarinet, while the interactive elements offer drills for learning different clefs and rhythmic dictation. The sheet music section only has full band scores. TheLessonRoom.com also has a private teacher directory, searchable by location, with a rating system to allow feedback about the instructors.

Like Rico, the Vandoren company caters to both clarinetists and saxophonists. With artists categorized under the labels of classical, jazz, and ensembles, this site has an extensive index of performers.  Entries for each Vandoren artist vary in length and depth of information; however, the most informative content is found in the videos accessed through “Vandoren TV” on the homepage. Here viewers are directed to several different channels containing videos broadcasted in eleven different languages.  A majority of these short videos feature clarinetists and several of the videos are overdubbed in multiple languages.  Performers such as Philippe Cuper, Paul Meyer, Victoria Luperi, and Giora Feidman step in front of the camera to talk about their own equipment setup and express opinions on how various Vandoren products facilitate their playing.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Pedagogy 2.0

As promised, here is our presentation and handout from our presentation at ClarinetFest on Sunday, August 5, 2012. It covers the internet as a resource for teaching clarinet, and ways to incorporate technology such as mobile applications into clarinet pedagogy. A more detailed discussion of our presentation content will be published in our December 2012 column in The Clarinet and here on our blog.


Here is our handout from the presentation, with a list of resources in printable format and clickable links:

Pedagogy 2.0 Handout


Sunday, August 12, 2012

ClarinetFest Day 5

The last day of ClarinetFest was a busy one for us, as we gave our presentation and also performed with the contra clarinet ensemble.  After getting our equipment set up, we went to Adam Ballif's lecture: "Incorporating Technology in the Clarinet Studio." Adam demonstrated the use of SmartMusic to assign and grade technical exercises, how to create custom metronomes with Pro Tools, and talked about iOS music apps like Notion (a version of Finale) and Pianist Pro.  

Ballif's lecture was a great complement to ours, as we each investigated different technologies and techniques for incorporating them into clarinet pedagogy.  Our presentation, "Pedagogy 2.0: An Exploration of 21st-Century Innovations in Clarinet Teaching," centered on online resources we've discovered in the course of writing the Clarinet Cache column, as well as mobile applications.  We spent a lot of time demonstrating how to teach using the TonalEnergy app for iOS -- many thanks to Lucas Willsie for serving as our guinea pig!  Look for our full presentation and handout to be posted here soon.

Kellie and Rachel demonstrating TonalEnergy with Lucas Willsie

We had an enjoyable lunch at the Embassy Hotel restaurant with our teacher, Dr. James Gillespie, and former UNT students Malena McLaren and Chastine Hofmeister.  One of the best things about ClarinetFest is that each time we go, we have more friends and colleagues to catch up with.

Lunch with Dr. Gillespie and UNT alumni

Interesting sculptures on UNLV campus

After lunch, it was time to warm up the contras!  The warm-up room was filled with contras of all shapes and sizes, being played by everyone from undergraduate students to current and past presidents of the I.C.A.!

Dueling contras

John Scott, Gary Whitman, and Keith Koons preparing with intensity!
The contra ensemble (dubbed "A Legal Contraband" by Mary Alice Druhan) then took the stage to perform Ben Stonaker's piece 44 Contras.  From our point of view, it was an interesting and memorable performance.  Stonaker used the full range of the contrabass and contraalto clarinets, from altissimo into the extended low range, to create an unforgettable aleatoric sound sculpture.  One section sounded, in Stonaker's words, like "a flock of angry geese," while another consisted of a swelling, undulating 44-note cluster.  Audience reactions ranged from glee to complete disgust - always the sign of a good piece!

A Legal Contraband

Finally, it was time to pack up all the contras and head home.  We got to chat with conference organizer Diane Barger one last time on our way out.  She seemed happy and relieved -- as she should be after putting in so much work to make ClarinetFest 2012 a great success!  Thanks Diane!

Diane Barger

Saturday, August 11, 2012

ClarinetFest Day 4

At this point in the festival it becomes harder to wake up early to make it to the first concert of the day.  Taking the morning off from recitals, I (Kellie) went to visit the exhibitions to peruse some of the vendors selling sheet music.   Then we spent some time working on our presentation for Sunday - more info coming about that in the Day 5 recap!

Many clarinetists are familiar with the music of Scott McAllister, so there was a good turnout for the performance of his new seven-movement Epic Concerto, played by three different artists.  The piece began with SSgt Timothy Sutfin performing the first three movements: "Warm-up," "Walking with Benny," and "Prodigy."  The first movement incorporated warm-up materials and patterns from the Klose book; however, the tempos were definitely faster than the typical warm-up speeds!  McAllister was inspired by the Copland and Benny Goodman, and the second movement reflects a slow walk with the great composer and player, evoking the beautiful opening of the Copland Concerto.  The next movement was inspired by past and present prodigies, including the music of Michael Jackson, where Sutfin's clarinet playing emulated the spirit and energy of the late pop star.  

