Mueller Clarinet

October 1, 2014

IMG_0431Dear Mr. Friedland:
I have just purchased a metal clarinet from an estate sale. I am normally a French Horn player and know very very little about clarinets. I even bought it sight unseen! Now that I have the clarinet, I see that the bell is engraved with a half circle which has all cap letters: “The Empire State” – below the half moon in straight writing, it says, “Designed and made by (next line) Walter W. Mueller (next line) Long Island City, NY. On the back, above the bell there is engraved the number 469. The number is also above the cork on the top piece. It looks as though the instrument may have been black originally, but has been worn to the metal. I’ve been trying to research this specific clarinet but am having trouble with this exact one.

I came across your website when trying to find information on this clarinet. I am wondering if I might have found a treasure, or simply a fairly old, very well used, metal clarinet.

I did notice that in 2010, Walter W Mueller sent a note which you posted about being in his grandfather’s shop at 6 or 7 years old and putting the gold crayon in the name for embossing.

Can you shed any light on my new acquisition? Thank you so much for taking the time to have a place for questions on your website.

Betty Johnson
Mapleton, Minnesota

Ridenour’s Low C Bass

September 29, 2014

lowCbassI have been a clarinetist for almost as long as I can remember, about 65 years, which may have some pertinence to some. As a 15 year old kid in Brookline, Mass, Dick Greenfield , a gifted horn player, and my friend, used to go up to the Band room in Brookline High School, and , we’d just “hang out” as the popular parlance goes. (or, has it gone, yet again?). Corley, our band director gave us the keys,with which went free access.

We’d play warmups of orchestral passages, which we knew, for each other, and then we would go into the cabinets where all those new instruments were stored. And, we would party with them. I loved the look of the Bundy flutes, as there was a similarity in the key arrangement to that of my metal Pedlar clarinet. So, I put it together, started to play on it, and “lo and behold”, I made a sound. I actually made a sound.

That was the beginning of some kind of illness. For a kid who could barely play Rose”, #1, I was nothing, but eager.

When we got our first Bundy resonite Bass Clarinet, I was crazy to play it at our first band concert and did.We were playing the first movement of the Schubert Unfinished Symphony, the band arrangement of which starts with the Bass clarinet playing the familiar melody, and there I was , holding my  clarinet, and the Bass, on a neck strap, playing the melody, prior to putting it down and continuing on Bb with the familiar ostinato. That was pure joy. I had gotten the bug and made the rounds of all the woodwinds, save the bassoon, which we had not yet acquired.

For a young kid. it seemed like an achievement of some kind.

But, what it was, it has remained with me,always.I’m sure there are those out there, who may agree.
The fascination for clarinets has never left, except for lately when other things matter more than clarinets.

The Bass Clarinet has always fascinated me. Of course, there is a
story which goes along with this story here , as well. When in high school and playing on this new Bundy Bass we had received, I really thought that I was hot stuff, and , maybe for high school , I was. But here is the story. My teacher, a superb player was asked by Rosario Mazzeo to join the Pops Tour, which was to leave shortly, and he was somewhat bothered by what he considered a nuisance. So, he told Mazzeo that I was the person for the job. And, I had an audition with Mazzeo, who in several years, would become my teacher.

Ready for this?
He asked me to play Bb , asking me to play an E major scale to the altissimo and return. I did, somewhat good, but, with errors and (only the lord knows). It was a short sudition, the shortest I have ever experienced. Mazzeo said, “you have the bgginnings of a good sound” Come back in five years!

I think I had the courage to put the clarinet back together and stagger down the three flights of Symphony Hall stairs.It was of course, unforgettable. I learned more about the business of clarinet playing in that five minutes than I ever did.

Mazzeo was bothered that someone would send a student for a position he himself didn’t need, and reacted normally. KILL the messenger, if you get my meaning.

I learned to really play from that little horror, and studied with Mazzeo for 6 or seven years, was probably one of his better students, played “his” clarinets with great success, all the time realizing that only one brand of a new instrument would never make it. While everyone in Boston played Selmer, really nobody else did. It was known as a “Jazz” clarinet mostly, and remained so until the last five or ten years when their newer models virtually took away that “crown”.

