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

    Video Rubio Looks to Surge in New Hampshire

    Republican presidential candidate has moved into second place in several recent surveys and appears to be gaining ground on longtime frontrunner Donald Trump

    UN Calls for Global Ban on Female Genital Mutilation

    Recent UNICEF report finds at least 200 million girls and women alive today have undergone female genital mutilation in 30 countries

    UN Pilots New Peace Approach in CAR

    Approach launched in northern town of Kaga Bandoro, where former combatants of mainly Muslim Seleka armed group and Christian and animist anti-Balaka movement are being paid to do community work

    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.
    German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibiti
    X
    Hamada Elsaram
    February 05, 2016 4:30 PM
    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.
    Video

    Video Genius Lets World Share Its Knowledge

    Inspired by crowdsourcing companies like Wikipedia, Genius allows anyone to edit anything on the web, using its web annotation tool
    Video

    Video Former Drug CEO Martin Shkreli Angers US Lawmakers

    A former U.S. pharmaceutical business executive has angered lawmakers by refusing to explain why he raised the price of a life-saving pill by 5,000 percent. Martin Shkreli was removed from a congressional hearing on Thursday after citing his Fifth Amendment right to stay silent. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Super Bowl TV Commercials are Super Business for Advertisers

    The Super Bowl, the championship clash between the two top teams in American Football, is the most-watched sporting event of the year, and advertisers are lining up and paying big bucks to get their commercials on the air. In fact, the TV commercials during the Super Bowl have become one of the most anticipated and popular features of the event. VOA's Brian Allen has a sneak peek of what you can expect to see when the big game goes to commercial break, and the real entertainment begins.
    Video

    Video In Philippines, Mixed Feelings About Greater US Military Presence

    In the Philippines, some who will be directly affected by a recent Supreme Court decision clearing the way for more United States troop visits are having mixed reactions.  The increased rotations come at a time when the Philippines is trying to build up its military in the face of growing maritime assertiveness from China.  From Bahile, Palawan on the coast of the South China Sea, Simone Orendain has this story.
    Video

    Video Microcephaly's Connection to Zika: Guilty Until Proven Innocent

    The Zika virus rarely causes problems for the people who get it, but it seems to be having a devastating impact on babies whose mothers are infected with Zika. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
    Video

    Video Solar Innovation Provides Cheap, Clean Energy to Kenya Residents

    In Kenya, a company called M-Kopa Solar is providing clean energy to more than 300,000 homes across East Africa by allowing customers to "pay-as-you-go" via their cell phones. As Lenny Ruvaga reports from Kangemi, customers pay a small deposit for a solar unit and then pay less than a dollar a day to get clean energy to light up their homes or businesses.
    Video

    Video Stunning Artworks Attract Record Crowds, Thanks to Social Media

    A new exhibit at the oldest art museum in America is shattering attendance records. Thousands of visitors are lining up to see nine giant works of art that have gotten a much-deserved shot of viral marketing. The 150-year-old Smithsonian American Art Museum has never had a response quite like this. VOA's Julie Taboh reports.
    Video

    Video Apprenticeships Put Americans on Path Back to Work

    Trying to get more people into the U.S. workforce, the Obama administration last year announced $175 million in grants towards apprenticeship programs. VOA White House correspondent Aru Pande went inside one training center outside of Washington that has gained national recognition for helping put people on the path to employment.
    Video

    Video New Material May Reduce Concussion Effects

    As the 2016 National Football League season reaches its summit at the Super Bowl this coming Sunday (2/7), scientists are trying to learn how to more effectively protect football players from dangerous and damaging concussions. Researchers at Cardiff and Cambridge Universities say their origami-based material may solve the problem. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Saudi Arabian Women's Sports Chip Away at Stereotypes

    Saudi Arabian female athletes say that sports are on the front line of busting traditions that quash women’s voices, both locally and internationally. In their hometown of Jeddah, a group of basketball players say that by connecting sports to health issues, they are encouraging women and girls to get out of their homes and participate in public life. VOA’s Heather Murdock reports.
    Video

    Video A Year Later, Fortunes Mixed for Syrians Forging New Lives in Berlin

    In April of last year, VOA followed the progress of six young Syrian refugees -- four brothers and their two friends -- as they made their way from Libya to Italy by boat, and eventually to Germany. Reporter Henry Ridgwell caught up with the refugees again in Berlin, as they struggle to forge new lives amid the turmoil of Europe's refugee crisis.
    Video

    Video Zika Virus May be Hard to Stop

    With the Zika virus spreading rapidly, the World Health Organization Monday declared Zika a global health emergency. As Alberto Pimienta reports, for many governments and experts, the worst is yet to come.

    New in Music Alley

    Beyond Category: Arturo Sandovali
    || 0:00:00
    ...  
     
    X
    February 02, 2016 3:53 PM
    Cuban-born trumpeter Arturo Sandoval is one of the most exciting musicians in jazz. The multi-Grammy winner takes the Blues Alley stage to perform, and sits down with Beyond Category host Eric Felten to talk about his life in music.

    Cuban-born trumpeter Arturo Sandoval is one of the most exciting musicians in jazz. The multi-Grammy winner takes the Blues Alley stage to perform, and sits down with Beyond Category host Eric Felten to talk about his life in music.