Switching artists, the fourth movement was performed by Peggy Dees Moseley, who was also the commission coordinator of the work.  This movement, "Epic," is the longest movement in the piece and McAllister dedicated it to his mentor Frank Kowalsky and his wife Helen Earl.  

Rounding out the last portion of this 45-minute concerto, Kimberly Cole Luevano played the last three movements: "Schizo Scherzo," "Gone," and "High Flyin' Bird."  With a big bright sound, Luevano jumped right into "Schizo Scherzo," one of the more effective movements of the piece.  This movement was dedicated to the memory of Robert Marcellus, one of the three teachers and pedagogues to whom the festival paid tribute this year.  Similar to Berio's Mahler "remix" in the third movement of his Sinfonia, McAllister made a rousing scherzo out of a mashup of the third movement of Brahms' Sonata in F Minor together with several of the most famous orchestral excerpts for clarinet (Daphnis, Mendelssohn, Gershwin, etc.).  

The penultimate movement "Gone" centers on McAllister's emotional response to the loss of his playing career after a car accident. The long, static sotto voce tones placed under the sound of the piano must have been difficult to pull off, especially after such an energetic movement, but Luevano's stamina and control allowed her to reflect the composer's process of healing after such a life-changing event.   The final movement called "High Flyin' Bird" was inspired by a song by Richie Havens and it energetically closed the entire composition.  After all three clarinetist returned to the stage for another round of applause, McAllister joined the trio of performers in acknowledgment of superbly performance of his epic piece.

Kimberly Cole Luevano, Peggy Dees Moseley, SSgt Timothy Sutfin, and Scott McAllister
Those familiar with McAllister's music will find in the Epic Concerto elements familiar from his other works: floating upper clarion notes, extreme altissimo, angular leaps, glissando, rips up and down the instrument, and syncopated rhythms.  What sets Epic Concerto apart is that it is such an intensely personal tour of McAllister's own life as a clarinetist, making this work above all the others a "clarinetist's" clarinet piece.  Its "epic" nature and technical demands make it difficult to program on a recital, but each movement is self-contained enough to stand on its own if taken out of context.

I (Rachel) came in late to the I.C.A. Competition Winner's Recital on Saturday afternoon but managed to hear most of Paul Cantrell's beautiful work The Broken Mirror of Memory, for bass clarinet and piano.  The committed performance by Pat O'Keefe should inspire others to check out this winning piece from the Composition Competition.  

I had a special interest in the next piece, the winning work from the Joint Wind Quintet Project, as I performed in the first two premieres of the piece with the Madera Wind Quintet at the conferences of the International Horn Society and International Double Reed Society.  Lansing McLoskey was awarded the commission from the group, and composed Hardwood with inspiration from hardwood trees, leaves and branches he came across in the woods of New Hampshire.  With my extensive knowledge of the score, I can safely state that clarinetist Tod Kerstetter and the Konza Wind Quintet did a fine job of navigating the difficult rhythmic terrain and infusing the piece with lots of musicality.

The evening concert on Saturday was much more polished than Friday's concert of duos with wind ensemble, but it was still a bit underwhelming.  Greg Smith's performance of the Première Rhapsodie by Debussy was refined and light on its feet, but his delicate tone was completely overpowered by the orchestra at times.  We started wondering if the clarinetists were in a dead spot onstage when Jessica Phillips Rieske had similar problems being heard in the Mozart Concerto.  She made some interesting choices about octave transpositions from the basset clarinet original, but the performance overall seemed a bit "safe" -- perhaps owing to the fact that the Lincoln Symphony Orchestra conductor didn't seem to be paying much attention to his soloists.  

Eddy Vanoosthuyse gave a rousing performance of McAllister's X with a powerful sound compared to the other two performers, perhaps owing in part to standing at a different angle onstage.  Capturing the spirit of the piece, the orchestra was alternately brooding and explosive.  With the exception of a little bit of reed trouble, Vanoosthuyse's performance was effective and engaging.

Scott McAllister and Eddy Vanoosthuyse

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

ClarinetFest Day 3

Rachel here.  I got up early on Friday at ClarinetFest to hear the recital of music for clarinet and electronics.  Stephan Vermeerch performed two pieces by Jane Brockman along with one of his own that utilized sensors.  After a couple pieces for clarinet and CD by Christy Banks and Gail Zugger, Matthew Miracle performed two interactive works for bass clarinet and computer.  Shovelhead by Steven Snowden was a definite highlight, with volume-sensitive effects triggered by the bass clarinet, and sounds such as a woman laughing and a Harley-Davidson motorcycle integrated in intriguing ways.

