Jeanjean Project Update

Hello all you lovable Jeanjean fans, all 3 of you- me, my clarinet and... well, maybe just 2. My cat doesn't like Jeanjean much.

I am still committed to learning (hopefully mastering) all 18 etudes from Paul Jeanjean's Book of 18 in the next year. I officially began this process Oct 1, even though I've dabbled with posting a few takes of JJ 1 the past few weeks.

There are 12 months and 18 etudes, so about 1.5 etudes per month, which, considering how difficult they are, should keep me out of trouble. (What am I getting myself into?)

In the next few days I will post a schedule of what I intend to accomplish every month. I will probably go in the etude order of the book, if for no other reason than to avoid the hassle of trying to decide what order to work on them.

So here's another, much better take of JJ 1. (This time I wasn't listening to other music on my phone pod) I hope that I haven't numbed you to the beauty of this etude through so many snippets and takes. This version is more toward what I hope a final take might be like.

Jeanjean 1, 10/3/09

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The biggest challenge of this etude, beyond the obvious technical hurdles of legato over large leaps at soft dynamics, is the breathing. Though out my career I have had trouble with hyper-ventilating, and/or ending up with "bad air" after taking too many breaths. I have been working on this issue through the Alexander Technique for several years now, and I feel more and more confident about the quality of my breathing. But as you may know, old habits die hard, and the mis-used breathing habits I have set up over decades tend to return frighteningly easily.

In one recent Alexander Lesson with a reputable teacher from Ann Arbor, MI, Jane Heirich, she told my my ribs are "corseted", and that she has seen numerous cases of wind players with the same issue. I believe this misuse comes from years of struggling to control the breath, while at the same time using the necessary muscular strength required to play the clarinet. The misuse occurs when isolating the breathing muscles around the ribs and overusing them without balancing the use of the whole "system" of breathing muscles, including the powerful various abdominal sets. It's a tricky hurdle to keep the ribs free while exerting great pressure to play a fairly resistant instrument such as clarinet.

I have discussed breathing in several other posts, including:

The Structure and Movements of Breathing
Breathing Naturally Comes Naturally
The Cycle of Breathing (from my other blog)

As usual, I welcome comments, discussion, feedback.

Your local music lover,

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3 comments for “Jeanjean Project Update

  1. Glenn Kantor
    October 6, 2009 at

    Very nice David. I like it even more now that you've revised your thinking of the phrases and now breathe at the end of measure 2, before playing the next 4 measures. Then, another 2 measure, 4 measure pattern.
    I look forward to hearing this entire project – Good Luck with #2 – It’s one of the toughest ones in the book.

  2. Nancy Gamso
    October 4, 2009 at

    This is great, I'm so excited about your project – our own clarinet-world version of Julie and Julia! That etude brings back so many memories, I'll have to write my clarinet teachers with whom I studied these etudes and tell them about this. The inaugural one is beautifully played, thank you, you've set the bar high.

    • October 4, 2009 at

      Thank you, Nancy. Coming from you that's high praise indeed. And thank you for getting the connection/inspiration from the blogger featured on Julie and Julia. I'm doing this for the same reasons she did; I won't do this otherwise!! The public feature keeps me focused.

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