Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Oboists and Orthopods

One other surgeon I enjoy working with (besides Caroline) is an orthopedic surgeon, or as we sometimes affectionately (and sometimes not-so-affectionately) call them, an "orthopod" with all the qualities one would want (but might have trouble finding all at once) in a surgical colleague. He is intelligent, educated, intellectually curious, down-to-earth, highly competent but not smug, and yesterday he lightened the emotional burden of my call night considerably by letting me listen to one of the CDs he ordered from The Teaching Company, from their series/website The Great Courses. I hope the company will consider this favorable publicity rather than copyright infringement: I just have to share a quote from a lecture entitled "Understanding the Fundamentals of Music" by Professor Robert Greenberg, a lively, humorous speaker with an engaging style. The following made me laugh out loud at the Main O.R. desk:

The double reed instruments - the oboe, English horn, basson, and contrabassoon -
are really, really hard to play. The mouthpiece consists of two tiny pieces of cane that are bound together in such as way as to leave an extremely small space between them. In order to get the two reeds to vibrate together, you must grasp this tiny mouthpiece tightly between your lips and blow for all you're worth. You blow until your eyes begin to bulge, until your nasal passages inflate like balloons and your brain gets pushed back against your skull case...

...Pain: it's a word often associated with the personalities of oboe players in particular, no disrespect intended. It is, however, one of those chicken or egg questions. Are overly-fastidious, anal-retentive people attracted to the oboe because of its technical difficulty and its nasal, arguably whiny sound, or do the technical demands and the sound of the oboe turn oboists into overly-fastidious anal-retentives?

I found this sooooooooo funny - especially the way he delivers it. It's a riot!

My orthopod colleague also clued me in to an oboe piece I hadn't heard before but just downloaded from iTunes: Stravinsky's Pastorale. I've been noticing a lot of great oboe parts on the radio lately - in Respighi's Ancient Airs and Dances, Dvorak's Slavonic dances, Schubert's Rosamunde overture, The Farmyard by Elgar, Saint-Saens' Rhapsodie d'Auvergne, Albinoni's Concerto a Cinque, Butterworth's English Idylls, even the overture to Die Fledermaus. Last weekend Kyoko and Orlando, the flutist who conducts the chamber orchestra I joined, played in a wind quintet concert and introduced me to some other wonderful wind pieces - the Caprice on Danish and Russian Airs by Saint-Saens and the Trio for Oboe, Horn, and Piano by Reinecke. But my latest "dream piece" is There is No Rose by Z. Randall Stroope (Youtube clip below) - an added bonus being that it's Christmas music, my favorite! Maybe someday...

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