News / Arts & Entertainment

'Clowns of Orchestra' Descend on New York

Bassoonists gave an impromptu outdoor concert in New York’s Washington Square Park. (Gail Wein/VOA)
Bassoonists gave an impromptu outdoor concert in New York’s Washington Square Park. (Gail Wein/VOA)
Gail Wein

Bassoons have been called the clown of the orchestra, an ill wind, and even a burping bedpost. 

It seems the one-and-a-quarter meter tall wooden tubes get no respect.  Except, perhaps, at the annual meeting of the IDRS - the International Double Reed Society. Hundreds of professional, amateur and student bassoonists joined their brethren - oboe, English horn and contra-bassoon players - at New York University for their 43rd annual convention.

Most people don't even know what a bassoon is, says IDRS president - and bassoonist - Keith Sweger.

Stephen Moschner demonstrates the secret to circular breathing by having workshop participants imagine playing the bagpipe. (Gail Wein/VOA)Stephen Moschner demonstrates the secret to circular breathing by having workshop participants imagine playing the bagpipe. (Gail Wein/VOA)
x
Stephen Moschner demonstrates the secret to circular breathing by having workshop participants imagine playing the bagpipe. (Gail Wein/VOA)
Stephen Moschner demonstrates the secret to circular breathing by having workshop participants imagine playing the bagpipe. (Gail Wein/VOA)

“Well, first they ask what I play and I say bassoon, and they usually describe an oboe. so, that is typical," he said. "But I do try to say, oh, well, [it represents] the grandfather from Peter and the Wolf.”

This family of musical instruments gets that distinctive sound from its reed, which is made from two wafer-thin pieces of bamboo cane bound together. When the player blows into the reed, the two pieces vibrate together, just like human vocal cords do. 

Sweger says these instruments are at home in any genre of music. 

“You find double reeds in pop music, you find them in jazz, you find them all over the place.. and a lot of times sprinkled in, in such a way that people don’t even recognize that they're there, which is wonderful," he said. "But again traditionally, we expect to see these instruments and hear them in orchestras, in chamber groups, in bands, wind ensembles.”

Double Reeds Descend on New York for Week of Music
Double Reeds Descend on New York for Week of Musici
|| 0:00:00
...    
🔇
X

There are generally just one or two bassoons in a symphony orchestra, compared with a dozen or more violins or cellos. Aiden Brawn, a college student from New Jersey, says their common interest bonds the players, and creates a sense of community that doesn’t exist the other instruments. 

"I think you …..have to be a little eccentric to play the bassoon, I think that's what brings us all together,” he said.

There were 137 events crowded into the five day conference.

Participants enjoyed concerts, master classes and workshops, including one on a technique called circular breathing, led by Stephen Moschner from Melborne, Australia. It involves blowing air out of your mouth while inhaling through your nose. Moschner brags he can hold a note for 15 or 20 seconds without taking an audible breath. 

The twenty–two contra-bassoonists of the Contra Band perform "Thus Spake Zarathrusa," the theme from "2001: A Space Odyssey." (Gail Wein/VOA)The twenty–two contra-bassoonists of the Contra Band perform "Thus Spake Zarathrusa," the theme from "2001: A Space Odyssey." (Gail Wein/VOA)
x
The twenty–two contra-bassoonists of the Contra Band perform "Thus Spake Zarathrusa," the theme from "2001: A Space Odyssey." (Gail Wein/VOA)
The twenty–two contra-bassoonists of the Contra Band perform "Thus Spake Zarathrusa," the theme from "2001: A Space Odyssey." (Gail Wein/VOA)

The annual gathering creates a rare opportunity for masses of instruments to perform together, like the 22 contrabassoonists of the Contra Band, who gave a new dimension to the Richard Strauss tone poem, Thus Spake Zarathrusa, perhaps better known as the theme from 2001: A Space Odyssey

The instrumentalists also showed their whimsical side, with a flash mob performance, taking people in New York's Washington Square Park by surprise with a rendition of New York, New York, complete with choreography and a drag-queen singer. 

There are opportunities for everyone to make music at the International Double Reed Society conference. And they'll do it all again next year, at the 2015 conference in Tokyo, Japan.

