• Clarinet cryptograms: Are there hidden messages in our repertoire?

    Last week, I began exploring the history of musical espionage (as one does) and found myself delving into the world of musical cryptography. Musical cryptography is using the musical alphabet, notation, solfège, and other elements to encrypt messages into music. Bach, Shostakovich, and many other composers throughout history have used musical cryptography to spell their names. Bach used B-flat-A-C-B natural (the German H) to spell his name, and Shostakovich used D-E-flat-C-B natural to spell DSCH (again, using German H) for Dmitri Schostakowitsch. However, some composers used musical cryptography to notate the names of their beloved or short messages and quotations to share with those who were able to crack the…

  • This former school is haunted by the ghost of a clarinetist

    The quaintly named Valentine, Nebraska is a small town near the South Dakota border with a population of only a few thousand people. It holds the honors of housing Centennial Hall, Nebraska’s oldest standing school, built in 1897. According to local legend, a student at the school was murdered in Centennial Hall in 1944. The young unnamed girl was a clarinetist, and her friend poisoned her clarinet reed. When the girl put the clarinet in her mouth to play, she died from the poisonous reed. Before the school was converted into a museum, teachers would report seeing a ghostly apparition and feeling a feeling of dread or unease. Now, you…

  • Unsolved mysteries of clarinet history

    If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, it should come as no surprise to learn that I love clarinet history. I love learning about the people, places, and things that make the clarinet so great, and I especially enjoy learning about some of the more unusual bits of clarinet history. Although we certainly know quite a bit about the clarinet, there are several unresolved mysteries of clarinet history! Here are just a few: The clarinet’s true creator. Although the development of the clarinet is attributed to Johann Christoph Denner, we have no definitive proof that he was the instrument’s creator. While it’s obvious he and his sons did…

  • How dumplings inspired this composer to write a famous clarinet work

    I have to be quite honest…I never would have imagined that dumplings played an important (albeit odd) role in clarinet history. Here’s the story, according to Carl Baermann’s 1882 Erinnerungen eines alten Musikanten (Memories of an Old Musician): In addition to being prominent clarinet virtuosi, German clarinet Heinrich Baermann (for whom Weber wrote his clarinet concerti) and his son Carl Baermann were also apparently skilled in the kitchen. Specifically, they were known for making delicious dumplings and strudel. Heinrich and Carl were also good friends with Felix Mendelssohn, and the three met up in Berlin on December 30, 1832 when the Baermanns were in town for some performances. As it…

  • 21 Clarinet Compositions from the 21st Century

    The clarinet has quite an extensive list of amazing repertoire spanning across a multitude of styles and genres. We have our beloved masterpieces by Mozart, Weber, Brahms, and many more, but what about some more recent repertoire? Over the last few years, I’ve become more and more interested in modern clarinet compositions. Here are a few of my favourites from the 21st century. (By no means is this list meant to be comprehensive, so I suggest doing some research of your own to discover more of these wonderful pieces!) *pieces listed alphabetically by composer’s last name* Samuel Adler – Beyond the Pale (2002) Ofer-Ben Amots – Klezmer Concerto (2006) Nicolas…

  • Museums clarinetists can virtually visit

    Even though your summer travel plans probably look a bit different this year, there are several music museums you can visit virtually this year! Here are a few of my favourites: Le Musée des instruments à vent de La Couture-Boussey. The Woodwind Museum is located in La Couture-Boussey, which many consider to be the “home of wind instruments.” This museum began in 1888 by woodwind instrument makers, and it includes over 300 instruments, machines, and tools. Musée de la Musique. The Paris Music Museum includes over 1,000 items for you to explore. (Fun fact: I was lucky enough to take a course in organology at this museum during my master’s degree,…

  • Clarinet Method Books to Help Develop Diverse Musical Genres and Styles

    It’s no secret by now that I love method books (as witnessed by my slowly increasing number of clarinet boot camps). Can’t get enough of ’em! I have a few favorite method books which are never too far from my music stand, but I do like to spice things up occasionally. I’ve worked through most of the standard books at this point – Baermann, Jettel, Klosé, Rose, Kell, Jeanjean, etc – and I thought it would be nice to explore a more diverse range of genres and styles for a change of musical pace. The clarinet is such a versatile instrument and can play music from a diverse repertoire, including…

  • The Curse of the Yellow Clarinet

    Longtime Jenny Clarinet readers know that nothing fascinates me more than the dark, strange, or creepy history of the clarinet (like the clarinet curse or the bizarre deaths of historical clarinetists.) While researching an entirely unrelated subject, I stumbled upon an old book which mentions a superstition involving a yellow clarinet. This book, written in 1899 by Leon Mead, is titled The Bow-legged Ghost, and Other Stories: A Book of Humorous Sketches, Verses, Dialogues, and Facetious Paragraphs. According to this book, “There is a peculiar superstition among certain theatrical people that an old-fashioned yellow clarinet in the orchestra is a sure omen of bad luck or misfortune to them.” This…

  • Clarinet Compositions Written During the 1918 Flu Pandemic

    The last few months have been pretty depressing, to put it lightly. Life seems as if it’s been temporarily put on hold as the world anxiously awaits to see what happens next. Despite what some are saying, music isn’t cancelled and creativity isn’t dead. I know this can be hard to believe since all auditions, concerts, and performances have been postponed, rescheduled, or outright cancelled for the foreseeable future. Despite all of the horrible news constantly bombarding us, it is so inspiring to see how musicians are using technology in new and creative ways. I’ve seen so many artists share resources and tools to help others in these times of…

  • The Clarinet Compositions of Meyer Kupferman

    Meyer Kupferman playing clarinet (image from milkenarchive.org) …the modern clarinetist may well be represented as our new hero or musical superman – our true 20th century ‘challenger’! He is not only our new soloist, our new chamber music leader but in many ways our new entertainer or magician…By now all of us realize the clarinet is capable of an impressive spectrum of sonorities. Composers who understand its dramatic arsenal of dynamics, attacks, its huge range and its exquisite legato – can create a plethora of design suitable for any musical gesture. To well disciplined fingers the clarinet’s fluent Boehm system keyboard lends itself to the most remarkable feats of virtuosity.…