11 Harry Sparnaay-isms

Harry Sparnaay pic from Newspaper

When I studied with Harry Sparnaay back in 1989-1990, he would often drop knowledge on me beyond the usual "this-is-how-you-play-this-shiznit" lesson material. This stuff was gold to me -- and I would sit outside my lesson on the bench writing down these "Sparnaayisms" on the back of whatever music I was playing that week.

I just went through them all, and figured I'd share them with you all here.

Strap in - here we go:

1. [written on the back of Isang Yun's Monolog]: "We don't learn to play wrong notes, but it's really okay -- just as long as the performance idea is intact."

2. [written on the back of Brian Ferneyough's Time and Motion Study]: "Sometimes you can only play a piece for 15 minutes and you just have to stop and take a rest."

3. "Don't play bad music."

4. "We are not some opera diva with a big ego and big tits standing on the stage – we are bass clarinet players; real people!"

5. [written on the back of Michael Smetanin's Ladder of Escape]: "I don't like to play concerts where the music is all this intellectual stuff. I like to have the plumber and the milkman come to a concert and enjoy it as well as the intellectual. Actually, I like the milkman better…"

6. "It's OKAY to take a week off. Everyone needs a vacation and we do too. You will lose it here (your chops), but you will never lose it up here (in your head)."

7. [written on the back of Claudio Ambrosini's Capriccio Detto L'Ermafrodite]: "I like music from composers who know the bass clarinet (because they know what is possible), but I also like music from composers who don't, because then you will run into problems that you have to solve for yourself."

7a. [also written on the back of Claudio Ambrosini's Capriccio Detto L'Ermafrodite]: "Where there is a problem, you can nearly always find a solution."

8. [written on the back of Takayuki Rai's Sparkle]: "It's very important to have a personal contact with the audience; talk to them — it helps them to understand the music as you understand it."

8a. [also written on the back of Takayuki Rai's Sparkle]: "Always be honest with the audience when you talk. Then they realize that it's just a man on the stage."

9. [written on the back of Jos Kunst's Solo Identity 1]: "Contemporary musicians need new music constantly, otherwise we are dead. People will hire you to play Mozart over and over, but you will never get hired twice to play the same program of contemporary music."

10. [written on the back of Guus Janssen's Sprezzatura]: "If you think something is going to go wrong on the stage, SKIP IT. Never ever be the joker on the stage."

11. [written on the back of Eric Dolphy's God Bless The Child]: "With the type of music that we play, you always have to have it in your head and in your balls."

So there you have it. So many of these "isms" have stayed with me and have become part of who I am as a musician, it was kind of amazing to go back and read them.

Thanks Harry!