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Review

Reviewed Work(s): The Bassoon Reed Manual: Lou Skinner's Theories and Techniques by
James R. McKay, Russell Hinkle and William Woodward
Review by: Michael Burns
Source: Notes, Second Series, Vol. 58, No. 4 (Jun., 2002), pp. 850-851
Published by: Music Library Association
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/900556
Accessed: 30-09-2017 09:34 UTC

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850 NOTES, June 2002

of
of the
the strengths
strengthsofofthe the
book
bookis its
is its
depen-
depen- The
The Bassoon
BassoonReed
ReedManual
Manual begins
beginswith
with
in- in-
dence
dence upon
uponprimary
primarysource
sourcematerials,
materials,care-
care-troductory
troductorymaterial
materialwhich
whichincludes
includes
a pref-
a pref-
fully
fully documented,
documented,asas the
the
basis
basis
forfor
construct-
construct- ace
ace (p.
(p. xvii)
xvii)by
bythe
theprimary
primary author,
author,James
James
ing
ing the
the history.
history.I found
I foundthe
the
lack
lack
of of footnotes McKay,
footnotes McKay, outlining
outliningthethe genesis
genesisof of
thethe
book.
book.
disconcerting
disconcertingatatfirst,
first,
butbut
gradually
graduallycame to to This
came This isis followed
followedby by"The
"The
Life
Life
andand
Times
Times
of of
accept
accept Logan's
Logan'sdecision
decisiontoto
place
place
attribution
attribution Lou
Lou Skinner"
Skinner"(p. (p.xxi),
xxi),a brief
a briefand
andinterest-
interest-
information
informationininthe
thetext
text
itself
itself
or or
in an
in appen-
an appen-ing
ing synopsis
synopsisof
ofhis
hisplaying
playing
career
career
andand
devel-
devel-
dix.
dix. The
Thereadability
readabilityis isdefinitely
definitely enhancedopment
enhanced opment and andinfluences
influences as as
a reed
a reedmaker.
maker.
by
by this
this approach
approachandand it it
is is
possible,
possible,
though
though This
This section
sectionincludes
includesthree
three and
anda half
a half
pages
pages
not
not necessarily
necessarilyeasy,
easy, totoidentify
identify
thethe
sources
sourcesof
of black
black and
andwhite
whitephotographs.
photographs. TheThe
main
main
of
of quotations
quotationsorortotoestablish
establish authority
authority for for body
body ofof the
thetext
textstarts
startsinin
dramatic
dramatic fashion
fashion
questionable
questionablestatements.
statements. with
with full
fullcolor
colorphotographs
photographs of of
seven
seven
differ-
differ-
As
As someone
someonewhowhospent
spent over
over
twenty
twenty years ent bassoon and contrabassoon reeds in
years
associated
associatedwith
withthe
theIndiana
Indiana
University
Universityfront, back, and side views along with a
School
School of
ofMusic,
Music,I found
I foundthe
the
book
book
to be
to fas-
be fas- close-up of the contrabassoon reed. All of
cinating
cinatingreading
readingandandbelieve
believe
Logan
Logan
accom-
accom-the reeds pictured are discussed later in the
plished
plished what
whathe
heset
setout
out
to to
do:do:
explore
explore
the thetext.
administrative decisions that led to the de- Skinner had been planning this book
velopment of the school as it exists today.with McKay before his death and on his re-
In many ways, he succeeds in capturing thequest the text was organized to highlight
essence of the institution, with its foibles two primary types of reed: the "Straight
and failures as well as its many triumphs, Taper Reed," Skinner's interpretation of
without deviating from an objective, digni-Carl Mechler's reed; and the "Tip Taper
fied prose style that shows respect for the Reed," Skinner's interpretation of Wilhelm
many individuals who contributed to the Knockenhauer's reed. These are discussed
history. I would recommend the book in chapters 3 and 4 respectively, while
highly for anyone interested in higher edu-
chapter 9 compares these two reed types.
cation in music in the United States. The first two chapters focus on the theoret-
CONSTANCE A. MAYER ical principles and concepts and the essen-
Harvard University tial tools for reed making, while chapters 5
through 8 highlight the variations on each
The Bassoon Reed Manual: Lou of these basic types which result in several
other reed styles. Specifically mentioned
Skinner's Theories and Techniques. By
are variations to the tube, gouge, inside
James R. McKay. Contributing authors
and outside of the blades, along with spe-
Russell Hinkle and William Wood-
cial reeds and processes. The final chapter
ward. Bloomington: Indiana University
discusses the contrabassoon reed. There
Press, 2000. Published in cooperation
are ten chapters in total along with a list of
with the International Double Reed sources and a glossary.
Society. [xxviii, 116 p. ISBN 0-253-
Upon first reading the book I was struck
21312-6. $39.95.] by several things. First, it is quite compli-
cated reading with a lot of terminology and
Lou Skinner was one of the most influen- jargon that I found confusing-even as an
tial figures in the field of bassoon reedexperienced reed maker. Second, there is a
making in the United States. He taughtlot of information here; comprehending it
reed making to generations of the top play-required going back over some sections of
ers and teachers in this country up until his the book repeatedly to glean all of the
death in 1993. In that regard alone this is knowledge contained therein. Third, the
an important volume for American bassoonbook confirmed for me that Skinner's tech-
players. While I myself was never fortunateniques involved a lot of specialized equip-
enough to study with Skinner directly, I was ment. It would not be possible to duplicate
lucky enough to study and become friends many of these techniques without the pur-
and colleagues with a number of his formerchase of numerous tools made specifically
students. Thus, I have inherited some of his for the purpose. These are not readily avail-
knowledge indirectly, as have probably the able except from a single noted source,
majority of bassoonists in America. Custom Cane, Inc., a company run by one

