Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Greetings-Clarinet stuff,Tales From The Road

Hi,and welcome to my sounding-board.I'll use this space to talk about anything that interests me (and,hopefully,you).I'll try to answer some of the more technical questions about playing,improvising,etc.,here,and also tell some tales from my life on the,to begin:
I've had some e-mails about recording the clarinet,so I'll expand on one of my replies.
First of all,everyone has their own methods and preferences,so,despite what they say in method books and music schools,there is no correct way to do anything in music-every 'rule' has been broken time and again;you just have to find whatever works for you (so take what I say with a grain or twelve of salt)!You must remember that your instrument is just an amplifier/speaker of your sound;but the sound comes from you!Your mouth cavity,teeth,air capacity,etc. produce the sound(more importantly,your brain conceives the sound)-the sooner you realize this, will save you a lifetime's worth of searching for the 'holy grail' in mouthpieces,equipment,reeds,microphones,etc.Figure out what you want to sound like first and find something that stays out of your way and makes your life as easy as possible-in a sense,this approach allows you to internalize your sound and then find the external means of achieving same,rather than the opposite....
Now,as to microphones and mic placement,I've always preferred the Neumanns for their amazingly natural sound,and I like to position the microphone over and above the hands,slightly favoring the left hand,and at a distance the human ear would choose to be able to hear the whole 'sound picture'.I absolutely detest the sound of a microphone in the clarinet bell,just as I detest it jammed down my saxophone bell-again,the instrument is a sound amplifier,and you don't listen to it with your head down the bell,so why record it there?I always emphasize to the sound engineer (also in live settings)that I want as natural a sound as possible-whatever that takes!But the most important thing is to find an engineer with 'good ears',who understands what you want and can achieve it with the least amount of distraction and interference!OK,moving on to...

OK,years ago I was touring with a singer who had some memorable appearances on Saturday Night Live,and had quite the 'cult' following (I'm sure Squeaky Fromme would have loved him...).Amongst many other quirks,he had a way of terrorizing road managers with ever-increasing demands;because of this,we went through road managers like George Bush goes through soldiers (no letters,please!),So here we found ourselves starting a long tour with a new guy,who had never road-managed before,and was very,very nervous to begin with,which just emboldened our fearless leader to act even more like the proverbial fox in the hen-house.Every thing this road manager did (who we christened ''Tall Whiteman" as he was about 6'5")was questioned,taken apart,and critiqued,to the point where he was literally quaking in his boots around Fearless Leader.It all (quite literally) came to a head when we played a club where the stage was surrounded on all sides by low-hanging wooden beams,with a rickety set of steps leading to the side of the stage.
Now,part of our singer's act (remember,this was in the pre-PC early eighties) was a little sketch where the current reigning road manager would interrupt us mid-show,walk on stage,and deliver a 'note' (a folded square of white paper) from an audience member.The singer would then open the package,wherein a great deal of suspicious-looking white powder would fall to the stage.This would invariably get a reaction of nervous laughter from the audience (half of whom,in those days,were probably snorting the real thing!),then we'd go on with the show.
About two weeks into Tall Whiteman's tenure,it happened...He'd up until now found new and unique ways of aggravating our leader in his performing this bit of business,by either forgetting to deliver the 'note',sending it up through someone else,talking,breathing wrong,etc.Finally,we come to the club with the stage surrounded by the low beams.None of us watched him climb the stairs,but we all (including the audience) heard the loud 'thwack' as he knocked himself senseless on the wooden beam.Two bouncers then carried him down the steps,out the door,and into road-manager history.P.S.This,incidentally,was by far the biggest laugh that routine ever got.