Friday, April 2, 2010


Concepts and ideas are worth very little, what matters is execution. If something has not been executed well, whether it's a consumer product, a business, a lab experiment, or a piece of music, it just doesn't work. As an idea person, I struggle with this. I watched another of the Norman Herzberg videos, the one about his teaching. First, they asked him about what orchestras his students got jobs in. He didn't list these, instead he listed those where two (or more!) of his students had jobs! (Indeed, this thesis claims that his former students held the majority of major orchestra bassoon positions in the US. Wow.) Asked about his teaching philosophy, he went through listing his scale and interval exercises and the etude books he had his students do (Milde Scale and Chord studies, Orefici Melodic Studies, Jacobi Six Caprices (but not International edition), Jancourt, Gambaro, Orefici Brauvura Etudes, DuBois, and finally, only then, the Milde Concert Studies). I'd actually worked through some of these in high school, like many of his students, but he'd say "Do 'em again. I wanna hear em." He'd test people who'd claim they'd already worked up an etude, and none ever could play it top to bottom without falling apart somewhere. He had some short dismissive remark about artistry (or that's how I interpreted it); saying, I teach you to play the instrument. But get him started on fingerings, or vent keys, and he'll talk for an hour. His students ended up with great facility, bombproof technique, which is, quite evidently, exactly what you need to win an audition. In a sense, this is the true realization of the operator mentality.

Inspired, rather than stumbling through another Milde badly, I tried getting an easy etude really clean. Here's the first one from a French etude book (Jean Louchez), recorded on the iPod:

The notes are right, and the fingers moving mostly together, and most of the attacks are there, but it's still full of flaws. I'm particularly surprised about how many note transitions sound like a gliss -- I'm not really intending that, maybe a speed of finger motion thing. The tremor in the tone bugs me, maybe softer reeds could help, or adding vibrato to cover it.

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