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Book Reviews 851

of
of the
the contributing
contributingauthors,
authors,
William
William Instrumentalist
Instrumentalist
Wood-
Wood- Co., 1987])
Co.,and1987])
by Chris-
and by Chris-
ward.
ward. Once
Oncethese
thesetools
toolsare
are
purchased
purchasedthethe Weait
topher
topher Weait(Bassoon
(Bassoon
Reed-Making:
Reed-Making:
A Basic A Basic
reader would then need to become familiar Technique,
Technique, 2d ed.
2d[Newed. York:
[New McGinnis
York: &McGinnis &
with their use. The learning curve seems Marx
Marx Music,
Music,1980])1980])
fit thatfit
niche
that
moreniche
eas- more eas-
somewhat steep. I also found that the ver- ily.
ily.I do
I do
think
think
that Ithat
will beI trying
will bemany
trying
of many of
bal descriptions of some of the processes the
the
inoutlined
outlinedtechniques
techniques
in my own in reed
my own reed
the book left me confused, even when I making,
making, andand
I reiterate
I reiterate
that the that
knowledge
the knowledge
knew basically what was being described. I contained in this volume is broad and far
was very glad for the several illustrationsreaching. I am not sure that I will spend
clarifying some of these processes, althoughthe money, time, and effort to purchase the
I still felt that some of the procedures notadditional tools and learn their use, how-
illustrated escaped me. It seems that the ever, and I wonder how many of those who
hands-on approach that Skinner used in hishave not had direct contact with Skinner
teaching may not transfer well to the writ-before his death will adopt them.
ten page. If I could watch someone using MICHAEL BURNS
the techniques described (and potentially University of North Carolina at Greensboro
ask questions), I am sure that all would
become clearer.
The organization of the text is a logical
Guide to the Pianist's Repertoire. By
step-by-step approach; instructions are la-
Maurice Hinson. 3d ed. Bloomington:
beled numerically within each chapter in
Indiana University Press, 2000. [xli,
the form 3.5.2, for example. This method
933 p. ISBN 0-253-33646-5. $59.95.]
allows also for substitutions to be sug-
gested; a step in one chapter can be re-
Maurice Hinson has provided a new edi-
placed with one from another, useful par-
tion to what has been called "the most im-
ticularly when the variations are discussed
portant bibliographical source book relat-
in later chapters. There is a lot of repeti-
ing to music for solo piano in the English
tion, however, and chapters 3 and 4 language"
con- (Piano Quarterly 36, no. 140 [win-
tain many of the same steps in the same or-1987-88]: 63). How much has changed?
ter
der. I wonder if a listing of the essential
Not much. Mostly, what is provided is an
changes and a "do everything the same up
update to the 1987 second edition to keep
until this stage" approach would have been
citations current and incorporate some re-
more streamlined and perhaps clearer. It
cent publications while removing out-of-
took me several flips back and forthprint
be- ones. Hinson notes the "small but
tween chapters to determine the essential
growing interest in minimal music" over
differences between the two main reed
the last decade, as well as the "big pendu-
styles. Also, while I found the illustrations
lum swing ... toward freely tonal writing"
to be very helpful, I would have liked even
(p. ix). Still, overall coverage remains quite
more of them to aid clarity. One consistent.
of the The things that make the Guide
concepts, "fillier" (3.1.4, cutting offto
sharp
the Pianist's Repertoire valuable are all still
edges), was not illustrated until its third ap-
intact:
pearance in the book in chapter 10. I
would like to have seen this figure (10.1) * publisher
in and edition information (in-
cluding numbering concordances for
the third chapter to illustrate step 3.1.4, but
had to wait to the end of the book. composers with especially complicated
For the reasons outlined above I would publishing histories, such as Haydn or
recommend this text as an excellent addi- Scarlatti);
tion to the library of a college music pro-
gram and to experienced professional play- * brief biographical sketches of impor-
ers looking to broaden their knowledge of tant composers;
reed engineering. I would not recommend * comments on compositional style and
it to novices, especially to those looking for
technique, and notable characteristics
a simple description of how to make their of specific works;
first reeds. Other texts such as those by
Mark Popkin and Loren Glickman (Bassoon * graded levels of difficulty for most
Reed Making, rev. ed. [Northfield, Ill.: Theworks;

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