I then went to hear Dennis Nygren and John Weigand speak about the teaching of Robert Marcellus.  The discussion was interspersed with fascinating audio samples of Marcellus himself teaching, though they were hard to understand at times and a transcription would have been nice.  During the presentation it was noted that Northwestern plans to make these recordings publicly available on its website in the future -- we'll let you know as soon as they do!

Marcellus Lecture

One of the more interesting parts of the discussion centered on Marcellus' teaching of the "prepared fingers" or "legato fingers" technique.  With audience members contributing information, it was concluded that while Marcellus initially taught that you should straighten the finger and raise it very high before slowly bringing it down (the way Bonade taught it), at some point he decided it was better to keep the finger curved and began to teach it that way.

After enjoying breakfast and coffee at the complementary breakfast bar generously offered by the Embassy Hotel, I (Kellie) headed over to the 10:30am morning recital entitled "Dreaming, Dancing, Delighting."  The program featured works that evoked moods or musical styles that played off of the program's title.  Running a little late due to my leisurely breakfast, I entered the Kimball Recital Hall just in time to hear the third piece on the program, Richard Rodney Bennett's Ballad in Memory of Shirley Horn, and I was glad that I had the chance to hear Steven Becraft perform this sensitive and lyrical composition.

Next up was Elizabeth Gunlogson's performance of Don Freund's unaccompanied piece Daydream in A-flat.  Although I (Kellie) was not particularly fond of the piece, Gunlogson demonstrated excellent control in all of the registers despite the gurgling of water caught in a tone hole. Unfortunately, Gunlogson had an extreme case of excess water due the cold temperature of the hall and had to blow out the water multiple times, almost to the point of severe distraction.  The next two performers, Martin Castillos (recently appointed as the ICA National Chairperson for Uruguay) and Rebecca Rischin both played separate Fantasia pieces by Carlos Estrada and Ramon Carnicer y Batlle, respectfully. 

Rebecca Rischin

Malena McLaren performance of Miguel Yuste's Leyenda, danza y lamento, Op.72, took the mood from the light and capricious nature of the Fantasias to a more dreamy-like state.  McLaren's expressiveness and warm tone brought life and excitement to the piece.
Malena McLaren

Sometimes during public performances, musicians experience technical difficulties out of their control.  During his performance of Michael Finnissy's unaccompanied piece Uzundara, clarinetist Gregory Oakes's music was blown off the stands and fell to the floor.  Oakes was forced to set down his instrument on the piano and quickly gathered the handful of pages scattered across the floor. Once all of the music was put back in order, Oakes picked up right where he left off playing in the music, unfazed by technical mishap.  This contemporary pieces requires ultimate control of pitch, especially in the altissimo register and Oakes did a superb job of playing these passages at the softest dynamics possible.

One of highlights of the morning recital (and of the festival overall) was the performance of two pieces given by the Ironwood Trio with Jana Starling on E-flat, Leslie Moreau on B-flat, and Anne Watson on bass clarinet.  Starting with David Snow's Hasana Tanz, the group felt right at home with the Klezmer elements of the piece right up until the end of the composition where the cutesy ending incited a few giggles from the audience. Not only did this trio get the audience's feet tapping to some of the latin and tropical beats in the second piece by Jorge Montilla, but they also wowed everyone with their ensemble precision.  They definitely looked like they were having fun and the audience felt it too!  With their music selections and their dazzling performance, the Ironwood Trio brings a vitality and freshness often missing from performances of new music.  We look forward to hearing more from them in the future!

Ironwood Trio: Jana Starling, Leslie Moreau, and Anne Watson

The afternoon recital "Low, Lyrical, and Luscious" was a program dedicated solely to the bass clarinet repertoire.  The recital had a nice mixture of contemporary and classical compositions. Steve Hanusofski's performance of Derek Bermel's Sonata Humana was touching, followed by Anthony J. Costa's wonderful performance of AS IF by Patrice Sciortino.

Anthony J. Costa

The recital concluded with the bass clarinet duo Sqwonk (Jeff Anderle and Jonathan Russell) performing Ryan Brown's Knee Gas (On) and Russell's own arrangement of J.S. Bach's Toccata and Fugue in D Minor, BWV 565.  Not only did the duo play with impeccable attention to intonation in both pieces, but they also were able to transform their timbre to sound like a real organ during the Bach arrangement. Regularly-scheduled artists at ClarinetFests of years past, these two performers are familiar faces to concert goers and also to Clarinet Cache, where they are featured in our blog post from 2008.  This concert was the second of three great performances that the two men were featured in during the festival.  Immediately after the concert, audience members lined up outside to talk with the duo and purchase T-shirts and CDs.

