Which sounds better?

The computer brings one much closer to the world, sometimes alarmingly so. And with it is the limitless opportunties offered by Youtube, the great music making current and past history of performances available a ones fingertips, or eyes and ears (with decent speakers). We have been listening to a lot of the Chinese pianist, Lang Lang, who is possessed of formidable technic, some 40 concertos in his mind, and a quite beautiful understanding and love for both the phrase, and the audience.

But, I am also acutely aware of all of the many clarinetists, both out there on youtube and within the orchestras of the world, and what it is that they are playing.

I have listened to several Tchaikovsky Concerti, with Lang Lang and the better world orchestras and, while listening the other day, and of course, watching. I saw the Philharmonic playing the Tchaikovsky with Lang Lang, and watched the big clarinet solo in the first movement. Whomever it was who as playing, he was having a great time, moving back and forth, and playing the solo, just a little out of tune, and rather strained sounding. But, he was enjoying himself.As I looked at his clarinet, I saw this strange colored barrel in the middle of his clarinet. It was difficult to figure out why, given the somewhat strange quality I heard and saw.

And again, I thought of The Emporers New Clothes, the fairy tale quoted in my piece on the search for the perfect mouthpiece. Of course, I know of where this fad comes, its history and the incredible growth of the fad. It is very similar to other fads, such as the one wherein you could have someones put your clarinet in an oven, take it out, never put it together again , and have a better more cohesive sound. They did it with flutes ,as well as other instruments as well. The fad faded.

But this one is spreading somewhat and I have no clue as to the why and wherefore of strangely stained wood used for different pats of the clarinet, either the barrel or the bell. These woods ae always something different, cocobolo with its euphemistic musical sounding name , coming to mind.And, for what they are, they are really costly, and they would have to be. They are money makers. Big ones. I had a student ,years ago,who came to a lesson with one i her case. It was not on her clarinet. I asked and she told me its name, and that she had been given to her at a Clarinet Convention. She said it would have cost 200 if shehad purchased it. She did not play her lesson with that barrel, and she had never played it for herself. It had been a gift at a gathering of clarinet students, professionals and the myriads of salesmen and gimmicks they sell, or give away, at first. With advertising ,giving the items to well known players, having the players make an ad with the gimmick on their clarinet, they generate interest, and with interest, comes sales. Give me a break! Please, and give my students a break, please. But we and they are born every minutes, as PT Barnum once said.

What is even more bizarre is the maker of these parts, on another Youtube, demonstrating in about five minutes, how to change the sound of the clarinetist by simply and quickly drilling something wider. That, is laughable, to an extreme, It becomes both The Emporers New Clothes, and Beauty is in the eye or the ear of the beholder, at the same time. It is really quite simple, similar to the famous “blindfold test’, anther completely erroneous procedure in which someone demonstrates different clarinets, or mouthpieces or reeds, in front pf a group from behind a screen. The differences are, whatever they may be, discernible to those listening. Or to some of them, or to none of them. Or.”let me see the hands of those who think that reed or clarinet or barrel or bell, was different”? “And, it what way? Too dark, too light, and dark and light is totally and completely in the eye and the ear of the listener.

Of course, and without a doubt, we are talking bout gigantic sales pitches, for they all are attached to things which make money, and big money, at that.

We used to have arguments many years ago about soloists, Heifetz or Stern, or orchestras, the Philadelphia or the Boston, or the Cleveland, or Szell or Rinier, or Halls, Boston Symphony Hall, Severance Hall in Cleveland, or the Academy of Music in Philadelphia, and which orchestra sounded better and why? My answers were always the same, in order to make a comparison, one has to hear the soloist, the orchestra, the hall or whatever one is comparing, simultaneously, which is an impossibility.

That is where the great resolution of all of the above problems, the contests, the soloists, the clarinetists, the halls, the orchestras, the interpretations, and and all the rest of it: that resolution being, “it is a matter of opinion”

If the colors of the different woods being used were all colored as the rest of the clarinet, that is to say, BLACK, would there be a difference? And could you sell that difference? In both cases, I think not.

We must remember always to poractice, to make perfect, the music, which is most important.

stay well.


A fad is any form of behavior that develops among a large population and is collectively followed with enthusiasm for some period, generally as a result of the behavior’s being perceived as novel in some way. A fad is said to “catch on” when the number of people adopting it begins to increase rapidly. The behavior will normally fade quickly once the perception of novelty is gone.

The specific nature of the behavior associated with a fad can be of any type including language usage, apparel, financial investment,advertising, and even food. Apart from general novelty, fads may be driven by mass media programming, emotional excitement, peer pressure, or the desire of ‘being hip’.


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