I posted last week about Diane Wood, the federal judge and oboist who is a candidate to fill a soon-to-be vacant seat on the US Supreme Court. (Unsurprisingly, Patty Mitchell, prolific blogger and online curator of all things oboe-related, also picked up the story.)
The oboe isn’t just an instrument; it’s a way of life. … Playing the oboe means living your life entirely at the mercy of tiny wooden double reeds that crack at inopportune moments (weirder and more awful yet, you’re supposed to make them yourself as though you were a 19th century artisan). It also means blowing so hard into them that you risk a brain aneurysm every time you try to hit a high D. It also means you’re a huge nerd.
Federal judge and oboist Diane Wood is reportedly under consideration to fill a Supreme Court vacancy.
Wood has demonstrated a willingness to challenge her fellow jurists without offending, say lawyers and clerks who have observed her in court. Those attributes may be an asset as President Barack Obama considers her to replace retiring Justice John Paul Stevens on an often-divided U.S. Supreme Court…
Wood, 59, who plays oboe in the Chicago Bar Association Symphony Orchestra, was one of four people interviewed by Obama last year before he picked Sotomayor.
The practice grew out of the need for players to cover parts on more than one instrument in the big bands of the 1920’s and 30s, and spread to the pits of Broadway shows and the TV staff orchestras at NBC and CBS. Saxophonists were initially expected to double on the clarinet until it was largely replaced by the flute in the 50’s, as it saw more acceptance in jazz. The 60’s brought new colors, adding oboe and bassoon parts for doublers—or triplers—to deal with, until players such as the legendary Romeo Penque appeared on the New York studio scene prepared to play every woodwind instrument known to man, often in quick succession, a situation further complicated by the re-emergence of the clarinet on the 1980’s. I counted over 20 instruments stacked up in front of the five-piece reed section of the Maria Schneider Orchestra at a recent concert.
The first set was devoted to Vinny Golia and Bertram Turetzky, both of whom have played together in San Diego many times, giving them, as Turetzky announced in one of the generous introductions that preceded each of their 5 selections, a kind of ESP. Unlike Dana Reason, who brought plenty of written music to use (or ignore, as the case may have been) for her set, Golia and Turetzky played freely improvised music.
Golia had so many clarinets, flutes, and saxophones propped up next to him or in a travel bag that Turetzky joked that the real Museum was the one next to Golia. Each work began with Golia pondering which wind to play, making a selection, and then soloing, to be joined shortly afterward by Turetzky. The description of their music making as “ESP” was not far off the mark, given the duo’s uncanny ability to complement each other while spontaneously creating melodies and textures.
Golia has a penchant for playing multiphonics, alternating the highest and lowest registers of his chosen instruments (clarinet, contrabass clarinet, contrabass flute, or piccolo). At other times, he pulled out different varieties of ethnic flutes, from which issued trills, microtones, and spastic twittering melodies.
I think there is a lot of garbage in the way woodwind vibrato—specifically flute and double reed vibrato—is taught.
Flutists, oboists, and bassoonists use the same basic physiological mechanism to produce vibrato. I often read or hear debates over what, exactly, this mechanism is, with some arguing fervently that it is the “diaphragm,” and others insisting that it is the “throat.”
It’s worth pointing out here that a major issue in wind-instrument pedagogy is the fact that so many of the important techniques happen somewhere inside the body where they cannot be easily observed. (Violinists don’t seem to have much disagreement about what part of the body to use for vibrato.)
I am pleased to announce that, after several weeks of exciting and productive talks, I have signed on for an endorsement and development deal with an up-and-coming reed manufacturer. Here’s the official press release:
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 1, 2010
Bret Pimentel Signs On As First FLAVOREEDS™ Artist
FORT WAYNE, Indiana.—FLAVOREEDS™ Flavored Clarinet and Saxophone Reeds, Inc., is pleased to announce the first in what it hopes will be a series of “fruit”ful relationships with professional woodwind players in developing and promoting its new professional line of premium cane instrument reeds.
The first FLAVOREEDS™ Artist to join the roster is multiple woodwind performer and educator Bret Pimentel. Dr. Pimentel has performed with such acts as Dave Brubeck, the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, and the O’Jays, and is currently Assistant Professor of Music at Delta State University. He is an experienced performer on all the major woodwind instruments, and expects to bring this expertise to bear in consulting on new and current product lines.
“As soon as I made a verbal commitment to the company, I forwarded them some thoughts about their new Papaya-Mango Bass Saxophone Reeds™,” Pimentel said in a telephone interview. “I found them to be a little overpowering in the papaya department, with not enough mango. I’m working closely with FLAVOREEDS™ to better balance the flavors.” Continue reading “New endorsement deal”→