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Old King Log
Staff member
Many, many years ago, I got browned off following an extended session of playing with folks (strings mostly) for whom music was written (in order to keep their key signatures below three sharps). That night, I reeled off a pile of musings that I later shaped into the following poem. It was good enough to get published in The Clarinet, the publication of the International Clarinet Society:

An Ode To Cylindrical Bores



Straight runs up the fingers on oboe and flute,
Full span of the compass in one single toot;
Where their Mozart music is fingers on holes,
But who notes the lay of the poor chalmeaux' woes?

It's not lip or valve, or short left hand shift,
It's four fingers down, three fingers that lift;
Jumping from C# to D#, then B,
Seems to be always in order for me.

To kick up an octave, I can't punch one key,
Can't tighten my lip, no hand shift for me.
No, my fingers must flop, and my hands must contort,
While my jaw clamps up tight, the vibrations to sort.

Have you ever heard of a D violin?
Would a 'cello in B break you out in a grin?
A bass viol in A, a viola in G?
Yet, look at the hardware that they ask of me:

A short one in Bb, another in A,
Both in a box, to use day to day;
With Beethoven, Rossini, or others, you see,
I must have another, one smaller, in C.

With Gröfe, Saint Saens, or Mahler (what a bore!)
We haul out the bass, fifteen pounds or more.
And, if Wagner prevailed, if he had his way,
I'd haul out another, this one pitched in A.

Is it Mozart you want? Something dolce? (That's "sweet")
Then drag in cor bassett!, Oh God, what a treat!
(And mind you, we've left out the Eb and D),
A regular lumber truck, that's little ole me.

It's all to conform, to help our dear strings;
To pitch them in G (the poor little things!)
They sure hate those flats, but the sharps are so nice,
So the poor clarinets end up paying the price.

Well, give me the money and the horns I'll go buy,
Or, transpose the notes, so in Bb they'll lie;
Or, better yet, transpose the whole blessed work,
Make the strings shift, make their fingers jerk!

It just isn't fair to pitch us in 'Zb',
While the rest play in C, untransposed and all that;
It's just simply physics, and we pay the price!
I wish we played oboes, so we'd have it nice.

While the shape of a cone will give you an eighth,
The story's quite different when your bore is straight.
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