Friday, July 24, 2015

Resources and reading

I wanted to share with you some pages I've found that provide good advice for musicians who travel (including a very helpful run-down of how to deal with the ivory bell issue), a fascinating listing of Henk de Wit's bassoon and art collection, and a biography of a prominent bassoonist from the Vienna Philhamonic's web archive.

Bassoonist, Joey Grimmer has constructed a website devoted to helping musicians who travel. It's a wonderful resource! In it he provides help with itineraries and other issues for the wandering musician. Especially pertinent for instrumentalists whose instruments contain ivory are his instructions for how to deal with US Fisheries and Wildlife officials, etc.

There are differing opinions on what to do with the ivory on your bell, however. Joey's and others' solution of grinding off the ivory and replacing it with a synthetic is just one solution.

Some who don't regularly travel outside of the US are taking a wait-and-see approach, assuming the regulations will either be relaxed for those with musical instruments or more judiciously enforced in the future.

Some repair technicians have had success removing the ivory ring intact and making a substitute. The ivory ring can be refit to the bell when playing in the US. Ken Potsic has had good success with this.

I have retained my ivory bell due to the luxury I have of being part of an organization that has excellent travel staff who have run interference with Customs and Fisheries and Wildlife. As long as I choose not to carry my bassoon with me if I deviate from the orchestra flight back into the US, I'm fine. If I go abroad with my bassoon without the orchestra, however, all bets are off.

Hugo Burghauser, bassoonist

I had lunch with Lenny Hindell, former Second Bassoonist of the New York Philharmonic, last week when we were in NYC for the Lincoln Center Festival. Lenny played a few years in the MET orchestra before joining the Philharmonic. The name Hugo Burghauser came up during our conversation. I knew that Burghauser was the dedicatee of Strauss' Duet Concertino, so I was interested to learn that he had also played in the MET and Lenny knew him.

When I got home I looked up any information about Burghauser I could find. His was a dramatic life. He was a very powerful man in the Vienna Philharmonic while its president and lost everything when Hitler annexed Austria in 1938.

I also searched the excellent Vienna Philharmonic digital archives for his name and found this. To read about Burghauser, scroll down about 2/3rds of the way and look for his name under the "Exile" section on the right. Click on his name and then click on the pdf. 11 pages from the archives give his story.

A rather different take on his political views from the one given on the h-net site above. I wonder which is closer to the truth?

One more for fun!  Please visit this virtual exhibit of the bassoon and art collection of the famous Dutch bassoonist, Henk de Wit.


Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Inspiration and Discipline

I recently read the book, "Band of Brothers", by Stephen E. Ambrose about "Easy" Company and its progress during World War II from parachuting in prior to the D-Day landing in 1944 to the occupation of Hitler's "Eagle's Nest" at the end of the war. I also watched the acclaimed TV series adapted from the book.

The leader of Easy Company was Major Richard D. Winters. His training and discipline is outlined here in a post from the blog, "The Art of Manliness". I love the name of this blog!

Described here is the discipline and mental and physical preparation for sustained battle that he put himself through. While extreme, to say the least, it is certain that this training and a good deal of luck is what got Winters and his men through the D-Day landing, the Battle of the Bulge and many other major conflicts during World War II.

There is much food for thought in these paragraphs. Winters' single-minded, thorough devotion to physical and mental toughness says a lot about his character and maturity.

As musicians, we do not need to subject ourselves to this kind of asceticism, but perhaps there are methods here that can be adapted to our discipline as well.

The job market in the classical performing field is so tight, that a young player must adopt a serious and disciplined regimen for perfecting the art in order to succeed.

Read here about some things I chose to do while in music school in order to achieve success.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Nasty Habits -- Key Noise

As stated in a previous post, it's difficult to get a true picture of how you come across while playing.

The noise made by the mechanism of the bassoon can be very distracting. Sometimes the mechanism in general is noisy. Sometimes it's just one key. The loud clang of metal on metal when a particular note is fingered can be like hearing a piano with a key sticking!

Time spent going to a repair technician or dealing with the noise yourself can be viewed as time away from practicing.  With procrastination, the player can get used to the metallic sound.

I recall times when, after getting my instrument serviced, it seemed as if my sound were smaller due to the newly quieted mechanism. I had become so used to the noise that, to me, it seemed part of my sound!

Given the tough job market for musicians, it's wise to eliminate any aspects of your presentation that might detract from a positive impression. All things being equal -- accuracy, good intonation, good rhythm, musicality, etc., it could come down to a (stupid, yes) thing like a noisy mechanism, or other distraction.

In a day-to-day setting, listening to your clanging keywork can be annoying to colleagues around you!

So, do your colleagues a favor and get your bassoon to a repair technician or quiet it yourself!

In a previous post, my repair technician, Ken Potsic, recommended certain items to keep with you for on the job maintenance.

By the way, what's wrong with the photo above? Anyone want to venture a guess?

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Nasty Habits -- Air Leaking

With this post, I'm starting a new series on a topic I'll call "Nasty Habits".

Much of this blog is devoted to advice for students and young professionals. It is with this in mind that I commence this series.

Embouchure Leaking

The task of playing an instrument well can be so all-encompassing that certain aspects of playing get ignored after a while. Often it takes a teacher or trusted colleague to point out lapses in your technique or notice when you've developed a bad habit.

It's nearly impossible for a bassoonist to hear how she REALLY sounds while playing. What sounds right to the player doesn't usually match up completely with what sounds right to the listener. Since we play for an audience (real or imagined), it is the listener's perspective that the player must keep in mind at all times.

One of the worst habits that some bassoonists develop is the audible leaking of air around the reed from the embouchure. When it becomes habitual, often the player stops noticing it completely!

Telling an otherwise great bassoon player that he is leaking is a bit like telling someone he has bad breath! There is the embarrassment of bringing it up, but usually, the person is glad you did!

I hope we can all agree that the sound of air leaking from the embouchure should not be part of a great bassoon sound!

Here is an article from my website which provides background to the problem and some solutions for plugging the leak.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Density photos

In response to a request, here are photos showing

dry density measurement:


and wet:

Friday, May 8, 2015

Bassoon Music For Sale

I'm selling some gently used bassoon music. 50+ titles. Includes etudes, solo pieces, chamber music, concerti, etc.

Some standard works, some off-the-beaten-path.


Send me an email if you're interested and I'll send you a complete list.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Race training

I haven't blogged about running in quite a while. However, I've managed to keep going in the meantime.

I'll be running the Cleveland Marathon on May 17th. I've been training for it all winter and spring using "Coach Jenny's" training plan.

Jenny is Jenny Hadfield, a running coach. Her website offers free training plans. Since I've run several marathons, I chose her advanced marathon plan.

It is lengthy! Since I was already in decent shape, I jumped in starting at Week 6. I like the gradual nature and the variety of workouts. I'm very bad at cross-training during race training, so this plan makes me get on the bike, rowing machine and hit the weights a couple of times each week.

My long-term goal is to qualify for and run the Boston Marathon again. I ran it in 2009 and qualified again last year. However, we were on tour during the online registration period and it slipped my mind!

Last weekend I ran a training race -- a 10 miler. I decided to run it at my goal marathon race pace -- 8'10" per mile. I am prone to get excited by all the pomp and circumstance at the race start and go out too fast, adrenaline pumping, so this would be a good exercise on pacing myself.

About 1/2 mile from the end of the race we went through a tunnel. I saw a really short little kid running just ahead of a group of four of us adults. This kid was really moving!  I shouted encouragement to the boy and the rest of the adults followed suit.  I ran with him to the finish, inspired by his prowess!

Here we are at the finish line!!