Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Miu Miu's Saturday Night Function & Clarinet Lament

o ya aubade aubade o boy o ya so many o's all in a row feeling of course's important today for Miu Miu (opened mouth) (that's Barney Bigard playing in the background, delicious) a feeling not unlike dragging dried red roses brittle and black over the smooth, albeit distressed in the corners, hardwood parquet floors of Mason's heart the blackguard consumes her even as he's gone. Taste: acidic steely firm taut. Where: in the back-bar crevice of her normally stoney emotions. Ultra close-up: inside of Miu Miu's open mouth breath glistening the lingering taste of Mason: steely wine. Miu Miu's feeling as she lip licks her memory: he eats green apples in the starlight. with salt. touching the pad of her index finger with the pad of her thumb smooth she came to him with a proposition: Saturday Night Function strut New Orleans funeral march walkin'-to-the-cemetery tempo clarinet leads the way, somber piano solo somber low impassioned cries. He's plenty good-looking enough why does he have to want to look like Marcus Schenkenberg. Smoothly smoothly urbane courteous debonair smoothly shyly his hair combed back expediting his sweat drench & dulcet mellow lyrically raucous hand fingering o that Mason does do well liquidly calling out lavishly not saying a word languidly fingers shoulder tickle lovely lovingly mmmmm hard pressed to forget last nights lasting Mood Indigo night long night long dark night a few stars round midnight lasting melodies Miu Miu harmonizes now with considerate adulation and considerable memory for Mason envisions him a clarinet solo he came to me (she relishes) with a proposition like spilled music tasting like lilac wine snazzy keen where my fingers play through his sweat drenched hair having had having him then having him again: time propulsive, agile improvisation, engaging bracing joie de vivre that keeps you coming back for more 5 stars - top rating, that Mason that Saturday Night Function that tap root that Am I Blue soft and plaintive that plaintive soft cry that solo that hot white jazz convulsion. yum: hmmm Miu Miu mulls: Mason as a Clarinet. she considers painting. Miu Miu ever the hungry ghost:

The clarinet has a distinctive liquid tone, resulting from the shape of the bore, whose characteristics vary between its three registers: the chalumeau (low), clarion or clarino (middle), and altissimo (high). Of all the wind instruments the clarinet has the widest compass, which is showcased in much wind band and orchestral writing. Additionally, improvements made to the fingering systems of the clarinet over time have enabled the instrument to be very agile; there are few restrictions to what it is able to play.

The bass clarinet has a characteristically deep mellow tone. It is often only used in large bands and contemporary orchestral pieces. The alto clarinet is rare to be found in other than a concert band. Its range is slightly higher than that of a bass clarinet, yet still much lower than the common B flat clarinet. The B flat clarinet is a very common band, orchestra, chamber music, and solo instrument. The tone quality varies greatly with the musician, the music, the style of clarinet, the reed, and humidity. The German clarinet generally has a dark, greenish tone quality. In contrast, the French clarinet, because of impressionable french composers, is more bright and lively -- some might even say shrill. In between, the modern American clarinet has tone qualities borrowed from both the French and the German clarinets.

Only a semitone below the B flat clarinet is the A clarinet. Much of orchestral and chamber repetoire is composed originally for A clarinet. Some people find the sound of the A clarinet to be just a little more rich and mysterious than a B flat, though the difference is small. Today, the chief use of an A clarinet is to make the key signature of a piece simpler. An E flat clarinet, about eighteen inches (45cm) long, is hardly as warm as the A clarinet. Many contemporary musicians write band music using the E flat clarinet. It is looked upon as the piccolo of clarinets, with its high and very bright tone.

Beginning clarinetists often choose soft reeds - 2 to 2 1/2. Jazz clarinetists often remain on softer reeds, as the soft reeds are easy for bending pitch. However, most classical musicians work their way up the reed size as their embouchures strengthen. The benefit of a harder reed is a sturdy, round tone. It takes many years of practice to strengthen your embouchure, but your tone depends on it. Within a few years of playing, the corners of your mouth will be strong enough to keep the air flowing in a very narrow, cylindrical form.

To practice controlling your air, light a candle, and hold it far from your face. Then, open your mouth only slightly, keep the corners of your mouth in, to make a very tight O shape. Then, take a deep breath from your diaphragm and blow at the candle. See how far away you can hold it and still blow it out. This gain of control will concentrate your air flow and round your tone in the most beautiful way possible.


All clarinets, except for the C clarinet, are transposing instruments, meaning that the sounding and written pitches differ. For a standard B♭ clarinet, the range stretches from the D below middle C, to around the F two and half octaves above middle C, although the top of the range is not well defined. Being a B♭ insturment, the written range is a tone higher. An A clarinet has the same written range, and consequently can get a semitone lower. All clarinets have nominally the same written range, so a bass clarinet operates an octave lower, and an E♭ clarinet operates a fifth higher than a B♭ clarinet. Generally, the lower clarinets are able to produce higher 'fingered' pitches than the small clarinets. This gives the bass clarinet a useable range of almost five octaves (beginning at low Bb two octaves and one tone below middle C) and the contra-alto and contra-bass clarinets perhaps more, but again these upper limits are subject to many variables.

