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Tabuteau on Tone



 
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Derek Reaban
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PostPosted: Thu Jan 06, 2005 12:10 am    Post subject: Tabuteau on Tone Reply with quote

Several years ago I had an extended business trip with lots of down time in the evenings. There was plenty of time for practice and reading. I managed to read “Arnold Jacobs: Song and Wind” by Brian Fredericksen cover to cover. I was absolutely captivated about his time at The Curtis Institute and especially his description of studying with Marcel Tabuteau. The paragraph that especially intrigued me was where Jacobs said, “Tabuteau formalized the concept of controlling phrasing and dynamics by a numbering system. Each dynamic would have its own level, depending on the instrument. During the class, Tabuteau would have us play at various dynamics by asking for ‘oboe, number five’ or ‘tuba, number three.’ It was magnificent training”.

Finding literature authored by Tabuteau has been on a back burner for me for the last several years. Based on many conversations that I have had with Wilmer Wise online (initiated after I read the Jacobs book) he encouraged me to seek out specific books about the wind players of the Philadelphia Orchestra (Kincaid, Tabuteau, and Moyse). Wilmer said that during his time at the Marlboro Festival he would hang out with woodwind players, and he gleaned a tremendous amount of knowledge from them!

Since Jacobs was a student at The Curtis Institute in the 1930s and Tabuteau died in 1966 (the year that I was born), I never imagined that I would be able to “experience” a lesson with Marcel Tabuteau. Well, to my great delight, I was wrong to make that assumption!

I stumbled across this CD on the Internet, put it on my wish list, and received it as a gift for Christmas:

.Marcel Tabuteau’s Lessons

I am simply amazed at how easily he is able to communicate his ideas, both through his perfect choice of words and more importantly how wonderfully he demonstrates these ideas on his oboe. With my interest in describing the concept of resonant sound and finding ways to refine this quality in my own playing, I was literally amazed at how Tabuteau’s words and examples spoke to me.

He starts off talking about his playing projection and his unique numbering system (and to hear his heavily accented speaking voice just adds to the weight of his message).

Quote:

First, remember the progression of numbers is not exactly a crescendo or a diminuendo. It is rather a scaling of color…With the oboe, the speed of the wind, also the position of the reed on the lips, are [used] for producing tone color.

When I say speed of the wind, do not confuse it with volume, thickness or loudness. The louder you play, the less it carries!

In my opinion, the quality that carries is the amplification of the dolce tone. The dolce tone is the nearest to zero. Therefore, I am in favor of a mobile, flexible embouchure which will give you the possibility to scale tone color...

Be sure to understand me. By ‘tone color,’ I mean the physical life of the notes.


I believe those are some of the most powerful words that I have ever heard spoken related to resonant sound! Consider the words of David Krauss here:

Quote:

“Obviously we have to play loud and soft, but consider playing less loud and more resonant because what you are hearing from the sound that I’m producing is the sympathetic vibration, what I’m resonating. That’s what you’re hearing. It’s not a tangible thing, volume.”


The phrase “amplification of the dolce tone” is this exact concept, but from the opposite perspective and allows me to focus on this same idea from a slightly different stance. There is truly something magical in those words for me!

When he say’s “By ‘tone color,’ I mean the physical life of the notes” he is echoing the idea that I read from Emory Remington. Remington says, “[the exercises] should be played comfortably, not forced or underplayed, but with a feeling of the resonance in the sound from the beginning – so that the sound ‘lives’.”

And then hearing Tabuteau demonstrate this tone color variation "from 1 to 9 ... 9 to 1" while he plays “one note on the tip of the reed and moves gradually toward the bottom of the reed, that note will determine different colors”. It is truly amazing to hear his sound! Even on the amateur equipment that this was recorded on in 1965 you can literally hear the overtones in his sound. Many times I’m hearing the second overtone (the octave) with more strength than the fundamental note! Amazing!

There are so many other ideas contained in this CD that I don’t even know where to begin in describing them here. I find many of the ideas that Michael Sachs has in his book are all here in explicit detail. His Dancing Numbers, Singing Intervals, and Inflection Distribution jump off the CD and provide a tool that I will certainly be able to apply to my playing.

If you want to add some color and vibrancy to your “Scheherazade”, this disk is worth the price just to hear his approach to the music.