Sqwonk Bass Clarinet Duo: Jonathan Russell and Jeff Anderle
Sqwonk Bass Clarinet Duo outside Kimball Recital Hall

The afternoon master class was presented by Jessica Phillips Rieske, Acting Principal of the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra.  Here, she listened to four very talented young players giving them advice on finger motion and pressure; articulation changes to facilitate the musical flow of passages; using imagery to help understand the music better; and to add variations to repeated passages to help break up monotony within phrases.  At the beginning of the master class, one audience member brought attention to a slight buzzing sound of someone's metronome going off in the background. Unfortunately, the source of the sound could not be located and we had to disregard and tune out the distracting noise. 

Jessica Phillips Rieske Master Class

The theme of the Friday evening concert was that of various duos accompanied by the Omaha Symphonic Winds.  Unfortunately, the level of playing of the band was not up to par, and many of the featured soloists had a hard time keeping up with the conductor's fluctuating tempi and overall pitch problems.  First on the program was Mendelssohn's Concertpiece No.2 in D minor played by MUC Laura Grantier on clarinet and TSgt J. Blake Arrington on basset horn.  Although Arrington had to contend with a problem with his instrument while on stage, he nonetheless kept playing through the technical glitch and both musicians managed to play their best despite the circumstances.

Next, Robert Spring and bassoonist Albie Micklich performed Damian Montano's Double Concerto. Although the ensemble seemed to fit better within the interplays between the two soloists in the music, the inadequate musicianship of the group downplayed what would have been an otherwise good performance.

Clarinetist SFC Cheryl Ani and her sister MU1 Cindy Wolverton then played Amilcare Ponchielli's Il Convegno: Divertimento.  This well-known piece is a great work highlighting the virtuosity of both clarinetists; however, the audience could sense the unease of the soloists as they tried to interact with the conductor of band. 

Soloists SFC Cheryl Ani and MU1 Cindy Wolverton
The program continued with the Sqwonk Bass Clarinet Duo presenting a world premiere of the wind ensemble arrangement of Sqwonk member Jonathan Russell's Bass Clarinet Double Concerto.  It is a testament to Russell's writing and the assertive playing of the duo that this work was the most successful on the program.  The work showcased the talent of the Omaha Symphonic Winds percussion section and utilized the darker colors of the group to complement the soloists.

Finally, the program ended with SSgt Christopher Grant on E-flat clarinet and GySgt Michelle Urzynicok on clarinet performing Luigi Bassi's Gran Duetto Concertante.  After finishing an excellent performance of such a technically challenging piece, the two soloists exited the stage only to be followed back on stage by all of performers to play an encore.  It was a great sight to see all of the military and professional clarinetists unite for an encore performance of Flight of the Bumblebee, and brought back memories of ClarinetFest 2012 in Los Angeles when Alcides Rodriguez, Stanley Drucker, and others performed a group rendition of the piece.

GySft Michelle Urzynicok and SSgt Christopher Grant
Encore performance by all of the soloists

Friday, August 3, 2012

Clarinet Fest Day 2

The second day of the festival started bright and early at 8:30am with a Horizon Highlights recital featuring music for clarinet and percussion.  The program began with clarinetist Karem J. Simon's energetic flourishes in Alexina Louie's four-movement work Cadenzas, followed by John Allemeier's Like Gravity, a piece written for clarinet, violin, cello, and marimba.  Faculty members and clarinetist Jesse Krebs from Truman State University immediately slowed the pace of the program with their wonderful performance of this dark and sonorous piece.  The recital ended with David Carter performing works with marimba on both soprano and bass clarinet.  Although we left before his final piece, Carter and percussionist Ricardo Coelho de Souza demonstrated impeccable ensemble precision, which is always a challenge in this type of ensemble.

Larry Guy's lecture about Daniel Bonade was a fascinating tour of Bonade's most important contributions to clarinet pedagogy.  Guy discussed Bonade's concepts of tone production, embouchure support, legato fingers, and phrasing in great detail.  He also had audio examples of Bonade performing with the Philadelphia Orchestra, illustrating each concept with the playing of the master himself.

In a subsequent platform dedicated to Bonade, Shannon Thompson's presentation on the evolution and attainment of Bonade's signature sound traced the orchestral aesthetics established with his appointment to the Philadelphia Orchestra.  Thompson covered equipment Bonade used over the years and his influence and control on his students' own setup.  After following the evolution of mouthpiece and barrel modifications, she also addressed how Robert Marcellus carried on Bonade's teaching legacy through his own teaching philosophy.  Thompson's wonderfully edited power point presentation included rare video footage of Marcellus giving master classes.  Although the audio was a bit hard to hear at times, it was a real treat to see and hear him teach!

The pedagogy round table with Deborah Chodacki, Denise Gainey, Larry Guy, and Richard MacDowell continued the discussion of the legacy of teachers of Bonade's generation.  The conversation began with anecdotes about the confrontational teaching style of oboist Marcel Tabuteau, professor of woodwinds at Curtis, and Kalmen Opperman.  Gainey related what Opperman said to her in her first lesson: "You don't know a g-d damn thing about the clarinet!"

