Thursday, February 18, 2016

What is an Oboe, Anyway? - 2

 The oboe is principally a melodic instrument; it has a rustic character, full of tenderness, I would say even of shyness.
-Hector Berlioz from his Treatise on Orchestration

Berlioz also says this about the oboe.:

The sounds of the oboe are suitable for expressing simplicity, artless grace, gentle happiness, or the grief of a weak soul. It renders these admirably in cantabile passages.

And this...:

    It can also convey a degree of agitation, but one must be careful not to intensify this to cries of passion, to vehement outbursts of anger, threats or heroism: its thin, bitter-sweet tones then become feeble and altogether grotesque.

I think that Berlioz is on the right track with this. The oboe does sound best when used in the kinds of passages he describes. Here are some examples of this. 

Berlioz was pretty cruel about the oboe in other respects. I don’t necessarily agree with him here. 

[…] Quick runs, whether chromatic or diatonic, can be played fairly easily on the oboe, but the effect they produce is merely clumsy and almost ridiculous; the same is true of arpeggios.

So, what is an oboe according to Berlioz? Well, he didn’t have it confused with a clarinet or a carrot that’s for sure! 

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

What is the Oboe, Anyway? - 1

In the minds of many, the oboe is just a clarinet or a carrot.

After service was over on Sunday a few weeks back, one of the men in the congregation came up and told me how much he liked my clarinet playing.

I was playing my oboe d’amore.  I just said thank you. It has been my experience through the years that trying to explain the differences between a clarinet and an oboe is just too much information for a lot of people. So, thank you is my standard answer if someone says they like my playing.

The gentleman then went on to explain how some guy made a clarinet out of a carrot.

I lost count of how many of my friends have sent me that video.

I just say thank you for sharing the video. That’s interesting. The guy in the video is a very clever man, I tell them.

Some people see the d’amore and ask me what it is. I say it’s an oboe of love. That can be a conversation stopper, which is a mercy.

So, what is an oboe?  Hmmm.

I can tell you what it is not.

It is not a clarinet.

It is not a carrot.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Oboe d’Amore and general musical Update

Well, my playing has suffered a lot in the last 3 weeks because I’ve had this winter crud that won’t let me go. My daughter finally dragged me off to the doctor, so now I am on antibiotics. I still don’t have my voice back. I still have a sore throat. I still have trouble breathing.

The breathing is better, though, so maybe tomorrow I can do some playing on my d’amore. At the doctor’s office, I could hit 200 on the breathing meter thingy. Not so good. On the third try I got to about 300 - almost normal - but it hurt my lungs. Tonight I hit 300 on the first try, so that’s a good sign.  I just hit over 350, so things are definitely looking up!

To make matters worse, I had two new crowns installed on Wednesday. It has take a few days for my mouth to settle down. So, oh, woe is me!  All of these things affect my musical progress. At least they are pretty good excuses. Maybe giving my mea culpa here on my blog will help me get off dead center musically speaking and back into doing some playing!

I have been playing it for worship team, and that is a lot of fun for me. There are no oboe d’amore parts for praise and worship music. In fact, there are no parts at all, just a lead sheet with words and chords.

I don’t really need the lead sheet anyway, or the chords since the progressions are really simple. I do need to know what key we’re in, but that’s pretty much it.

From there I just improvise. Sometimes I play parts of the melody. Other times I play a harmony part or a little counter melody. Sometimes I just play sustained tones, adding some oboe color to the ensemble.

I keep asking for a mike, since sometimes I can’t hear myself all that well. It is especially hard to hear when I am in the middle of the stage between the drums and electric guitar on my left, and the keyboard and bass on my right. I feel like I’m playing inside a paper bag!

So, I got myself moved to the end of the stage farthest from the drums. Now I can hear everyone and try to fit my part into the sound of the group. I love the drums and electric guitar, but somehow my sound just gets absorbed into their  sound if I am too close to them. Since I am not playing from music, but just by ear, I really do need to hear what I am playing!

The sound guys - and my daughter - tell me I cut through just fine and don’t really need a mike. In fact, she told me that she could hear me all the way down the hall, outside the sanctuary. Hmmm. She’s my best or worst critic!  The d’amore is pretty powerful, I grant them that.

People tell me it sounds good. Our director likes it, so that’s good. A person does not want to be on the outs with the director. He is a young guy, but has had excellent musical training and knows his stuff.

Of course, for me this is a different kind of experience - to play on a worship team. It’s fun for me, and something new and different. I’ve learned a lot about improvisation and playing by ear. I do have to think ahead some. Improvisation takes some planning and thought.

Besides that, I purchased the A Major concerto for oboe d’amore by Bach. It’s really a transposition of one of his works for  harpsichord. It’s such a nice piece of music and quite playable. It does require air, though.

I also got the Oboe I part for the Mass in b minor by Bach, so I get to play along with that. I just ordered part II as well.

Oh, and my husband confiscated one of my gig bags for his clarinet. I have one for my d’amore and HAD another one for my regular oboe. So, I purchased a new oboe case. It’s pretty sweet, with room for all my oboe junk as well as printed music.

I quit making reeds years ago. I wasn’t all that good at it in the first place, so I just gave it up when ready made reeds became more available. I can even get ones that are unfinished and finish them off to my liking.

So, I guess that’s it on the musical update.

Music is so good for the soul and for one’s health - as long as the air holds out!