Oboe Etude XII: Eagle

Dear Guests, Hello and welcome to MUSE ECHO, where I blog about the creative process, music I've composed, performances of works, works in progress, what I was thinking and so on...

Today's blog is about a difficult oboe etude from my first book, In Adoration of the Earth, a book of 12 progressive studies. Etude XII, EAGLE starts on the highest A and is a study for the top octave. A one phrase octava option, which I take, goes up to the highest C on the oboe. (Very very seldom is the oboe called to perform any notes above the highest Eb.) 

You can hear an old studio reference recording of me playing it on the LISTEN page if you scroll down to selected works until you see EAGLE ( not Bald Eagle Flying - which is something entirely different). Regrettably, as with a couple other of my first few books published, mistakes where made, even after I pointed them out to my editor.....so, if you hear a discrepancy between the printed page and what I play, go with what I am playing for best etude results....

As with all the etudes in this one book, In Adoration of the Earth, this is a work which cultivates technical skill as well as consciousness to the beauty of organic life. The EAGLE in the wisdom of indigenous cultures of what we now call the North American continent recognizes the EAGLE as a symbol of a balance of sacred masculine and feminine wisdom....which I highly respect. This work represents mature strength of androgynous insight and balance.

My philosophy is that in order to master an instrument, it is necessary to play ALL the notes on the instrument with as much control possible of:

  • dynamics
  • articulation
  • tone color
  • intonation
  • expression

Personally, I believe it is also serious fun, to perpetually hone the craft and reach for a higher level. There is always a higher level plus the need to keep the skills in shape.

While it isn't customary to perform notes above highest G, on the oboe, being able to play all of the highest notes:

  • helps the oboe itself play all the notes below with greater resonance and beauty (just like a great coloratura warms up her full vocal range before performing in her performance range)
  • helps the oboist him/herself " " !!
  • is serious fun for those that have a Steeple chase or Olympic spirit of excellence like a % of oboists do!

After composing and recording these etudes, I was asked to teach them in Paris. I quickly learned it was naive of me to presume that oboists share my passion to play all the notes on the instrument!!!  Some didn't even know that the highest C was possible - or that the oboe even went that high. It does! Some oboes and reed combinations are better than others for this purpose. The American style reed is much better suited for playing top octave than the European style - Howarth and Yamaha oboes seem to excel in the top octave on the oboe from what I can fathom, based onmy incomplete research, mind you. However there are pros and cons to each style of reed and oboe making. 

The old recording of me on my listening page, is of me playing on a long scrape, short American style reed I made paired with my 2 octave key Rosewood Laubin made for me in 2007. I used to go back and forth between American and European style reeds, and would even select a reed style depending on what I was playing. For example, Baroque music is always better for me, on a European style reed, while modern, for me is typically better on an American style reed.

NOW however, I stick to a true hybrid style reed of my design of 70 - 71mm in length, with variations. Sometimes I will scrape them as long like an American style but still in a hybrid style. After being wowed by European expert bassoonist Ivan Calestani, I studied his superb bassoon reeds and modified my oboe reeds in part, after his design and also in part by an oboe reed design used by US oboist Paul McCandless who does a lot of octave jumping around and plays very high.

Happy oboe playing and or listening to all.
Also - if you're reading this soon after publishing, happy holidays and best wishes for 2016.

Respectfully yours,

Kathryn Potter