Thursday, March 21, 2013

Why the Clarinet?

We've taken in some lovely music on our NYC sojourn this week but perhaps the most accomplished performer was the clarinetist Narek Arutyunian in the Young Artist series ar the Morgan library.  He wriggles around like a teen-ager which he was until not long ago but he's got passion and brio and he is bound to sober up with age.  But t raises a question: who exactly, takes up the clarinet in a serious way?  I don't mean to disparage it--I grew up on Benny Goodman, Woody Herman and Artie Shaw. 

But I'd like to know more about the motivation.   Grant that it is possible to play it well, you still you'd have to agree that the clarinet, like its kissin' cousin the saxophone, is one of the easiest instruments to play badly--just the opposite of the oboe, say, or the French horn.  The kid who takes up the oboe is the clever loner who knows that with an oboe there won't be much competition and he'll get to go on all the trips.   The clarinetist is one of a multitude.  Does he start out telling himself that yes, I am one of a pack, but I will excel?  Or does he simply join the pack and then one day later wake up to the fact that he has real talent and can make something happen?

Personal afterthought. I took up the trumpet because I wanted to impress chicks.   I was terrible at the trumpet and not much better with the chicks.  Years later I realized I probably could have done okay with the bass, and still carried off all the chickwise action I could handle.  Autumnal wisdom.

1 comment:

Dogen said...

When I was about 6 my father sat me in his lap with a picture book open to an entire orchestra. He asked me what instrument I wanted to learn to play. I looked the pages over and pointed to the coolest looking thing on it--the double bassoon. It was big and had all these curvy tubes and looked like a big old Tonka truck.

Anyway, my father consulted with a music teacher and then told me I was too small to play a double bassoon so I would start out with a clarinet. When he showed up with the clarinet it was a huge disappointment. Not surprisingly, I only played for a year or two...