Ebonite , Wood, or Plastic, Metal

Arthur H. Benade was an acoustician as well as a musician who gave many a presentation at early Clarinet Clinics and various symposia dedicated to our weapon of preference. He even played the Mozart (the one of which Stadler pawned the score and parts) at one of these on a garden hose. He was regarded rather as ” a village idiot” by many of the club, however he implanted in my very young mind an idea: this was to take two blocks of resonite to Paris and have Selmer make me a set of beautifully made and tuned clarinets. (suffice it to say, I was very young, but I was a Selmer Clinician, (whatever that means), so I thought I had clout, which I did not. Though juvenile, the idea stayed in my mind to have been brought to fruition by the scoundrels at Buffet for more than three grand for a horn. But there are many who love the Greenline and I am happy for them, though not the price. As to hard rubber or ebonite, Anthony Baines who wrote in his excellent “Woodwinds and their History” said that “many fine players though play ebonite which have a sweeter though a softer tone than does wood”. This was first published a half century ago. That idea is quite true. The sound of hard rubber is much sweeter than wood, but not as loud. I play them so I feel that to be true, having come to this conclusion after I started playing hard rubber. But as an aside, the Ridenour A clarinet is unsurpassed by any other instrument in that key for just those reasons. A clarinets are a bit more resistant than Bb for obvious reasons, but the rubber A is a perfect match for my Bb and the tuning is by far the best.
So yes, it is totally agreed that different substances do emit different qualities, call these qualities what you will, but in the case of an A clarinet, I find the material (ebonite) absolutely ideal. It is important to remember the work of Arthur Benade and all those others who have experimented with the acoustics of the clarinet as well as the materials.
Perhaps it is a good time to remember one of our very great clarinetists, Gaston Hamlin, Principal Clarinetist of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, whose contract was not renewed by the conductor Serge Koussevitsky in 1931. The reason given: “Koussy” did not like the metal Selmer Clarinet played by Mr Hamlin. Hamlin went back to France. Ralph MacClane went back with him to study. He returned and became Principal in Philadelphia for many years, helping to establish the so-called “American School” The rest is history.
Those very same Selmer metal Clarinets, (full boehm) were removed from the Selmer Catalog. Reason: “It hurt our prestige” Those particular clarinets are now worth their weight in Greenbacks when they appear on “the” venue. (I really wish someone would buy me one, or send me one.)



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