foolscap001 (foolscap001) wrote,
foolscap001
foolscap001

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Fingering unconstrained

Wind instruments are the gaseous equivalent of Pythagoras's famous monochord... OK, not really. They would be if you played different notes by chopping off and gluing back on pieces, but that being impractical, one ends up having the kind of funky cross-fingerings that plague students of the recorder, because the part of the tube past the topmost opening affects the pitch..

In the nineteenth century, Theobald Böhm spent an amazing amount of time and effort coming up with the maze of levers and tabs and pads, some closed by default, some open by default, that saves flautists from the complications we recorder players face and simplifies playing with ease in any key. (Just to amuse yourself sometime, try playing Dobie Gray's "Drift Away" on a recorder in its original key of B. If you even try, you're a better man than I am, Gunga Din.) Sax players owe him the same debt, as they share the same technology.

But with an electronic wind instrument, you're not tied to that iron relationship between the vibrating column of air and generated pitch--you have to still hold the darn thing up, of course, but that's about it. You don't have to be tied to the way acoustic wind instruments do things... but existing wind controllers are--there's a lot of woodshedding and muscle memory invested in those ways.

If you didn't feel constrained by backwards compatibility, though, what would you do? Could you do better? Is there a Don Buchla for wind controllers out there, coming up with something new?

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