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IDRS Publication Excerpts

About IDRS Publication Excerpts

From time to time, IDRS will choose to make certain articles on the IDRS website available to readers without subscription. This will be done in cases where an article stands to serve a public demonstrably broader than that which would have cause to be regular members of the Society. Decisions concerning the posting (and removal) of such articles will be at the discretion of the IDRS Print Editors in consultation with the IDRS President and Digital Marketing and Communications Coordinator.

Explore Excerpts from The Double Reed

The double Reed 47 No. 1 (2024)

Maurice Bourgue (1939–2023):
Philosopher of the Oboe

Compiled by the Oboe Editor with the generous assistance of
Ombeline Challeat, editor of La Lettre du hautboïste, published by
our affiliate organization, the Association Française du Hautbois

The French oboist Maurice Bourgue died on October 6, 2023 at the age of 83. His reputation as a virtuoso oboist and inspirational master teacher earned him an international following and he performed as a soloist with some of the world’s most distinguished orchestras. Bourgue was born in Avignon on November 6, 1939. His father was an amateur clarinetist, a talent that had helped him to get special treatment when he was a prisoner of war in Germany. He wanted to achieve similar opportunities for his son, and assigned him to solfège classes from age seven, and let him choose an instrument two years later. The boy heard the oboe on radio and was immediately attracted to what he later described as its “solar radiance.”

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The double Reed 46 No. 3 (2023)

Jacqueline Piatigorsky’s Bassoon

Bradley Bailey (Saint Louis, Missouri)

It might be exceptional for a story about the significance of music in the lives of the famed couple Gregor and Jacqueline Piatigorsky to concentrate not on world-famous concert cellist Gregor, but on Jacqueline, one of the top female chess players in the United States in the late 1950s and 1960s, whose activities as a musician remain largely unknown, even to her admirers. Yet her occasional musical undertakings provide further insight into the unique nature of the relationship between Gregor and Jacqueline, a singularly talented and philanthropic partnership. Indeed, one of the least known—yet deeply meaningful—signifiers of their storied union remains, of all things, a bassoon, which is currently featured along with several other items from the family archive in the exhibition Sound Moves: Where Music Meets Chess, on view at the World Chess Hall of Fame in St. Louis through January 28, 2024.

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The Double Reed Vol. 46 No. 3 (2023)

Putting a Name to the Face — Warts and All

Geoffrey Burgess (Philadelphia, PA, USA)

The portrait reproduced as Figure 1 has long posed a mystery to both oboists and art historians. Until recently the identity of both artist and subject were unknown. Donated in 1956 to the Art Museum at Smith College in Massachusetts with the attribution plaque “Sir Joshua Reynolds P.R.A. 1723–1792, The Obie Player,” this fine portrait showing an oboist with instrument and reed, has been reproduced numerous times, and has accrued status as an archetypical image of an eighteenth-century oboist.

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Harry Milton Smyles: Pioneering African American Oboist and Advocate for Diversity

William Wielgus (Alexandria, VA)

In the mid 1970s I treasured an LP recording of Vivaldi oboe concertos with Max Goberman leading the New York Sinfonietta using three different soloists. Two were familiar to me: Harry Schulman and Arthur Krilov, both prominent artists in New York City. The other, Harry Smyles, was unknown to me, and decades later with a bit of research, I found that Smyles was an expertly trained and experienced oboist who was Black and who actively campaigned for greater inclusion in classical music. What I find fascinating is that one concerto he recorded, P. 301, is for oboe and violin playing throughout in unison, an apt metaphor for someone whose life was not just dedicated to musical artistry, but also to working towards making diverse voices play in harmony together as one instrument. His story deserves to be told.

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The Double Reed 46 Cover

Pi Nai – The only reed instrument that most Thai people would at least have heard of.

Capt. Somnuek Saeng-arun (Bangkok, Thailand)

Pi is an ancient Thai instrument that is believed to originate from the reed pipes called re-rai or pi re-rai played by folk people. Another ancient form of this instrument is the pi nam-tao, constructed by means of inserting a bamboo tube called pai-sang (Dendrocalamus strictus) into a calabash gourd. At some time, hardwood was adapted for the body of the instrument and the dried leaves of the Asian palmyra palm (Borassus flabellifer) came to be used for the reed. This newer kind of pi is used in many forms of ceremonial music. It is the only wind instrument in the Wong Piphat ensemble which is named after it. The Wong (or band) comprises pi, ranad thum (xylophones), gongs, and drums. This is mostly how the pi is heard today.