Pedagogy round table
 Other stories involved Tabuteau and teachers trained by him who would purposely smash students' reeds, saying "I built my career on my second-best reed!"  This approach of belittlement and emotional manipulation was experienced by many students of that generation of teachers, but the panel agreed that it is no longer acceptable to teach that way today, even if you wanted to.  Chodacki summed things up on that topic by saying that even though these famous teachers conveyed valuable concepts, it was possible to teach these concepts effectively without the fear.

The discussion also touched on how involved teachers should be in their students' lives, from addressing psychological problems to being friends on Facebook. The audience had quite a laugh when Chodacki attempted to imagine what Robert Marcellus' Facebook page would look like!

One of the afternoon concerts featured french clarinetist Sabrina Moulai performing standard pieces by Francaix, Schumann, and Rossini.  Dazzling the audience with her velvety tone and flawless technique, Moulai's musical sensibilities and subtle rubatos made every phrase come alive.

Sabrina Moulai

On a separate program, Czech clarinetist Karel Dohnal brought house down with his performance Karlheinz Stockhausen's Harlekin for Solo Clarinet.  For almost forty-five minutes, Karel captivated the audience with his choreographed acrobatic moves, hilarious facial expressions, and his everlasting stamina-all while playing the clarinet!

Karel Dohnal
 We're both playing in Ben Stonaker's piece 44 Contras on Sunday, so we then headed to a very interesting first rehearsal for that piece!

44 Contras rehearsal
Next, we took advantage of the nightly manager's reception at the Embassy Suites, where people mingled and talked while groups comprised of clarinet enthusiasts performed in the beautiful atrium.

Manager's reception
In the evening, we heard Corrado Giuffredi and friends perform an unusual and delightful program.  Accordionist Cesare Chiacchiaretta stole the show with his animated, virtuosic accordion playing.  The duo of Giuffredi and Chiacchiaretta performed pieces by Rota, Piazzola and others, captivating the audience with moments of great restraint alternating with great passion.  Morales joined them for a sparkling performance of Mendelssohn's Concertpiece No. 2, and the program ended with two pieces played by the ClarinetFest Bass Clarinet Ensemble, with Klezmer soloist, David Krakauer.  Just as the performers were exiting the stage and the audience was ready to leave, Chiacchiaretta re-enters the stage with his accordion followed by Guiffredi for an encore.  As a second encore, Krakauer joins the duo on stage and the two clarinetists begin to duel.  Only after countless wailings of high notes thrown back and forth between the two players does the night finish with a (second) standing ovation.
ClarinetFest Bass Clarinet Ensemble

Thursday, August 2, 2012

ClarinetFest: Day 1

ClarinetFest 2012 in Lincoln, Nebraska has begun! 

We both arrived Wednesday evening, so if you have comments about activities earlier in the day feel free to comment below.  And if you see us around the festival, we hope you'll come up and say hi!  Here's a picture of us outside one of the venues on the University of Nebraska-Lincoln campus.

 I (Rachel) arrived just in time for the nightly reception at the Embassy Suites.  The hotel is kind enough to provide a free reception with drinks and snacks for all ClarinetFest goers, not just those staying in their hotel.  I had a chance to catch up with some old friend from Michigan State, and make some new ones too!

The evening concert I attended featured the Italian clarinetist Antonio Tinelli, whose program included pieces by Nino Rota as well as an arrangement of Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue for clarinet and piano.  He won the crowd over with his commentary in between pieces, starting off by saying in his thick Italian accent: "My American is terrible... my English... also terrible!"

Tinelli had a beautiful pianissimo sound, though it was drowned out by the piano at times.  Aside from a few intonation issues in the altissimo register, Tinelli's performance was charming and full of personality.  In the Gershwin, which was arranged by Timofei Dokshizer, these Italian players played in a confident, bluesy American style.

I ran into conference host Diane Barger and her artistic team (pictured below) at the concert.  If you see them, be sure to thank them for organizing what is turning out to be an incredibly successful and enjoyable ClarinetFest!