You May Like

Hezbollah Chief Says Does Not Want War But Ready for One

VOA's Jerusalem correspondent reports that with an Israeli election looming and Hezbollah's involvement in Syria, neither side appears interested in a wider conflict More

Multimedia VOA SPECIAL REPORT: Despite Danger, Best US Minds Battle Deadly Virus

Scientists at America's premier biological research center race in military confinement to find effective drugs, speedier tests and a safe vaccine amid the deadliest outbreak of Ebola in history More

Kurdish Poet Battles to Defend Language, Culture

Kawa Nemir's work is an example of what he sees as an irreversible cultural and political assertiveness among Kurds in Turkey More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Egypt's Suez Canal Dreams Tempered by Continued Unresti
X
Heather Murdock
January 30, 2015 8:00 PM
Egypt plans to expand the Suez Canal, raising hopes that the end of its economic crisis may be in sight. But some analysts say they expect the project may cost too much and take too long to make life better for everyday Egyptians. VOA's Heather Murdock reports.
Video

Video Egypt's Suez Canal Dreams Tempered by Continued Unrest

Egypt plans to expand the Suez Canal, raising hopes that the end of its economic crisis may be in sight. But some analysts say they expect the project may cost too much and take too long to make life better for everyday Egyptians. VOA's Heather Murdock reports.
Video

Video Threat of Creeping Lava Has Hawaiians on Edge

Residents of the small town of Pahoa on the Big Island of Hawaii face an advancing threat from the Kilauea volcano. Local residents are keeping a watchful eye on creeping lava. Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Pro-Kremlin Youth Group Creatively Promotes 'Patriotic' Propaganda

As Russia's President Vladimir Putin faces international pressure over Ukraine and a failing economy, unofficial domestic groups are rallying to his support. One such youth organization, CET, or Network, uses creative multimedia to appeal to Russia's urban youth with patriotic propaganda. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Mobile Infrared Scanners May Help Homeowners Save Energy

Mobile photo scanners have been successfully employed for navigational purposes, such as Google Maps. Now, a group of scientists from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology says the same technology could help homeowners better insulate their houses and save some money. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Filmmakers Produce Hand-Painted Documentary on Van Gogh

The troubled life of the famous 19th century Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh has been told through many books and films, but never in the way a group of filmmakers now intends to do. "Loving Vincent " will be the first ever feature-length film made of animated hand-painted images, done in the style of the late artist. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Issues or Ethnicity? Question Divides Nigeria

As Nigeria goes to the polls next month, many expect the two top presidential contenders to gain much of their support from constituencies organized along ethnic or religious lines. But are faith and regional blocs really what political power in Nigeria is about? Chris Stein reports.
Video

Video Rock-Consuming Organisms Alter Views of Life Processes

Scientists thought they knew much about how life works, until a discovery more than two decades ago challenged conventional beliefs. Scientists found that there are organisms that breathe rocks. And it is only recently that the scientific community is accepting that there are organisms that could get energy out of rocks. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports.
Video

Video Paris Attacks Highlight Global Weapons Black Market

As law enforcement officials piece together how the Paris and Belgian terror cells carried out their recent attacks, questions are being asked about how they obtained military grade assault weapons - which are illegal in the European Union. As VOA's Jeff Swicord reports, experts say there is a very active worldwide black market for these weapons, and criminals and terrorists are buying.
Video

Video Activists Accuse China of Targeting Religious Freedom

The U.S.-based Chinese religious rights group ChinaAid says 2014 was the worst year for religious freedom in China since the end of the Cultural Revolution. As Ye Fan reports, activists say Beijing has been tightening religious controls ever since Chinese leader Xi Jinping came to office. Hu Wei narrates.
Video

Video Theologians Cast Doubt on Morality of Drone Strikes

In 2006, stirred by photos of U.S. soldiers mistreating Iraqi prisoners, a group of American faith leaders and academics launched the National Religious Campaign Against Torture. It played an important role in getting Congress to investigate, and the president to ban, torture. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Former Sudan 'Lost Boy' Becomes Chess Master in NYC

In the mid-1980’s, thousands of Sudanese boys escaped the country's civil war by walking for weeks, then months and finally for more than a year, up to 1,500 kilometers across three countries. The so-called Lost Boys of the Sudan had little time for games. But one of them later mastered the game of chess, and now teaches it to children in the New York area. VOA’s Bernard Shusman in New York has his story.
Video

Video NASA Monitors Earth’s Vital Signs From Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, is wrapping up its busiest 12-month period in more than a decade, with three missions launched in 2014 and two this month, one in early January and the fifth scheduled for January 29. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, the instruments being lifted into orbit are focused on Earth’s vital life support systems and how they are responding to a warmer planet.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid

New in Music Alley

 

 

 

 

 

Singer Leyla McCalla takes up not only the guitar, but the banjo and cello to perform songs from her new disc, “A Tribute to Langston Hughes,” music that mixes the Creole rhythms of Haiti with the French Quarter flavor of New Orleans on this edition of "The Hamilton Live."