23 November 2008

A Puff of Air

This morning I sang as a sub in the choir at First Church in Boston. The Prelude and Postlude featured guest musician Geoffrey Evans playing a Native American flute; in general it resembles a large-ish recorder, but instead of a fipple (a notch in the wall of the instrument near the player's mouth which splits the air to generate the vibrations) there is a different, entirely interior mechanism. Geoff's playing was beautiful and atmospheric; and as a clarinetist, when I hear that sort of thing, I feel an inspired wish to take up such an instrument.

And then, this morning, I remembered the Studies in Impermanence.

I also remembered that, 37-ish years ago, that was how I wound up studying the clarinet: I had gone to a school band concert, just on a whim because a schoolmate (who played clarinet) invited me. And at the concert, when I heard the sound of the clarinet section, what I wanted more than aught else in the world was to learn how to make a sound like that, myself.

So part of the joy of hearing Geoff play at First Church this morning, was feeling the decades evaporate, because that pang of creative desire which his flute evoked, resonated with how I got my start as a musician, long ago which was not because (say) my mom and dad thought it might be good for me to take piano lessons, but because I took my own initiative, for love of the sound I heard.

Part of the joy, too, was realizing that this sonic delight of a single wind instrument commanding a large acoustic space, harmonized with some of my wishes in having written a number of unaccompanied clarinet pieces, notably the Studies in Impermanence.

Need I say, I thoroughly enjoyed this morning.

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