Check back for more daily updates.  For live information updated throughout the day, follow us on Twitter: @clarinetcache.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Clarinets in the Edinburgh University Collection of Historic Musical Instruments

Sir Nicholas Shackleton (1937-2006) made invaluable contributions to the study of the development of the clarinet, and after his death his collection of over 800 historic clarinets as well as other instruments were bequeathed to the University of Edinburgh.  On the university's website are numerous close-up photographs of rare and early clarinets, along with a historical overview of the technical developments and innovations made to the clarinet.  The Shackleton collection was inaugurated during the 2007 Clarinet and Woodwind Colloquium where several early-music specialists such as Colin Lawson, Alan Hacker, and Antony Pay performed and lectured.  Check out John Robert Brown's report on the musical events, presentations, and recitals from the colloquium here

Saturday, July 7, 2012

ClarinetFest 2012 Playlist

We're starting to get excited about ClarinetFest 2012 in Lincoln, NE!  To help get you pumped up, we've created a Spotify playlist including many of the clarinetists that will be featured at the conference.  Spotify is a free music streaming service that is great for checking out new artists.  However, it pays performing artists very little, so if you like what you hear be sure to purchase an album online or at ClarinetFest to support the artists!  Enjoy!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Clarinet Corner (June 2012 column)

Clarinet Corner is a unique radio program dedicated solely to the promotion of clarinet music (not to be confused with Sherman Friedland’s clarinet advice web site Clarinet Corner--featured in our March 2009 column). Broadcast on Troy University Public Radio, each week host Timothy Phillips plays recordings by various clarinetists, occasionally incorporating interviews with the featured artists. Phillips also has a Facebook page which lists past guest artists and recordings played. To find a sampling of past broadcasts, visit the social sound platform SoundCloud where Phillips has uploaded several episodes of Clarinet Corner.  In our interview with Phillips, he talks more about his show and what’s in store for future broadcasts.

Clarinet Cache: What inspired you to start a radio show about the clarinet?

Timothy Phillips: Well, first of all, I should make it clear that I’m not really a radio personality by trade and this is actually my first time doing anything like this. When I was hired as the clarinet professor at Troy University several years ago, I noticed that some of my music colleagues had radio shows. Their shows were quite different from each other too; one of them was called Band World and featured concert band music, and the other was called Opus 3 and featured more traditional art music. When Band World stopped being produced, there became a desire for another good local program.

One of my colleagues is a composer who loves the clarinet and whose work I have played at International ClarinetFests® in the past. His name is Carl Vollrath, and he comes to my office all the time to ask me what I’ve been listening to. He’s always interested in hearing what’s new in the world of clarinet music and recordings. I think some of these new sounds often lead him into his own compositional process. Anyway, Carl knows I have many, many clarinet CDs and he was the one who suggested to me that I should replace Band World with my own show. I approached the public radio station here about doing that and they were open to the idea.

At first, I joked that I was the worst radio personality ever, but that the music was good enough to balance it out! I think I’ve improved a little bit when it comes to being a radio host; but, I’m consistently happy with the music I play. I try to touch on all areas of clarinet playing, from chamber music, to solo
repertoire, to jazz. The clarinet is such a versatile instrument, I don’t think I’ll ever run out of fascinating material. Perhaps most, I’ve been happy to see the surprise of the radio station directors, who probably didn’t realize that the clarinet could “hold its own” as the focus of a weekly show. Now, I hope I’m gaining clarinet fans not only in Alabama, but around the world as well because you can listen to the show online in HD (high definition).

CC: How long has the program been on the air?

TP: Clarinet Corner started in the fall of 2010, not even two full years yet. But in that short time, I’ve played over 100 clarinetists and composers, and I’ve interviewed some of my favorite people in the clarinet world. And perhaps my favorite thing about Clarinet Corner is it allows me to introduce new music and personalities to my listeners. I promise you that next year’s Clarinet Corner will feature music that hasn’t even been recorded yet. That makes it very exciting for me because I love hearing new things. I also like to pay tribute to great clarinetists of the past sometimes too.

CC: How do you decide on your topics for each week?

TP: It depends. Sometimes I play recordings I love that I just haven’t had a chance to play yet. Sometimes I play something one of my students is working on and I give them a shout out, and suggest that they practice! And often, I get new recordings from the artists themselves and I either play their music for the entire show, or I do a combination of music clips and an interview. No matter what, I try to vary the content of the show from week to week, from jazz, to Baroque music, etc. I’m always looking for new ideas though. So, if anyone would like to have their music considered for Clarinet Corner, please send me a CD at: Timothy Phillips, 227 Smith Hall, University Avenue, Troy University, Troy, Alabama 36082.

CC: Do your interviews require any preparation?

TP: Yes. Although many of my interviewees are friends and I have followed their careers carefully, I always want to make sure I get all the facts right before I start asking questions. Oftentimes newly recorded music is brand new to me too. I often read biographies of the composers, the performers, and I research the type of music being played before I do the interview. The show is short: only 24 and a half minutes each week. Yet, I think I do about an hour of preparation for each show.

CC: Are all of the past episodes of Clarinet Corner available online in podcast form?

