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Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Another Answer....

Here's another answer to a query from Ask Me Anything!. I'm getting near the end; what's making it slow going is that the ones remaining are pretty thought-provoking (to me, anyway), and the recent hot weather in Buffalo has me less than willing to sit down and type long, thought-out responses. When the weather gets iffy, I get more pithy.

Anyhow, today's question is:

You get instant mastery of any musical instrument you'd like (but just ONE instrument). What instrument? What sort of music do you play? Also: who would you play with? Assume they _all_ want to play with you!

Hmmmmm. I could say the trumpet, since that was my major instrument in college, and I loved orchestral playing more than anything. As a trumpet player, my ultimate fantasy was to play in the trumpet section of the Chicago Symphony when that brass section was at its height: Adolph Herseth at principal trumpet, Dale Clevenger at principal horn, Jay Friedman at principal trombone. That might have been the greatest brass section in orchestral history. To sit in that brass section when Wagner, Strauss, or Mahler were on the program must have been absolutely glorious. (Book recommendation time: Season with Solti is an account of an entire season of the Chicago Symphony. It was written in the 1970s, so this isn't any kind of accurate portrayal of contemporary orchestral or classical music life, but as a document of what things were like when classical music was taken more seriously than it is now, it's a wonderful read. Track down a copy.)

But I won't answer the trumpet (see how by playing the "hypothetical answer" game, I get to answer the question twice?). Instead, I'll pick my favorite of the Celtic instruments, the Uilleann pipes. I love just about all of the various kinds of bagpipe (what we usually call "bagpipes" are actually Highland pipes), but the Uilleann pipes are my favorites. Unlike Highland pipes, the Uilleann pipes are not blown into via a mouthpiece; air is supplied to the pipes via a pair of bellows that are held beneath the player's arm. Their sound is mellower and dreamier than their more famous Scottish cousins. Uilleann pipes were used by James Horner in his scores to Braveheart and Titanic (and even though the score for the former film is a brilliant effort, the use of an Irish instrument in the score of a film set in Scotland is just a tad out-of-place).

Anyhow, who would I play these pipes with? I'd love to appear with any of the wonderful Celtic acts that abound these days: the Chieftains, Lunasa, Natalie MacMaster, Anuna -- anyone at all.

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