Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Five Minute Reedmaker: Shaping

My friend Muhammad wrote:
Dear Jennet,
I'm very interested in knowing how you shape your cane. Some people shape the the top of the ears of the tip and some to the right snug to the bottom. Would you do a video about it explaining why you do what you do in that process?
So - I was asked to talk about the technique of shaping, which initially surprised me a little.  Shaping oboe cane by hand seems like a simple matter - it's a straightforward task that I don't give a lot of thought to as I'm doing it.  But then, the same day, I saw this clear and helpful video by Jonathan Marzluf and realized how many details in this process we do differently, and I understood how people could be confused.

I would like to be clear that I am not contradicting Mr. Marzluf's methods. They are great, and smart, and clearly work for him!  I have my own way of doing this and I’m happy to show you here - because seeing alternatives is important, and helps you to make the choice that’s right for you.





Here's the YouTube playlist with all of my other Five Minute Reedmaker videos.  You could subscribe right there if you wanted to - I'm dropping a video each week until I run out of things to talk about. 



Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Five Minute Reedmaker: Knife Techniques

This is possibly my favorite video so far - I enjoy thinking of different ways to describe the various scrapes and gestures that I use in constructing a reed.

Among the topics covered:

How your hand position might be working against you
Why your left (non-dominant) hand is the more important one
Why you should Pull the cane off rather than pushing
"Petting" the cane
Centering your scrape in the channel
Cross-hatching to smooth notches and walls
"Lifting" a nick out
How to keep a scraping disaster from worsening
The CURL, and a visualization for tip construction

That's a lot for 10 minutes!





Here's the YouTube playlist with all of my other Five Minute Reedmaker videos.  You could subscribe right there if you wanted to - I'm dropping a video each week until I run out of things to talk about. 



Sunday, October 8, 2017

New Beginnings

I love beginnings.  If I could start a project every month I probably would - I have at least three in my mind right now that I'm holding back on consciously so I can keep making time for the ongoing ones that I enthusiastically started over the past few months and years. But usually these are solo projects. 

Last month I met with a composer to read some tarot cards.  We are working on the early stages of a project that might eventually become something real. 

You know that I have long loved the tarot.  This is a thing I've mentioned many times before.  I read for myself all the time and use the images and the structures in the cards as a way to activate my intuition and as a means of self-exploration.  

You know that for my IDRS recital I worked hard on a solo oboe piece based on the Major Arcana of the Marseilles Tarot. It was a piece I was thrilled to find in a publisher's back catalog - because a difficult and intimidatingly modern work for solo oboe based on the Tarot was basically made in heaven just for me - but although I did perform it I never quite got IN.  I loved the concept, and I conquered the technique, but it never turned out to be the piece for me, or one that I could love. 

I still adore the Tarot and I still play the oboe.  I want a signature piece to represent that overlap for me, and that's what I chatted with this composer about over the summer.  We decided to meet three times, at the Autumn Equinox, the Winter Solstice, and the Spring Equinox, to throw cards which might ultimately give us insight into the concept and form and structure of the piece.  

The busier I am the more I try to ensure that my time is being used well.  I turn down gigs that seem to be too much angst for the gratification I will receive - if the contractor appears to not have his act together, or if I suspect that I won't be used to my best potential, or if I anticipate a weak musical experience that will make me feel bad about myself.  I turn down work that doesn't pay enough, because I'd rather make nothing and have the time to spend with my family and my own projects.  (Though I'll take work that looks to be the RIGHT kind of challenge even if the money is poor or the driving is ridiculous.)

This project, in contrast, is nebulous.  Will this certainly be a thing we bring to completion?  No, not certainly.  If we do, will it absolutely  be my new favorite piece of all time?  Not necessarily.  Am I confident that the money for the commission will come from somewhere or that the ultimate cost will feel like money well spent? No.  But - Is it enjoyable and inspiring to start somewhere, and to explore what comes of the collaboration?  Absolutely.  

We are meeting because starting a project is the only way to get to the middle and finally to the conclusion of it.  We are meeting because by drawing cards together we can read them together, and come to a mutual understanding about the ultimate shape of this journey.  And we are meeting because it's fun for two creative women to come together late at night and explore ideas.  

Stay tuned.  This is something I'll keep you posted on.  


Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Five Minute Reedmaker: The Windows

Last month I was in a Reeding Circle with two of my regular attendees.  It was an exciting event because BOTH of them had major reed breakthroughs and made multiple really good reeds in a row, just as we sat there together!  Secondly, it was interesting because BOTH of them had the exact same problem in their very different reeds - they hadn’t taken enough out of the windows.

In today's Five Minute Reedmaker video, I discuss this undersung area of the oboe reed.  I show how to use it, how to scrape it, and WHY. 





Here's the YouTube playlist with all of my other Five Minute Reedmaker videos.  You could subscribe right there if you wanted to - I'm dropping a video each week until I run out of things to talk about. 




Monday, October 2, 2017

Every Little Bit Counts

I was three hours from home and I had just finished playing Adrian Mann's Canzone Vecchione, a totally charming little duo for oboe and double bass.  Phillip Serna, my collaborator, is a terrific colleague, and his enthusiasm for performing and rehearsing and improving and working rivals even my own.  Although this was an unpaid performance for about 17 people, on a Double Bass Day recital, the performance was a great pleasure. 


I did not, however, have any great expectations about audience building, or career advancement, or anything big-picture coming out of this event.  A few bassists and their parents would hear me, I figured, and that would be the end of it. 

Excitingly, though, as I passed through the lobby on my way back to my car, I bumped into a former student. I had known, but forgotten, that he was studying at this university. He had been on my website and noticed this performance at his college, and decided to attend. He had brought his roommate, a music student at the school.  They had both enjoyed the event.  We chatted for a few minutes and I was so happy to have seen him. 

I took some reminders from this encounter.

Number One:  Always assume that there are people in the audience who care about the oboe, who know me, who have an interest and are following along and ready to be engaged.  The world is not made up of strangers and you never know who is out there.

Number Two:  Always keep your website updated. I’m pretty good about it, generally. But I tend to assume that my relatively static homepage is not visited much.  People come and buy reeds and leave again.  The performances I'm excited about I promote actively, but I can be lazy about the little event listing section.  (BTW: you can see that little event listing section on my website, or view the link from the top of my blog page.  I'm that well organized, at least.)

This small performance was a thing I could easily have left off.  Again, three hours from my home, six minutes of music, on a double bass recital. I had no reason to think that anyone would follow me there, or be remotely interested in my presence. I was doing this as a favor to Phillip, and because he’s going to come up and play it with me next week at Ravinia.

But no, in fact – someone visited my site. Someone was local and chose to come out. Someone enjoyed my performance, and told me so. You never know who you’re going to reach, or who you're going to touch. Every little bit of effort counts and makes a difference.

Thank you, Braydon, for the reminder!