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The Double Reed Vol. 45 Number 4 Cover

Yusef Lateef’s Legacy for Oboe Players

Ellen Hummel (Las Vegas, Nevada)

Classical musicians all over the world are challenging the traditional Classical canon, and re-evaluating the music traditionally performed and taught. As part of that process, this article makes a case for oboe players to investigate the legacy of Yusef Lateef (1920–2013), a pioneer of creating music that transcends boundaries, and a musical genius who reimagined the voice of the oboe in a variety of musical settings.

Although Yusef Lateef is primarily remembered as a jazz musician, it is clear from his biography that he was much more than that. Through his studies and travels, as well as his association with other jazz innovators, Lateef expanded his musical language to include everything he came in contact with. Lateef famously disliked the term jazz, and created the term “autophysiopsychic music” to describe his output. This was an all-encompassing global approach to music-making that transcends all genres, and can be heard in his many recordings and is documented in his method books.

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The Double Reed 45-2 Cover

The State of the Bassoon in Music Programs Across the U.S.

Dr. Shannon Lowe (Gainesville, Florida)

While teaching at a small regional institution located in the Southeast, I struggled with recruiting bassoonists. I sent out fliers, emails, posted YouTube videos of all-state etudes, and co-hosted numerous double reed days. No matter what I tried or what events I scheduled, I always encountered poor showings of student bassoonists. While visiting middle and high schools to work with and recruit bassoonists for my program, in most cases, I was met with an ensemble director saying “Well, we do not have any bassoonists in our program,” or “Since we do not have any bassoons to give out, I cannot start any students on the instrument .” It was indeed disheartening and led me to wonder what the root cause of this lack of bassoonists was. I contemplated my own beginnings on the instrument . After all, I had no idea what the bassoon was when I chose it. All I knew, as a sixth grader excited for band, was that I wanted to play something different. I asked my band director if I could play the English horn, and he said that the program did not own one. He offered oboe or bassoon to me. I chose the bassoon because the name sounded cool. That day, he handed me the case with a beginning band book and said “Here you go. I have no idea how to teach this. You are on your own .” The instrument I received was in poor condition and beat up from years of neglect. With no guided instruction in the first stages of learning the bassoon, I was really left to figure it out on my own.

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Conductors and Orchestras

John Steinmetz (Altadena, California)

After several decades of orchestral playing, I have come to believe that the power relations between players and conductors often prevent orchestras from reaching their potential. Conductors have too much power, and that power too often hampers players, orchestra organizations, and conductors themselves. The culture of communication in orchestras tends to allow musical and interpersonal problems to fester. To make matters worse, conductors generally receive little or no supervision; their superiors are non-musicians who cannot assess a conductor’s effectiveness.

Despite investing considerable energy in coping with these problems, orchestras don’t discuss them much. I want to encourage discussion so that orchestras can search for solutions. My purpose here is to stimulate conversation.

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From Bassoonist to Nobel Laureate: An Interview with Thomas Südhof

Ryan D. Romine (Winchester, Virginia)

In October of 2013, neuroscientist Thomas Südhof was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for his work on explaining the mechanisms of the presynaptic neuron. This research, exploring what happens when the presynaptic mechanism works correctly as well as when it malfunctions, gives us a much deeper view into how the healthy brain relays information and how conditions such as autism and Alzheimer’s disrupt that relay process.

But what does this have to do with double reeds? In a fantastic set of coincidences mirroring 2013’s Nobel win in Physiology or Medicine (see our interview with Dr. Thomas Südhof in The Double Reed Vol. 36, no. 4), one of the 2014 laureates, William E. Moerner, is also a professor at Stanford University AND once played the bassoon! Might there be a connection between the school, the instrument, and the prize? Only time will tell. But, in the meantime, Dr. Moerner has very kindly agreed to share a few thoughts with our readers.

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