Dear Guests, Welcome to MUSE ECHO where I write about the creative process, my compositions and what I was/am thinking.

Today's blog is about the solo oboe composition EAGLE. My composition EAGLE is the last of the progressive solo oboe etudes in my first published book "In Adoration of the Earth" a book of 12 rapidly progressive etudes ranging from the beginner level to virtuoso demands. One purpose of this EAGLE etude is to help oboists learn to include the highest part of the top octave into his/her playing capability.

Most of the etudes are works which I composed for specific students in my oboe studio. Eagle however is a work which I composed to help take myself up a notch technically and courageously as a player. In this work, I offer the possibility to play the highest notes possible on the oboe in a slow, controlled and musical way.

Since all etudes in this book are composed in a way to be suitable to perform, if an oboist wishes, I made the phrase which incorporates notes above the highest A to be an octava option, so if one prefers, he/she can perform that highest phrase down an octave and the music still works.

As a composer and oboist, I do not advocate or encourage composing for oboe above the highest F if one wants the oboe to sound beautiful and to be in tune. Frankly, anything above the highest D should be handled with great care and awareness for quality of performance and beauty of sound. HOWEVER - when it comes to etudes, it is important to demand more than careful concert quality writing.

I asked several professional oboists what they think a composer can expect a professional oboist to play well in a composition. Everyone agreed to an F, but above that it varied. Before that, I used to think it was OK to demand a high A for professionals, but I've since learned that was naive and not at all the general consensus. More recently I've learned it was very naive of me to think that most oboists and certainly all professionals want to master all the notes on the oboe.

Just like a true coloratura knows the importance of warming up to the top of her vocal range before performing in her singing range - so too - the oboe which is a coloratura, dramatic and lyric soprano instrument combined, benefits in warming up the complete vocal range of the instrument!!! All the lower notes sound SO much better, if the entire instrument is awake and resonant!!! 

Personally I feel that in order for anyone to be considered a true master of the oboe, one must be able to play all the notes on the oboe as well as possible - in tune, with dynamic control, with articulation control and with expression. As I wish to play the oboe to my fullest capacity, I compose etudes to help me achieve this goal. The etudes Lion at Night, Raven, and Eagle in the book "In Adoration of the Earth" help towards mastering the oboe in a way, I think, offers the choice for performance opportunity. EAGLE is available to hear on the LISTEN page.

So, simply put there is the vocal range and the singing range of the oboe. Up to highest F is singing range and above is vocal range depending on the reed, the oboist and the day. Be forewarned. Most oboists will agree including top professional oboists that the highest G while it tends to "speak" easily, is truly stretching the limit beyond the"singing" range of the instrument.

I was going for intensity of expression and strength of character with the highest notes.

While composing this work years ago, I was living in a flat on the 2nd floor of an old house. Outside my music room were the top branches of a tree. One day while I was practicing the highest phrase, I heard the music echoed back so perfectly and beautifully. It was a mockingbird singing it back! OH if only I could play it as beautifully and perfectly as that lovely bird that day. Instantly, that little bird became my teacher and I thought - "How can I play the oboe as beautifully as that bird sings this music?"

There is always a higher level and tomorrow is a new day to practice!

That said, thank you for your interest and .... best wishes for joyful and fulfilling oboe playing.
May you embrace the challenge, relish each day and celebrate your accomplishments!

In oboe love,
Kathryn Potter