As mentioned however, the bug stayed with me, and I have owned more clarinets than I can even remember, with no regrets.

The Bass Clarinet is a fun instrument to play, especially if you have the good fortune to play “Pierrot Lunaire”, by Arnold Schoenberg, in which you double on Bb and Bass and is a virtual dictionary of 20th Century clarinet practice.

But other than that, and a few other pieces, especially some Opera, Wagner, it is an instrument that is seldom used. There are some lower bass clarinets, but there is simply not that much repertoire of interest, and it remains a costly purchase.

The clarinet pictured above is the best priced, and best  instrument of its kind, and weighs in at less than three thousand dollars, including the whole thing. It is made of hard rubber, meaning it will not bind or crack and keep its pitch and tuning virtually forever, and if you don’t bash your friend in the head with it , or drop it off the bus, you are in business, until you graduate , ot change your major, whichever comes first. And brother, you will change your major, and may even graduate.

It is made by the designer William Thomas Ridenour, who has designed the worlds finest clarinets. I’ve never met him, but adore his instruments. His designs include, the Opus and Concerto, as well as the Sonata and others of the Leblanc  name. These instruments seem to have recently been discontinued, the inside story being incredibly convoluted. I believe the instruments have been reissued in hard rubber by the Ridenour organization. I have the Libertas; less to buy, even less to worry about , and , a great player.

Keep practicing, remembering that music is one of the more beautiful things we have been given to love.

Best, Sherman

Selmer Prestige Bass Clarinet problems

September 23, 2014

Dear Mr Friedland:

Please help me with your opinion in this situation.

I purchased a new Selmer Paris Low C Bass Clarinet for my son in April from a company here in the USA. There is crack in the wood on the upper joint and Selmers solution was to replace the upper joint and do a key transfer. There was also a problem with the silver plating coming off two keys.I have two concerns:

1. A local repair man told me the two joints need to be from the same location and matched or there could be other problems like binding when the weather changes. It sounds reasonable, but i have no expertise in the mater.
2. I paid over $12,000 for clarinet that now has mismatched serial numbers. It seems like this will have an impact on the resale value (not that i have any plans to sell it, he is 15 and has lofty aspirations). I have no idea how much but I purchased a new instrument and i think and accelerated depreciation should be covered by either Selmer or the vendor.
One question:
Is it typical for the finish to wear off that quickly.

Thank you,

Dear JM:
Plating on keys can and does wear off, depending upon the body itself. I have had students and know of many players whose silverplated finish can be worn away from the very beinning, depending upon the particular acids what are part of all of us. I myself, have never ever had this situation. When I have had silver plated clarinets, they remained new looking for my entire ownership. But, there are those who have the very opposite experience. Some is dependent upon normal pressure exerted, but most is simply something that happens with some, but not others. Personally, I have always admired silver plated keys, and while playing Selmer clarinets for a long time, my keys were a point of pride, and as a result, I suffered no such problems. Arguably, Selmer makes one of the very finest clarinets, having played them all.
As far as mis-numbered joints, that is both inappropriate and unacceptable, especially to a new owner, purchased from a Selmer dealer. I could not accept such a poor compromise, which is unacceptable. Depending upon original purchase,, Selmer should be contacted directly for resolution. If purchased in some other manner, there is no such connection. The crack is easily repaired, though there are several different methods, and keys are also easily replated.
All joints can bind with weather changes, and should be handled with considerable care, and correct lubrication. “lofty aspirations’ can disappear quite quickly at that age. A new instrument, purchased from the dealer is unacceptable with the variants offered.
Proper care and lubrication is necessary on a daily basis.

Good luck.


