While waiting at the bar for a post-concert beer the other day, one of the bar stool regulars peered suspiciously at my instrument case and then asked the question that most bassoonists dread:
“It’s a bassoon” may have come out more wearily than I intended. But instead of the usual “Wassa bassoon?” he looked at me, looked at the case and then said “Bloody ‘ell, why the f**k do you play the bassoon?” Well it’s a fair question isn’t it.
Why the f**k do I play the bassoon? Here are 5 reasons:
- Reeds – In short, we’re not oboists. We do not spend hours fiddling with a reed and most bassoonists will not, under any circumstances, discuss them. OK, I have occasionally stamped on one in extremis. But most of us will avoid wittering on about our reeds. We just put up with them and get on with it.
- Tunes – We get the best ones. OK, the cellos get some truly stonking tunes with the added advantage of being able to sing along. But they have to play in a flock, as do the violins and violas. Oboists (them again) and flutes have lots of tunes but they have to play them ALL THE TIME and familiarity breeds contempt in my book. A melody on the bassoon is a rare and special thing of beauty. I’m not going to mention clarinets. Or the brass. They’re just loud.
- Bass lines – Obviously… I just like them, that’s all.
- The contra bassoon – How do I begin to describe the joy that is the contra bassoon? Unlike the bassoon, which is the quietest instrument in the orchestra, the contra bassoon creates such a ground-shaking, bone-tremblingly delicious noise it could fell an oak tree 10 miles away. I go all gooey just thinking about it.
- Other bassoonists – See number 3.
Anyway, I didn’t say any of this to the bloke at the bar. I just smiled politely and replied:
“Because I can”.