Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Music is the brandy of the damned.

Lately I have been making a lot of reeds and gouging a lot of cane, and honestly, reeds are pretty much the ultimate evil at the moment. I'm having a lot of trouble getting my knife sharp, and it seems like all of my cane, regardless of how it felt when I gouged it, is either far too soft and flexible or cracks as soon as I start scraping. Granted, early cracking is better than cracking the moment before the reed reaches a playable stage, but I'm beginning to get frustrated. Regarding my knife, I've always had trouble getting my knives really sharp, and I'm actually using what was my second best knife right now, and have been for several months since I lost my good knife. I think that I'm going to buy a new knife. (Suggestions? The one I lost was RDG's double hollow ground knife, which used to have a different name, and which I liked, but having options is always nice.) Regarding my cane, though, there's not really anything I can do except have a lot of patience and go through a large number of early stage reeds.

I must admit, my wonderful practicing plan is, well, not exactly going on schedule. I keep getting distracted by my shiny (metaphorically- it's actually second hand and in many, many pieces) Vade-Mecum, and deciding to play that random new etude instead of the Ferling I'm meant to be working on. Ah, well, such is life. I was practicing English horn the other day, running through my book of English Horn Solos edited by Thomas Stacy, and I came across this piece, Faure's Sicilienne. Take a listen (the actual piece starts around 1:10). Sound pretty much exactly like the Harry Potter soundtrack to anybody? Oh, John Williams...the truth is, I absolutely love John Williams. I know that he steals his themes from anyone and anywhere, but the results are so wonderful that I can let it pass. Plus, I actually think it's very cool when classical music gets reused or redone in popular music, so who am I to complain when Tchaikovsky shows up in Star Wars, or Faure in Harry Potter?

I received an email from CCM letting me know that I have to take a piano proficiency test. Obviously this isn't a strange and shocking turn of events, but I had forgotten about it, and I have to learn a real piece of a certain level, know all my scales 2 octaves, sight-read, and transpose. Conveniently I have all summer to practice, and the internet, from which I can get free sheet music. Plus, after my orchestration class this past semester, my thoughts end up along the lines of "at least I only have to learn a piece meant for piano, with only two staves and no transposition!'

I've been going home every weekend to visit my friends, parents and sister, but this week it's for a rather more exciting occasion: my little sister is graduating from high school! I'm very happy for her, especially since she's incredibly happy to be done and excited about college, but boy does it make me feel old.

That's rather a change, really, as recently I've been having moments of "wow, I'm going to be in grad school next year; people are going to expect me to know things!" While I felt like I knew what was going on, and could give advice about all sorts of music related things, this past year, next year I'll not only be at a brand new school, but I'll be at a brand new intimidating conservatory-like school. I don't feel old enough to be a grad student! I don't feel knowledgeable enough, or advanced enough. And yet, they let me in, so clearly I'm doing something right.

I'm actually very excited. It will be weird, though, to be at school and have graduated from undergrad. Besides, they don't even know about my school up there. Oh, I am so very much looking forward to being at school in the fall, to being in the middle of that atmosphere.

I thought I'd found a way to easily get my recital recording up online (I don't know if anyone else is interested, but I did have one person ask me), using muxtape.com. Unfortunately, even though my files fit the size limit and are the correct format, it's not working. I'm going to try again later, but is anyone interested in hearing my recital? And does anyone have a suggestion for a place to upload them? What I like about muxtape is that rather than, like sendspace or some such website, having to download the files, you can just stream them and listen to them online. (You in fact cannot download the files, but I'd rather have that than being unable to listen except by downloading.)

I bought myself an Ipod with the money from my music department award, and decided to have the back engraved, which you can do for free. I wanted to find an appropriate music quote, something a little bit melodramatic, to fit my personality, without being too too. I finally, after long deliberation and wishy-washy-ness, decided on the quote in my title, "music is the brandy of the damned." Upon typing the quote into the order form, however, I was informed that I had chosen "inappropriate text"! Come on, Apple! So, I settled for "music is the literature of the heart." It's not quite as good, but I rather like it.