Youthful job applications,:early days at NEC

September 20, 2014

Many years past, while a student in Boston, I heard about a job which I thought I might be able to accomplish. Probably the screwiest job of which one could cojceive, but somehow attractive, none the less. It was putting in Piccolo pads in Powell Flutes. Maybe it was Haynes. I really cannot remember, however I had developed somewhat of a reputation replacing pads in flures and piccolos… know how it weni. You got a call from someone in the middle of the day, or night, usually of the feminine gender who had been practicing Daphnes with great success , when a leak developed or not. I never earlly knew, since the leaks and keys were so inconsequential as to be fixable withint a few minutes. And then, because we were alone, easily, a drink was offered and gladly shared, leading to long discussions concerning makesof fliues. (Powell aand Haynes were closely located; head joints, and back then , even closed or open holed instruments. >Didi you hear the performance of the Berlioz the other day?” God, Jimmy made a terrile clamin the big solo.Or maybe , it was Doriot in the big open solo in the Brahms second. Which always made my cry. As Conservatory kids  there were an unlimited amount of tickets available for Friday afternoon concerts. But , if it was too late, one simply went to their desk and pulled small piece of NEC paper from a stolen pad, made out a fictitious name and number of some u nheard of patron, filled it in and went to the concert. Where one sat was up for grabs, as you could always find a seat, eeither with a friend, or on the edge of a stair. Second balcony was always best because you coukd see your teacher just a few feet away from you if you were sitting in the front row. Lots of times, Roger Voisin, principal trumpet would look up at me, wink, and then put a handkerchief over his fingers as he played some difficult passage from Sorcerers Apprenitce, by Dukas.(Does anyone remember that work?) Ciofffi,principal clarinetist was always worried about his articulation G# key not opening ; and so he would manually open it a few moments beore using same. He always put a small piece of plastic underhis reed , seemingly to either clear if ot condensation or give it a bit or strength.(It does both) Watching the Boston Symphony Orchetra perform bt a few feet away from you’was more excitng that anything I could imagine, then, and even now. Charles Munch, then the conductor, had a very lovely style, always extremely rapid during scherzi, and in that Sorcerers Apprentice, would always finsh and startwalknig off while the orchestra was still playing. Really. That was it, you got yo hear your teacher demonstrating the very parts wou were learning. When t was good, it was thillimg. When not, food for thousands of rumors, good and bad., with endless variations.

plenty more to come.

stay well

Atlanta Symphony locked out, again

September 8, 2014

The Atlanta Symphony Orchestra Locks Out Its Players, Again

The following is tragically serious. Having been trained as an orchestral musician and having had the privilege
of performing in such an orchestra, it is painful to see the above.

Even more painful, because though excellent, this is one of our smaller orchestras, not known for many recordings and, though, in a culturally rich area, we all need this and other similar ensembles.

Yes, like many of you, I think of the joyful hours learning all of the orchestra parts of which I could think, playing al the chairs in numerous Boston ensembles, auditioning many times, sometimes failing, and, after resigning, seeing no less than 200 players auditioning for my job. That is what I wanted, and what I got. My own personal principal position turned out to be fraught with unbelievable difficulties: a desire, I thought for justice, repertoire, salary. and work condition. For all ambitious clarinetists, please note the above. It is all much less than the solo in symphony #6, with a great reed.

“The Atlanta Symphony Orchestra began its second lockout in two years on Sunday when the ensemble’s management and its players, who accepted deep pay cuts two years ago, failed to agree on a new contract before a midnight deadline.

The orchestra’s management said in a statement that the impasse “may delay or cancel portions of the 2014-15 season,” which was supposed to be a celebration of its 70th anniversary.

The musicians said in a statement that the orchestra’s management had refused to budge from an offer “under which the musicians would continue to hemorrhage income and lose orchestra positions.”

The musicians accepted pay cuts of more than 14 percent and agreed to reduce the size of the orchestra after a lockout two years ago, to help right the orchestra’s finances. But the orchestra continued to have a $2 million deficit last year, management said.

The orchestra’s management said that its most recent offer to musicians would have raised their pay by 4.5 percent over the course of four years, but musicians said that those gains would be more than offset by the extra money they would have to pay for health benefits.

Last week the orchestra’s music director, Robert Spano, and Donald Runnicles, its principal guest conductor, wrote a letter urging management to recognize the sacrifices that the orchestra’s players had already made. “The A.S.O. is a jewel, which should not be lost or compromised, and the current conditions threaten that loss.

