Articulation

MT: Remember to articulate the wind.

MT to DB: The combination two slurred, two staccato is in reality one slurred and three detached. It is pronounced: tee-long-tah-tah | tee.

MT to DB:

Ex. 1.jpg

JMk: Tee or taa, nothing else, supposedly. The tee was relegated to the strong pulse, the down impulse. So if you play 2 3 4 1, taa taa taa /tee, and the idea being of course to give that extra energy, I suppose, to that one that needs it, but without having the in-between ones fall off to something less than of relatively primary importance. So, he always had the two directions. I guess the taa you would consider to be either residual from a strong beat or preparatory to the next beat and the tee would be that. So it would be taa taa taa/tee, taa taa taa /tee. In the two and two articulations, what we call two and two, which he would call one and three because only one is really legato or something like that, but anyway, what we in the trade refer to as two and two articulation, two notes slurred and two notes separate, he would sing that as tee long taa taa, tee long taa taa,tee. The reason he did this (I take great issue with that myself personally,) but the reason he did it was to solve two problems: one of rhythm and one of line. If you play this last slurred note full length all the time, it will always be heard; and it will be heard in relative equality with the other notes. Also playing that note full length tends to keep one from playing unrhythmically. The usual tendency in two and two articulation for wind players is to get off the first note slightly too soon. By concentrating on playing the second note full length, for some reason, it helps the first note also. And also the feeling of saying tee long taa taa, the sound itself almost makes an attenuated feeling. So when you think tee long taa taa, tee long taa taa, you have something there for each note. Now he insisted on the last slurred note being played long all the time. That was gospel of some sort or other. We all did it. It was either do it or get you head handed to you, so we did it, and we all decided that’s the way it’s supposed to be.

JMk: The very first thing I asked was is how do you stop a note when you are articulating. Well, we went around Robin Hood’s barn; it was like you dampen like the piano and this and that with the lips; yes, no, no, yes with the tongue, no, yes, yes, no, and he finally started to get angry. So, that was the end of the conversation; he changed the subject and that was it. But, he did it to perfection himself. He could do it, he could do it any old way whatsoever, and did very frequently.

LVB: Was there scaling of articulation?

JMk: Yes, scaling of articulation, scaling of articulation length, absolutely. Now that differed, you know, that differed at different times. In earlier days than mine at Curtis, he had something called a reed class where the students would line up and get their reeds broken or whatever. Also he would have them line up and play scales with each one playing a note differently [playing a different note?] At that time they played their notes all full length. That was their way of playing scales; they played all notes full length. Later on he changed them, certainly by the time I was around there, you played scales and if you played articulated scales, as you went up the scale the notes gradually became longer until they were full length at the top and they were graduated on the way down. But this is not something that one does very much in music. It’s a marvelous exercise though; it’s a marvelous exercise in the development of your control of articulation lengths and also of your imagination. It’s sort of like taking a free ride; it’s like jumping off the roof and flying around the house three times and landing again. That’s not something you do in your daily life, but it sure is exciting and perhaps instructional in some way too.

LVB: If you are scaling the articulation, this is something different from tee and taa?

JM: That would be taa taa taa taa taa taa tee or whatever it happened to be. You would just use the basic taa or whatever it was, but the scaling of the articulation as in Barret articulation study number #1, second line, then you would play [singing the example lengthening the notes on the way up], and the notes on the way down would be getting slightly shorter; just like pearls would be on a necklace where the pearls are graduated in size and they’re getting slightly smaller, although perfectly matched in color and shape, the only thing that’s different is the size. And there’s a thread through them all, which although invisible, is obviously present. That kind of thing.

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MT: Also use a mirror to see that when tonguing, especially when attacking each note of a scale, that this is done on the wind and not separately. Maintain the air pressure at all times, and in tonguing, no exterior movement should be seen. Check incidentally to see that you are sitting up straight with your feet on the floor to insure proper support. If individual movements in the throat can be seen, this means that the air pressure starts and stops on each note during tonguing. This is wrong.

Joseph Robinson remembering his lessons with Tabuteau in Nice

From his book: Long WindedChicago: Joshua Tree Publishing, 2018.

With kind permission of the author