TP: They are not, yet. There have been some questions about the legality of doing that because most of the recordings I play are copyrighted and available for purchase. If I were to allow them to be heard at any time, I’m not sure if that would be a violation. Although, I know that it’s possible to hear all kinds of music on YouTube all the time. It would be great if I could talk to someone who could guide me down the path to providing a podcast for the show. I know I have many interested listeners around the world. And as it is now, the only way to listen is to tune in to Troy University Public Radio here in Alabama or online at 5:35pm Central time on Sundays. I have a Facebook page with information about the show where I provide weekly updates about what I’ll play. Also, I have a gallery featuring pictures of every clarinetist I’ve played, including some prominent non-clarinetists who are well-known in the clarinet world, such as pianist extraordinaire Gail Novak and composer and ClarinetFest regular Howard Buss. Marie Ross recently provided me with a great photo gallery of historical clarinets for the Facebook page to accompany my shows featuring her.

CC: Do you have any memorable moments from the show that you would like to share?

TP: When I started Clarinet Corner I thought it was a show that had many possibilities, but I hadn’t clearly determined where I wanted to go with it yet. I think options are still open, as I find myself playing all types of music and focusing on great performers from several areas. Some memorable moments have been: my interview with Anthony McGill when we talked about his new CD and his performance at Obama’s Inauguration, my first overseas telephone interview where I interviewed Florent Héau from Paris, and my first in-studio interview with Steven Cohen and his son Jonathan. Perhaps my favorite thing about the show is playing new CDs and recordings that are not published. There are many great clarinetists who do not have published CDs. And listening to live recordings is something I really enjoy. They’re imperfect, yet that makes them perfect to me, in a way. Also, following the careers and music of so many in the clarinet world keeps me musically inspired and makes me want to work harder on my own clarinet playing.

CC: Do you have any future plans for Clarinet Corner?

TP: As I look at my pile of new CDs here and consider what will be on in the coming months, I see Wonkak Kim’s new recording of Devienne Sonatas that has been released by Naxos, Shirley Brill’s new recording of Françaix and Prokofiev with the National Radio Orchestra of Romania, and Sergio Bosi’s recording called Italian Clarinet Gems. I also have plans to do a show featuring the artistry of Don Byron. But, there are so many weeks in a year and so much musical ground that is possible to cover. So, send me suggestions and recordings, clarinet world! I’d love to hear from you.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

I.C.A. Announces Election Results

The International Clarinet Association has announced the results of its 2012 Officers Election:

President-Elect: Maxine Ramey
Secretary: Caroline Hartig
Treasurer: Tod Kerstetter

Congratulations to Maxine, Caroline, and Tod, and many thanks for their willingness to serve the I.C.A. as officers!

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Scott McAllister: Epic Concerto

Most clarinetists by now are familiar with the music of clarinetist/composer Scott McAllister. His X Concerto and Black Dog have become practically standard repertoire for adventurous performers in the U.S.!  His new work, Epic Concerto for clarinet and piano, was commissioned by a group of eleven clarinetists.

In a post on her blog Clarineticus Intergalacticus, Kristen Mather describes the work as follows:
The piece draws inspiration from McAllister’s life experiences as a clarinetist and composer, including traditional warm-up exercises, orchestral excerpts, composer Aaron Copland, clarinet legend Robert Marcellus, folk singer Richie Haven’s High Flyin’ Bird, and even the late pop icon Michael Jackson. This will certainly be a performance worthy of the title Epic, and is not to be missed!
The premiere of Epic Concerto by Tim Sutfin will be broadcast live from the U.S. Army Band website on Tuesday, April 10 at 7:30 PM (presumably Eastern Standard Time).

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Contemporary Clarinet (March 2012 Column)

In this column, we decided to explore sites relating to extended techniques and other pedagogical resources pertaining to contemporary performance practice. The list of sources below caters to players of all levels of experience with new music. Even readers unfamiliar with the various extended techniques are sure to find a site that will pique their interest -- or at least inspire them to experiment with new sonic possibilities on the clarinet.

The Clarinet of the Twenty-First Century
"The Clarinet of the Twenty-First Century" is a web site that accompanies and supplements E. Michael Richards’ 1992 book The Clarinet of the Twenty-First Century: New Sonic Resources Based on Principles of Acoustics.   A password is needed to access all features of the site, but an incredible amount of information excerpted from the book is available for free.  Other resources (such as books by Rehfeldt and Farmer) offer fingerings for multiphonics and quarter tones, but Richards’ book is unique in that he explores the acoustical theory behind fingering choices and multiphonics.  He even includes spectrogram analyses of fingerings to determine the presence or absence of harmonics.  

This web site offers soprano, bass, and E-flat clarinet fingering charts of alternate fingerings, quarter-tones and microtones, microtonal scale patterns, and multiphonics.  Exercises and etudes with MP3 musical examples further illustrate the extended techniques.  For the full text, including the complete multiphonic fingering chart, clarinetists will have to refer to the print version of the book, although we had difficulty obtaining the revised 2009 version.  