At work, I've been entering Niccolo Jommelli's Miserere into Finale. I leaned the other day that there may actually be enough interest in the piece to have a real edition made; usually the work I do is for a specific production being done by someone who has contacted my boss. In this case, as the person who inputted, formatted, and edited the piece, I would get my name on the edition. I also, as I found out today, get to write the opening note for the edition. It won't have any lovely program note stuff - I'm not in charge of that much - but I do get to write the information like "the voices were originally notated in soprano clef" and "while dynamic markings have been distributed among the parts, articulation markings are for the most part as notated in the manuscript". I find it rather exciting, really.


Mandy Loerch said...

I don't really know which knives to recommend (because I use weird left-handed ones), but my knives stay really sharp with my ceramic stone. I bought it from Edmund Neilsen (http://www.nielsen-woodwinds.com/p-5053-sharpening-stone-ceramic.aspx), and even though it is a bit pricey, it really works, and the whole Mason studio now swears by it! Hope that helps!

Chris said...

I used to have the same problem with knives. I now use a Chudnow Deluxe Razor Knife and one of those Albion Herder-style knives for delicate tip work. What has helped the most I think is the use of the Idahone crock sticks, I used to be against them but a friend got me into it and I wouldnt think of going back. As for going to Grad school in a new and intimidating place, just stay true to yourself and your convictions and you'll do just fine.

emilyoboe said...

apple seriously wouldn't let you write that? sheesh.

as for reed knives, you might try the Landwell reed knife shown here http://www.forrestsmusic.com/knivesandcutters.htm
It's not cheap, but I have one and like it a lot and know professionals who use it too.

I sharpen my knives with the super fine 2x4" diamond stone here (C-07-SF)

It seems to work pretty well for me, though the crock sticks mentioned above also seem popular among good oboists I know. Neither method is overly expensive to try thankfully.

Cheers, Emily

Charles B said...


I am the fellow for whom you are making the Finale-ized Miserere!
How is it going?
Where will you study oboe next year?
It is a very beautiful piece, by the way.
Charlie Brink

racheloboes said...


Thanks for the info! I've never used a ceramic stone, and I think I'll look into it.

racheloboes said...


How is a "razor" knife ground? I've heard the name before, but never been quite able to figure out what it meant. I've heard very good things and very bad things about crock sticks- mostly I'm just afraid I wouldn't be able to figure them out, since I don't know anyone who uses them. But it's certainly something for me to think about.

Thank you also for the advice. I appreciate it. :-)

racheloboes said...


I was pretty shocked at Apple. :-)

I've heard very good things about Landwell knives, so perhaps when I buy a new knife I'll invest. And thanks for the sharpening info as well.

racheloboes said...

Mr. Brink,

I finished the Miserere score and parts a couple days ago. It went very well! A very easy to read manuscript.

I'm going to be studying at the College-Conservatory of Music at U of Cincinnati.

Chris said...

I honestly don't think there is much of a difference in the way a razor knife is made (but I am, most likely, mistaken) I was just telling you the style of knife (MCW with a rectangular handle). As for crock sticks, this is the method which works well for me (right handed): on the left stick, I keep the knife pointed straight down to the table and give it 2 or 3 passes. Then on the right stick I put as much of the flat of the knife against the stick and give it 2 or 3 swipes (this removes what little burr I had going) and then I repeat in the left side (blade facing straight down, no angles) and the same on the right (blade straight down, no angles) and then finish up on the left stick (to get the burr facing away from you) and you are done! The only time i angle the blade is when it is as flat against the right stick as possible for 2 or 3 passes, that's it. I hope it helps, I used to use stones and everything else but this way is so much easier and faster for me that I wouldn't dream of going back.
All the best.

Dusty said...

1987: Where art and science converge
Any oboist will tell you, it’s all in the reed. And for the perfect reed—the delicate wooden piece at the top of the oboe—one needs the perfect reed knife. In the 1980s, engineering student and French horn player Darryl Caswell decided it was time to save oboists everywhere the anguish of scraping their reeds into “camel fodder.” He teamed up with Jean Landa, the principal oboist of the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra, to study the microstructure of reed knives, good and bad. Based on their findings they developed the Landwell reed knife. The curved-bladed reed knife has become a favourite of professional oboists around the world. Caswell is now an award-winning engineering professor at the U of C.

food for thought...

Jediwashington said...

Let me know if you have any questions about CCM! I'm an undergraduate in the music education program there, but I'm still taking lessons with Dr. O and a good feel for the department. Everyone is really fantastic there. you'll learn a lot.