The range of a clarinet can be divided into three main sections, known as 'registers'. The bottom octave and a half (from written E below middle C to the B♭ above middle C) is known as the 'chalumeau register', of which the top fourth contains what are known as the 'throat notes'. Good tone in the 'throat notes' takes great skill. The middle section is called the 'clarion register', which spans just over an octave (from written B above middle C, to the C two octaves above middle C). The top section is called the 'altissimo register', which starts with the (written) C# two octaves above middle C and upwards without a definite upper limit, though anything beyond the C above this can be considered quite extreme. The highest notes in the altissimo register are generally used only rarely, to achieve particular dramatic or showy effects, as in Dixieland performance. Beginners often discover these notes quite by accident; playing them deliberately and well requires many years of practice.

Construction and acoustics

Professional clarinets are usually made from African hardwood, often grenadilla or (rarely) Honduran rosewood. One major manufacturer makes professional clarinets from a composite mixture of plastic resin and wood chips — such instruments are less affected by humidity, but are heavier than the equivalent wood instrument. Student instruments are usually composite or plastic resin, commonly "resonite", an ABS resin. Some parts are sometimes made of ebonite. The instrument uses a single wooden (sometimes "fiber" or plastic) reed which is held in the mouth by the player. Vibrating the reed produces the instrument's sound.

The body is equipped with a complicated set of seven tone holes (six front, one back) and 17 keys which allow the full musical scale to be produced. The most common system of keys was named the Boehm System by its designer Hyacinthe Klosé in honour of the flute designer Theobald Boehm, but it is not the same as the Boehm System used on flutes. The other main system of keys is called the Oehler system and is used only in Germany and Austria (see History).

The hollow bore inside the instrument has a basically cylindrical shape, being roughly the same diameter for most of the length of the tube. There is a subtle hourglass shape, with its thinnest part at the junction between the upper and lower joint. This hourglass figure is not visible to the naked eye, but helps in the resonance of the sound. The diameter of the bore affects characteristics such as the stability of the pitch of a given note, or, conversely, the ability with which a note can be 'bent' in the manner required in jazz and other styles of music. The bell is at the bottom of the instrument and flares out to spread the tone evenly.

A clarinetist moves between registers through use of the register key, or speaker key. The fixed reed and fairly uniform diameter of the clarinet give the instrument the configuration of a stopped pipe in which the register key, when pressed, causes the clarinet to produce the note a twelfth higher. This interval corresponds to the third harmonic, whereas most other woodwinds go up to the second harmonic, an octave higher, when the register key is pressed. The fifth and seventh harmonics are also available to skilled players, sounding a further sixth and fourth higher respectively.

The highest notes on a clarinet can have a piercing quality and can be difficult to tune precisely. Different individual instruments can be expected to play differently in this respect. This becomes critical if a number of instruments are required to play a high part in unison. Fortunately for audiences, disciplined players can use a variety of fingerings to introduce slight variations into the pitch of these higher notes. It is also common for high melody parts to be split into close harmony to avoid this issue.

The parts that make up a clarinet are as follows (description follows the illustration from left to right):

The reed is attached to the mouthpiece by the ligature, and the whole assembly is held in the player’s mouth, with the reed on the underside of the mouthpiece, pressing against the player's bottom lip. The formation of the mouth around the mouthpiece and reed is called the embouchure.

Next is the short barrel; this part of the instrument may be extended in order to fine-tune the clarinet. As the pitch of the clarinet is fairly temperature sensitive some instruments have interchangeable barrels whose lengths vary very slightly. Some performers employ a single barrel with a thumbwheel that enables the barrel length to be altered on the fly.

The main body of the clarinet is divided (except in the case of the E♭ soprano clarinet) into the upper joint whose holes and most keys are operated by the left hand, and the lower joint with holes and most keys operated by the right hand. The left thumb operates both a sound hole and the register key. The cluster of keys in the middle of the illustration are known as the trill keys and are operated by the right hand. These give the player alternative fingerings which make it easy to play ornaments and trills that would otherwise be awkward. The entire weight of the instrument is supported by the right thumb behind the lower joint on what is misleadingly called the thumb-rest.

Finally, the flared end is known as the bell, which amplifies the sound. When playing to a microphone, it is often found that the sound produced from the bell is relatively coarse, and that a better tone can be recorded by placing the microphone a little way from the finger-holes of the instrument. This relates to the position of the instrument when playing to an audience: pointing down at the floor, except in the most vibrant parts of certain styles of music.

-- Jeff Wietor


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