A gorgeous Aria in the midst of roaring Chaos

September 6, 2014

Hello friends and colleagues. I have been in ill health for a while now, but last night, was released from hospital, and will hope to get back to regular affairs of music.

For the past several months, literally everyone is completely at odds with literally everyone they know , know, without exception. The middle East is aflame and will continue to smolder and destroy. Russian decisions to regroup, flex its muscles and regain what it is they thought they had, may destroy us all.

Within the US, bigotry, consternation , racial murder and violence rules all airwaves.Thus far the remaining term of Barack Obama seems to rapidly disappearing , fanned by the flames of a racially biased Congress occupied with any and all attempts to destroy the first Commander and Chief of color. Going on about Congress is slippery with sewage.

In this burning cauldron of despair and hatred,only one bright strong illumination has emerged. One real agreement has taken place, for me, worldwide.
The rest is sluge, war and death, repeated endlessly.

Perhaps for some , it was not big news, but to all those who feel that the Metropolitain Opera Orchesta is the most sophisticated and polished ensemble of its kind, and that The Metropolitain Opera is certainly our most significant achievement, especially because of its unique quality and far reaching productions,( even in Cornwall,Ontario, we can see Puccinis Tosca in our movie theater.) During a roaring battle of wages for all scenery and and players, the Met came to a settlement. The head of the committee is of all things, a clarinetist. 

The economic health of opera in the 21st century became something of a flash point during the negotiations, with some workers objecting to the warnings of Peter Gelb, the Met’s general manager, that grand opera was struggling in the United States. Now, both sides will be making opera together again.

“We very much believe that it’s possible for the Met to present innovative, world-class grand opera in a fiscally responsible way,” said Jessica Phillips Rieske, a clarinetist and the chairwoman of the Committee.

Along with he death of loved icons, and the moribund situation of the declining American Symphony Orchestra, the MET stands as a beacon of musical and eternal hope. Thank you.

Thank all for thier supreme efforts. God Bless you .




Criminal Minds, Montreal// Nathan Friedland

August 5, 2014

With the introduction of Bill 3, the safety and security of Montrealers now carries a significant financial burden that has, by many accounts, become too expensive for taxpayers. Yesterday, when I feared for my safety, I was faced with the question: what is my life worth?
Just after parking my car on a downtown street corner at 6am, I heard shouting behind me. When I stepped out of the car, there were 4 men perhaps 50 feet away from me screaming at one another and one of them had a brick in his hand. They saw me so I calmly turned to walk away from them when one of them began driving my way with a minivan, I had no cellphone. My heart began to race; if I began to run, maybe they would chase me, were they fighting over drugs or was I their next target? I had no idea what to do next. Out of nowhere, a police-car came barreling around the corner, splitting the 4 men up, three going one way, and one the other, running for his van that he had stepped out of. A split second later, another policeman ran after the solitary man on foot and he was caught before he could get into the van. Great, but what about the other three? Not two minutes later, as I walked up the hill towards work, the three men were there in front of me acting as if nothing happened. I froze, then 4 police cruisers and a van came racing around the corner and cut the three men off. 4 cops burst out of the van screaming “get on the ground” to the three men with their tazers ready. The men resisted and they were subdued quickly. There were no gunshots, just policemen doing their incredibly difficult and dangerous jobs, protecting and serving us. All I could think of was how glad I was to see those cops and after watching how professionally they subdued those 4 men, it struck me that we really don’t appreciate them as much as we should. Is my life worth more than 77,000$ a year, the high-end salary for a policeman in Montreal?
A few years ago, my backyard deck burned down when I was at work. Someone called the fire department and they came and squelched the flames before they could have a chance to burn my house down. What is that worth?
As a taxpayer, I would gladly pay even more taxes to keep policemen and firefighters from effectively having their pensions and salaries decreased. They are already underpaid for the jobs they do and we should not be forcing them to lose money as they are saving our lives.

Nathan Friedland


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