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

    Clinton, Trump and the 'Woman’s Card'

    Ask supporters of Democratic front-runner in US presidential campaign, and they’ll tell you Republican presidential candidate is playing a dangerous hand

    Russian Censorship Group Seeks Chinese Help to Better Control Internet

    At recent Safe Internet League forum in Moscow, speakers from both nations underscored desire for authorities to further limit and control information online

    Video Makeshift Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Free classes in Islamabad park serve a few of the country’s nearly 25 million out-of-school youths; NGO cites ‘education crisis’

    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.
    Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensionsi
    X
    April 29, 2016 12:28 AM
    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensions

    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Master Mohammad Ayub runs a makeshift school in a public park in Islamabad. Thousands of poor children have benefited from his services over the years, but, as VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem reports, roughly 25 million school-age youths don't get an education in Pakistan.
    Video

    Video Florida’s Weeki Wachee ‘Mermaids’ Make a Splash

    Since 1947, ‘mermaids’ have fascinated tourists at central Florida’s Weeki Wachee Springs State Park with their fluid movements and synchronized ballet. Performing underwater has its challenges, including cold temperatures and a steady current, as VOA’s Lin Yang and Joseph Mok report.
    Video

    Video Somali, African Union Forces Face Resurgent Al-Shabab

    The Islamic State terror group claimed its first attack in Somalia earlier this week, though the claim has not been verified by forces on the ground. Meanwhile, al-Shabab militants have stepped up their attacks as Somalia prepares for elections later this year. Henry Ridgwell reports there are growing frustrations among Somalia’s Western backers over the country’s slow progress in forming its own armed forces to establish security after 25 years of chaos.
    Video

    Video Bangladesh Targeted Killings Spark Wave of Fear

    People in Bangladesh’s capital are expressing deep concern over the brutal attacks that have killed secular blogger, and most recently a gay rights activist and an employee of the U.S. embassy. Xulhaz Mannan, an embassy protocol officer and the editor of the country’s only gay and transgender magazine Roopban; and his friend Mehboob Rabbi Tanoy, a gay rights activist, were hacked to death by five attackers in Mannan’s Dhaka home earlier this month.
    Video

    Video Documentary Tells Tale of Chernobyl Returnees

    Ukraine this week is marking the 30th anniversary of the world's worst nuclear accident, at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. Soviet officials at first said little about the accident, but later evacuated a 2,600-square-kilometer "exclusion zone." Some people, though, came back. American directors Holly Morris and Anne Bogart created a documentary about this faithful and brave community. VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko reports from New York on "The Babushkas of Chernobyl." Carol Pearson narrates.
    Video

    Video Nigerians Feel Bite of Buhari Economic Policy

    Despite the global drop in the price of oil, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has refused to allow the country's currency to devalue, leading to a shortage of foreign exchange. Chris Stein reports from Lagos businessmen and consumers are feeling the impact as the country deals with a severe fuel shortage.
    Video

    Video  Return to the Wild

    There’s a growing trend in the United States to let old or underused golf courses revert back to nature. But as Erika Celeste reports from one parcel in Grafton, Ohio, converting 39 hectares of land back to green space is a lot more complicated than just not mowing the fairway.
    Video

    Video West Urges Unity in Libya as Migrant Numbers Soar

    The Italian government says a NATO-led mission aimed at stemming the flow of migrants from Libya to Europe could be up and running by July. There are concerns that the number of migrants could soar as the route through Greece and the Balkans remains blocked. Western powers say the political chaos in Libya is being exploited by people smugglers — and they are pressuring rival groups to come together under the new unity government. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Russia’s TV Rain Swims Against Tide in Sea of Kremlin Propaganda

    Russia’s media freedoms have been gradually eroded under President Vladimir Putin as his government has increased state ownership, influence, and restrictions on critical reporting. Television, where most Russians get their news, has been the main target and is now almost completely state controlled. But in the Russian capital, TV Rain stands out as an island in a sea of Kremlin propaganda.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora

    New in Music Alley

    Border Crossings: A Great Big Worldi
    || 0:00:00
    ...  
     
    X
    April 27, 2016 12:30 PM
    Duo Ian Axel and Chad King who are better known as "A Great Big World" released their sophomore CD in 2015, "When the Morning Comes" and they join Border Crossings host Larry London to perform songs from the new CD and also their biggest hit, "Say Something."

    Duo Ian Axel and Chad King who are better known as "A Great Big World" released their sophomore CD in 2015, "When the Morning Comes" and they join Border Crossings host Larry London to perform songs from the new CD and also their biggest hit, "Say Something."