Saturday, March 18, 2006

Why I Play the Oboe Piano

Here's an interesting article by writer and musician Isabel Bradley. She asks why musicians play the insruments that they do, and after informally interviewing a few different instrumentalists, she writes this in Open Writing:

"The need to play an instrument stems from the player’s delight in the sound it produces. If that basic affinity with the instrument is absent, there will be no joy in playing it – or in listening to that person do so!"
She also writes of her own experience playing her chosen instrument, the flute:

The sounds of the flute seeped into my soul when, as a child, I listened to my
father practising each night. In all its moods, the flute sounds beautiful. It can be silver, crystal, gold, or honey; rippling, soaring, singing and floating. It is this potential for creating heavenly tones that leads me to practice and play my flute as often as time allows. In return for “polishing my talent” by practicing often and carefully, I receive both physical and emotional pleasure when playing my flute. The vibrations caused by that silver tube soothe my soul, heart and mind; the physical delight of conquering difficult passages, the deep, controlled breathing feeding oxygen to all parts of my body, is as beneficial to me as road-running, riding a bicycle, or conquering the physical intricacies of soccer, rugby, tennis or any other sport is to the sportsman.

I try to think of why I chose the piano, and all I can think is that the piano chose me. That, and I never knew of any other instruments (except maybe the guitar) until I was several years into the piano. I envy those who grew up around people who played less ubiquitous instruments--flutes, bassoons, violas, etc.--or at least grew up in musical families.

I love playing piano more than just about anything. Ever since I first sat down at it, it felt natural and made sense. It's as if it responded to me in a way it didn't respond to the other kids who took lessons from my same piano teacher. I can't imagine playing any other instrument. Except maybe ...

As far as the sound of an instrument, I think the oboe is without question has the most beautiful sound in the entire orchestra. When the oboe plays--even if it's not soloing--it's like all of the other instruments are just humming in the background. My heartbeat seems to quicken just a little bit whenever I hear that lovely, familiar, mournful sound among the others. It has a warmth to it that the other instruments (except for the piano, which is just a little bit warmer) don't seem to have.

Do you know that sense of familiarity you get whenever you hear your name called out in a crowd? Someone may be calling out to someone else, but you turn anyway because it's your name. Well, that's the same feeling I get when I hear a piano or an oboe. It's understandable with the piano, since I've played it for so long, but it's kind of a strange thing with the oboe.

Either my weird, part-deaf ears are specially tuned to the oboe (this may very well be the case), or else I'm a closet oboist wanna-be.

It's probably my weird ears, seeing as they hear certain pitches acutely, others as merely rumblings, and still others not at all. But still, maybe I should hang out with Patty and Hilda just a bit more ...

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