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<<  -- 2 --  Jennifer Paull    REMINISCENT RETROSPECTIVES


The symphonic repertoire calls for the basic 2 oboes and cor anglais, just as it does two flutes and piccolo, two clarinets and bass clarinet, two bassoons and contrabassoon, meat and two veg. Music schools did not have proportionally fewer students hoping to refurbish these small sections, however. You could easily find more clarinet than viola players, for example. Some musicians were inevitably going to be left outside the symphonic cocoon. They would become teachers and teach others to follow the same path, who would teach others to follow suit ...

I discovered the existence of an in-built instrumental pecking order which I could never fathom, and still can't. The idea that a violinist was more important to Music than a bassoonist was rather like telling van Gogh that green was more vital than blue. All of our instrumental hues are necessary to our Art. There were far more colours to discover than I ever knew existed within our very own western culture. Voices from the past with mysterious names such as 'viola da gamba' or 'oboe d'amore' were so rare, they were practically queuing up to join the dodo, the 'serpent' and the 'ophecleide'.

Ethnomusicology was an unheard of discipline. Other cultures were simply left on their respective shelves and excluded from 'general studies' which were sadly, very limited. The curriculum revolved around the Great Orchestral Repertoire being everything to which a wind player could ever aspire! I recall a unique lecture about Indian music given by a visiting American professor. Wonderfully interesting, I was left longing for much more.

Musical imbalance continues in academia today. Although the barrier against women is much reduced, it is still present. Recently, the Vienna Philharmonic were obliged to engage a replacement lady harpist. No man was available on the necessary dates. The answer ? They placed her behind a screen with a potted palm in front -- molto burkhoso?

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Copyright © 4 January 2002 Jennifer Paull, Vouvry, Switzerland





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