Hope this will excite some of you to explore the ideas of Marcel Tabuteau!
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Derek Reaban
Tempe, Arizona
Tempe Winds / Symphony of the Southwest


Last edited by Derek Reaban on Mon Aug 08, 2011 1:10 pm; edited 2 times in total
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david johnson
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PostPosted: Thu Jan 06, 2005 1:50 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

an oboist/sax/country bass friend of mine used to tell me of marcel.
i never knew any of these technical bits, though. thank you.

dj
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Derek Reaban
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Location: Tempe, Arizona

PostPosted: Thu Jan 06, 2005 9:47 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Carole Nowicke, on the TPIN list, provided some text that she had about Tabuteau and Kincaid from an Interview that she did with Henry Charles Smith (on page 8 of the PDF file). I think this is important to add here, just to show how inspirational top flight players found Tabuteau's and Kincaid's phrasing to be.

Quote:

"I was particularly fixated and fascinated with the concept of sound and phrase with Tabuteau, in particular, and Kincaid, the first oboe and the first flute. Those people, I think, along with Sol Schoenbach, the bassoonist, and Ralph McClain, and then Anthony Gigliotti. I think these people have had more to do with the way America's orchestras, and now the world's orchestras’ play and phrase than any conductor. I think these people have had a bigger impact on the questions of sound and phrase and style than any conductor has.

When I had a score (when I could afford to have a score, sometimes I'd borrow one from the library) I would sit up in my seat in the amphitheater and I would be particularly interested in the oboe parts. The next day I would likely go home and play the oboe solos on my trombone and try to make them sound like Tabuteau had sounded the night before which was a pretty big order. [laughs] This is where my concept of sound came from, the concept of sound in that orchestra, the ability to be immensely colorful and individualistic when the occasion found it appropriate, and then the ability on the other hand (in Brahms or something like this) to be able to blend with some other instruments so that you can't tell the instruments apart and everything in between. This is what I heard in this orchestra.

Stokowski really started that, and encouraged it. He hired incredibly great solo players, and in the appropriate places, he encouraged great freedom and great range of color. This part of playing symphony orchestras today are so efficient, they are so accurate, and everybody can play every note correctly, and in tune, and at the right time. But the kinds of artistic chances that Kincaid, and Tabuteau, and McClain, and Sol Schoenbach would take every time you'd come to something it would be a little different, and they would do incredible things to shade and color the sound and do something interesting to a phrase. I think we've lost some of that in this day and age. They would bring goose bumps.

On several tours his last couple of years, Kincaid, for an encore at the end of the whole concert we would play the Night Soliloquy of Kent Kennan, which is for solo flute, and harp and strings. Every night it would be different, and every night it would bring more goose bumps. It was absolutely amazing to sit back there my horn in my lap and just listen to this man play, and hear how he colored sound and would take incredible artistic chances and the results were amazing every time."

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Derek Reaban
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Tempe Winds / Symphony of the Southwest


Last edited by Derek Reaban on Mon Aug 08, 2011 1:10 pm; edited 1 time in total
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jpellett
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PostPosted: Sat Aug 19, 2006 9:18 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks Derek. I got the CD and it is a revelation.

Jason Pellett
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Derek Reaban
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Joined: 08 Jul 2003
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Location: Tempe, Arizona

PostPosted: Sat Nov 04, 2006 7:32 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I just received the October 2006 ITG Journal and read the interview with Rob Roy McGregor. He was asked about the differences between Dorthy Chandler Pavilion (the former home of the LA Philharmonic) and the new Walt Disney Concert Hall. The descriptions that he provides are very informative, and there is one idea that ties perfectly to this Tabuteau topic.

The interview asks, "What are the major differences between the two halls?". And he responds with this:


    In the old place the bass response is nil and in the new hall it is full and easy to hear. In the old place the violins had to really dig in to feel like they were getting some action for their efforts, and in the new hall this is not necessary. Their quality could improve and the quality of the sound is the one that projects.


I know that many fine players discover this idea and then share it in articles and masterclasses . I've quoted Tabuteau, David Krauss, James Thompson, and Mark Gould in the past, and now I'm adding Rob Roy McGregor to this list.

I would encourage everyone to read this article. I've been fortunate to hear my instructor talk about recent lessons with Rob Roy and his insights about ideas that we discuss in lessons are extremely helpful. It's nice to have an article and hear him talk about a large range of topics!
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Derek Reaban
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