Advanced Contemporary Techniques for the Clarinet
For a “method book” approach to extended techniques, take a look at Adam Berkowitz’s e-book Advanced Contemporary Techniques for the Clarinet.  Unlike other books that attempt to be comprehensive, Berkowitz’s book focuses on four techniques: double tonguing, circular breathing, singing while playing, and multiphonics.  Each technique is defined clearly and simply with exercises provided so that the player can try things out along the way. Berkowitz also notes ways in which learning these techniques can positively affect a player’s traditional clarinet technique.  

A few typos are distracting, and the four etudes require some techniques not described in the book.  However, Advanced Contemporary Techniques for the Clarinet is a solid choice for those looking for a friendly, pedagogical approach to extended techniques. The book is $19.95, but individual chapters can be purchased for $5.95 - a great option if you are interested in learning a specific technique.  On a side note, Berkowitz’s 2011 ClarinetFest® presentation could serve as a free “preview” of the concepts used in his book.

Clarinet Multiphonics
For readers not familiar with the fundamental properties of how multiphonics work, Nicolas del Grazia’s web site “Clarinet Multiphonics” offers an interactive guide explaining the phenomenon. Complete with animated diagrams depicting the various patterns of oscillation created by the air column inside the bore, the site gives viewers insight to the scientific principles behind multiphonics and offers wonderfully constructed visual representations. His concise explanations for sound production of multiphonics are a great introduction for clarinetists experimenting with extended techniques.  Not only does the site provide a database of over 250 multiphonics, but the annotated entries include sound bites, assigned difficulty levels, and dynamic ranges.  Del Grazia has made the site easy to navigate, making this a great resource for both performers and composers researching extended techniques.  

Le Paradoxe de la Clarinette
Alain Séve’s e-book Le Paradoxe de la Clarinette is a great resource about multiphonics and quarter-tones for our French-speaking readers.  (Others can use a translation tool such as Google Translate to get a rough idea of the text.)  The book, which can be read online, downloaded in PDF form, or ordered in print, covers the theory of multiphonics and includes quarter-tone and multiphonic fingering charts for both clarinet and bass clarinet.

Woodwind Fingering Guide
For quick references for fingerings and trills on Boehm-, Albert-, and Oehler-system clarinets, and even the Three-Key Kinderklarinette, the Woodwind Fingering Guide at Woodwind.org offers a multitude of easy-to-read charts. Unfortunately, the section dedicated to multiphonics is limited and readers may find some of the sites mentioned above to be of more value.  However, the listings for quarter-tone fingerings for Albert- and Oehler-system clarinets are quite extensive and worth looking into.  Supplying reader with notes higher than the usual range of C7 given by most fingering charts, the possibilities listed for the very high altissimo notes (up to Bb7!) seem endless. The site also provides fingering charts for Boehm-system alto, bass, and contra bass clarinets--a wealth of information compiled by Timothy Reichard into one source.

Fingering Diagram Builder
Bret Pimentel’s Fingering Diagram Builder is a great tool for composer/clarinetist collaborations.  It allows the user to easily create a great graphic for any fingering and save it as a PNG or TIFF file.  You can even save directly to a Dropbox folder--very useful when working with multiphonics, where a composer typically includes fingerings in the score.  Teachers may even wish to utilize the Fingering Diagram Builder to create documents for students about resonance fingerings or altissimo fingerings.  Pimentel offers versions for standard and full-Boehm clarinet as well as student and professional bass clarinet.  

What a Mullerful World
An expert on the Bohlen-Pierce (BP) clarinet and also a contemporary blogger, Nora-Louise Müller is one of five professional musicians who play this obscure instrument. On her blog “What a Mullerful World” she writes about her endeavors performing on the instrument and presenting it to new audiences. Created by Stephen Fox in 2006, the BP clarinet utilizes an alternative harmonic system discovered by Heinz Bohlen and John R. Pierce during the 1970s and 1980s.  This new type of scale is derived from dividing a perfect twelfth into thirteen steps, in which the twelfth now functions like an octave and serves as a tonal reference point in the scale.  

The BP clarinet has less keys and simpler mechanisms than traditional models, but still employs the same fingerings as the Boehm-system clarinet. Despite its alternative harmonic chords and more consonant intervals, the BP clarinet has a limited scope of multiphonics possible. For more details and pictures of this instrument, including others in the BP clarinet family, visit her blog.  

Website List:

The Clarinet of the Twenty-First Century (E. Michael Richards)

Advanced Contemporary Techniques for the Clarinet (Adam Berkowitz)

Clarinet Multiphonics (Nicolas del Grazia)

Le Paradoxe de la Clarinette (Alain Sève)

The Woodwind Fingering Guide

Bret Pimentel’s Fingering Diagram Builder

What a Mullerful World (Nora-Louise Müller)