I just got back from a fantastic week at the International Double Reed Society annual conference at Brigham Young University. The IDRS folks really know how to put on a great event, better than any of the various other instrumental organizations whose conferences I’ve attended. They seem to draw lots of high-caliber talent to perform and lecture, and everything is always impeccably organized. And being both an oboist and a bassoonist, IDRS is a nice two-for-one deal for me.
If you’re not familiar with the Larry Krantz Flute Pages, you need to surf right on over and spend a few hours. Mr. Krantz has been building a major hub for web-connected flutists since back before many of us knew about the Internet. His site is a positively huge repository of flute-related wisdom, including contributed content by the likes of Trevor Wye, John Wion, and Robert Dick.
Mr. Krantz was a doubler in years past, apparently quite accomplished on flute, clarinet, and saxophone, and at least a dabbler in oboe. Nearly twenty years ago, however, he decided to give up doubling to focus on his flute playing.
Mr. Krantz discusses his decision at some length here, in excerpts from discussions on the FLUTE mailing list. While he speaks fondly of his years as a doubler, and points out many of the benefits of doubling, his ultimate conclusion was that doubling was not for him. The primary reason he gives for this decision is that, in his admittedly well-qualified opinion, it simply isn’t possible to maintain a truly fine embouchure on multiple instruments.
Some, but fortunately not all, of these are mistakes I have made myself.
Another question that I am frequently asked as a woodwind doubler is, “Which instrument is your favorite?”
My answer to this is simple.
If it’s a good day, then my favorite is the one I’m playing.
If it’s a bad day, then my favorite is any one but the one I’m playing.
I’m spending the summer studying for my doctoral comprehensive exams. One major component of the exams will be woodwind literature, so I’ve been trying to narrow down lists of really essential pieces. It has been an interesting challenge to select a list long enough to have depth and short enough to be manageable (I’ve was shooting for around 100 pieces total – I’m a little over).
I wanted the list to be a balance of a lot of different things: commonly-taught and commonly-performed literature, pieces of historical import, pieces representing style periods from Baroque to the 21st century, pieces covering a range of difficulty levels, and so forth.
In response to my recent post about woodwind doubling degree programs, someone sent me this question:
My question is, out of that list, do you know of which schools offer multiple woodwinds with a Jazz/Contemporary focus … or at least some focus on jazz?
I checked out most of those pages, but it seems it’s all very classical focused.
Before addressing that question, I think it’s worth saying that if you’re going to be a woodwind doubler, a little jazz background is really valuable.
The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians is widely used by college music students and is regarded by most (for better or for worse) as the unimpeachable source of all musical knowledge. In my studies for upcoming doctoral comprehensive exams, I ran across this in the “Flute” article:
Materials used for the tube and mechanism include nickel-silver, sterling silver, gold and platinum, while the springs are usually of tempered steel or phosphor bronze, occasionally of gold or another metal. The choice of material, especially for the head joint, influences the flute’s tone: wooden flutes produce a rich tone with a very full fortissimo in the lower register; metal flutes produce a limpid, flexible tone with great carrying power and also allow the player very sensitive control over the tone-colour; gold produces a mellow sound while silver is more brilliant. To achieve a combination of these qualities a head joint of wood or gold is sometimes fitted to a tube of silver.
The idea of different materials having different sounds is, of course, seen as conventional wisdom by flutists (and indeed by wind players in general), but it flies in the face of 100 years of acoustical science.