Saturday, September 6, 2014

A Guide to Bass Clarinet on the Web (Sept. 2014 column)

For this special bass clarinet-themed issue of The Clarinet, we created an annotated guide to some of the best online bass clarinet resources.

International Bass Clarinet Research Center
One of the most exciting bass clarinet projects on the web today is the International Bass Clarinet Research Center (Centro Internazionale di Ricerca sul Clarinetto Basso, or CIRCB). This website essentially attempts to gather any and all information relating to the bass clarinet and make it accessible to users in an easily searchable and sortable database of annotated listings and primary sources. There are versions in English, French, German and Italian.

The project’s stated goals are to increase insight into the history and the evolution of the bass clarinet and to stimulate biographical and historical study of players and their works. To that end, the contributors have created a database with more than 7,300 compositions and more than 100 recordings. The catalog of repertoire is easily searchable and includes a discography and publisher for each work. There is also an annotated bibliography of bass clarinet books sortable by subject, as well as dissertations, full-text articles, and scans of original manuscripts for older works featuring the bass clarinet like Verdi’s La Forza del Destino, with much of this material available for download. At CIRCB you can even find information about patents relating to the bass clarinet and a catalog of early models of the bass clarinet. And if you’re not looking for something specific, the homepage includes featured recordings and videos so you can start exploring.

Italian clarinetists Stefano Cardo, Elisa Marchetti, Alessandro Monitillo and Roberto Bocchio launched CIRCB in 2010, and it has since gained contributors like Albert Rice and Keith Bowen, and a video endorsement by Harry Spaarnay. These individuals are to be commended for creating a website that is not only an invaluable resource, but also aesthetically pleasing and well-organized. The sheer wealth of information and ease of use only makes us wish for a similar website for the soprano clarinet.

Jason Alder
Jason Alder’s personal website, JasonAlder.com, has a snazzy interface that first greets viewers with layered tracks of bass clarinet sounds, and with the option to view the site with a high or low-speed connection. Alder is an American clarinetist and bass clarinetist residing in Amsterdam and specializing in new and contemporary music. He has created an extensive quarter-tone fingering chart for Buffet instruments available in PDF format. Multiple links to his videos and recordings on his homepage include music from several ensembles that he collaborates with, including the group Payazen!, a “psychedelic klezmer-jazz band,” where you can hear him wail on the bass clarinet. Alder’s blog is full of helpful, in-depth information including updates about his current projects and reviews of technical gear such as clip microphones. Alder has a knack for writing and his blog narratives are a pleasure to read.

Sauro Berti 
Sauro Berti, bass clarinetist of the Teatro dell’Opera di Roma, has a commendable website at www.SauroBerti.it with downloadable files of bass clarinet sheet music, as well as audio and video files of Berti performing on soprano clarinet, bass clarinet, and basset horn. In the “downloads” section you can find the introductory page and first etude of his book, Venti studi, which contains exercises tailored to the specific needs of the bass clarinet and basset horn that other standard method books fail to address. His links to both a reed strength chart and a bass clarinet mouthpiece comparison chart prove helpful in comparing commercial reed strength variances and in corresponding facing measurements of many factory-made and handcrafted mouthpieces. For full access to all of the components on Berti’s website, viewers can register on the site for free. And for readers not fluent in Italian, we recommend using an Internet browser that easily allows translation of websites, such as Google Chrome. Although activity on his website and blog has remained dormant for the past few years, we hope that Berti will continue to add more valuable content in the near future.

Michael Lowenstern
We reviewed Michael Lowenstern’s website at Earspasm.com back in our December 2008 column, but a lot has changed since then -- and we would expect nothing less from Lowenstern, whose talent at the bass clarinet is equaled only by his talent for web design. He recently recorded the classic Voxman bass clarinet solo book, the Rubank Concert & Contest Collection, and made the recordings available for free download from his website. Registering to the site for free also allows access to download PDF scores and MP3s of music by Lowenstern and others. He also has a great blog, and bass clarinetists owe it to themselves to explore Lowenstern’s YouTube channel, with about 2,000 subscribers and 40 videos in his “So You Want to Be a Bass Clarinet Player” series.

Edward S. Palanker
Edward S. Palanker, bass clarinetist with the Baltimore Symphony and retired from teaching at the Peabody Conservatory, has written many articles for The Clarinet over the years. He has made these articles available on his website Eddiesclarinet.com, where his section on bass clarinet includes some great information about orchestral excerpts for bass and what can be expected at a bass clarinet orchestra audition.

The [Bass] Clarinet of the 21st Century 
E. Michael Richards’ book The Clarinet of the Twenty-First Century, mentioned in our March 2012 column on contemporary clarinet resources, is available online and has a chapter focusing on the bass clarinet. Richards discusses at length the acoustics of the instrument and its extended techniques, with accompanying spectrograms. The chapter includes fingering charts for altissimo, quarter-tones and multiphonics, with examples from contemporary music.

Aber/Lerstad Altissimo Fingerings
Another resource for bass and contrabass clarinet altissimo fingerings is a website with articles and charts by Thomas Aber and Terje Lerstad. Aber’s bass clarinet chart encompasses fingerings from C-sharp3 to C5; Lerstad’s contrabass chart ranges from C-sharp3 to an impressive G6. Both charts indicate which fingerings work best on different makes of low clarinets.

The Woodwind Fingering Guide 
Timothy Reichard’s altissimo Boehm-system finger chart for alto, bass, and contrabass clarinets at Woodwind.org is easy to read, with commentary on pitch tendencies. Although Reichard’s chart does not reach as high as Aber and Lerstad’s fingering charts, the layout and clean format of the chart makes it a go-to resource for players and teachers alike.

Alea Publishing
Alea Publishing at Bassclarinet.org is a company that specializes in bass clarinet sheet music. Created by the group “Duo Alea,” bass clarinetist Michael Davenport and pianist Kimberly Davenport, the website contains a large inventory of bass clarinet music available for purchase. In 1998 they began to compile what is now an extensive bibliography of bass clarinet compositions of solo works, chamber ensembles, concertos, and duet arrangements, with newer works continuously added. An impressive number of entries listed under the “Bass clarinet with tape/electronics” section illustrates how popular this genre of instrumentation was three or four decades ago, with the main group of compositions dating back to the last quarter of the twentieth century. One great feature of the bibliography is the option to purchase music directly from Alea Publishing within the entries (when applicable). Another useful component is the classified section, a wonderful platform for those wanting to buy or sell bass clarinet-related items.

IMSLP
IMSLP.org is always a great resource for public domain sheet music, and it has a mixture of newer original works for bass clarinet and and older transcriptions. Just look under “Instrumentation/Genre” and find the bass clarinet category under “Featured Instruments.”

Contrabass.com 
The Octocontrabass page at Grant D. Green's fascinating site Contrabass.com has a collection of information on the lowest of the low wind instruments.

NewBassClarinetGroup
All you need is a Yahoo! login to join a fairly active Yahoo! group called “NewBassClarinetGroup” with many knowledgeable contributors.

Let us know if we missed any important bass clarinet website and we'll add them to the list.


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