Still processing the lessons learned at IDRS 2011

June 11, 2011

I blog to organize my thoughts, goals, and keep a record of where I’ve come from and where I’m going. It’s more for personal reference than anything else, so if my thoughts seems out of context or disorganized, understand it’s more of an “informational dump” of things that have been working themselves out in my head.

The sounds, performances, and lessons learned at IDRS 2011 are still pushing and poking my daily oboe life in my reedmaking, practicing, and tonal concept. Some things shocked me, some things reminded me of older lessons, some things only confirmed my deep rooted dogmas.

Some lessons learned:

  • Dark and covered is a small area of the color spectrum, and while it can be beautiful, it gets boring to listen to after about… 5 minutes. It’s like that wheel of color you get on computers that has every color on it, and all different shades. Dark is just one corner of the entire circle.
  • Projection is not how much air you blow through the instrument, but how much resonance, color, and overtones you can allow.
  • A smaller, compact, focused sound can fill an entire room.
  • What sounds full, beautiful, and complex from 20 feet away, can sound very small, tiny and shrewed from 50 feet away.
  • Martin says, “Most players have two dynamics, not too loud, and not too soft.” Even professionals fall into these categories.
  • The finest pianississimo’s performed on the big performances at night far outshined the largest fortississimos.
  • Even the biggest names can forget accidentals.
  • It is a fine line between quick and energetic and hurried and uncomfortable.
  • “Playing safe” is like eating a turkey dinner without the gravy. Everything is there, smells good, tastes good, looks good, but there’s something missing that pulls it all together, and you get frustrated that it could just be so much better.

Some things I want to try and strive for:

  • Woodhams had such a sleek, streamlined focused sound. It was incredibly flexible, keeping life and direction in the musical line, and could fill a hall. It didn’t sound massive from up close, and it wasn’t terribly covered either, but I would kill for a sound like that.
  • Peter Cooper constantly pushed students in the Strauss masterclass for more flexibility, more movement with the line, and more rational thinking for each decision made. While I had thought about most of the decisions he asked about, the level of flexibility he demanded was extreme, and I’m not sure my reeds would allow me to do the things he demanded.
  • Woodhams, Cooper, Katherine Needleman, Robert Walters, all had extremely active musical lines that wasn’t just crescendoing up and down, but doing summersaults and loops, defying gravity. The sound would fly off a skateboard ramp straight up into the air and just when you thought it’d start falling back to earth, it’d float away like a little birdey. THIS is what it means to be a flexible musician.

In summary, I need a lot more flexibility, and to plan my musical path through a piece much more carefully.

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2 Responses to “Still processing the lessons learned at IDRS 2011”

  1. paulomusic said

    Hi Cooper,

    I like the items you listed in this posting. Each one can generate thoughts, discussions, and a lot of practicing. I am curious if you play with an European style of reed as well. I ask this because although the American style is easy to play, and sounds nice, it feels to me limited in sound quality. The European read, on the other hand, offers me much more flexibility in all aspects, but it requires a much more refined control on the part of the oboist for it to sound well. Since I learned and have played with both styles of reeds, it has always been a dilemma to pick one. I have created a mixed version of them that worked for me for a while: a short-scraped American style. After coming from the IDRS 2011 conference, I am back to my European roots, with the difference that now I’m playing more with a French style rather than a German style. What has been your experience with different styles of reeds?

    • cooperwrightreeds said

      Hi Paulo,
      While I appreciate your opinion I couldn’t disagree with you stronger. I find the Euro sound much less flexible and could name a handful of IDRS 2011 performers who sounded like one color and one sound. This is not to say that the American school can be inflexible, and to say there is one “American school” is probably as overstated as saying there is one Euro school. Some American schools value flexibility more than others and you need look no further than Woodhams himself.

      Some American schools want dark and round all of the time. I certainly value more flexibility, as I allude to in my post about lessons learned.

      If you come up to Phoenix, give me a call and we can get together. I’m in Chandler currently but moving to Mesa at the end of July.

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