Soundbox Resource Page – 19 11 20 Instruments and us

Posted on November 19th, 2020 by

Tailpiece and chinrest. – Violin by W E Hill & Sons with use-wear

Ralph Holmes

Ilse Joseph’s Dalla Costa. Fundraising recording made on the violin

François Antoine Habeneck – at the beginning of an illustrious career

Cello by Antonio Stradivari, Cremona, 1709, ‘Markevitch’

Paul Davies ‘Spur Violin’

Conductor, Bruxelles February 2015

The stuff of a workshop. Reeds by Lindsey Reymore. Beethoven wrote: Every day share a meal with someone such as musicians, where one can discuss thtis and that, instruments etc., violinist, cellos etc.( Beethoven-Tagebuch , Entry 36: in Beethoven Essays, Maynard Solomon, Harvard, Cambridge Mass, 1988)

The beautiful two piece back of the 1685 Stradivari

The beauty of a server-at the European Molecular Biology Lab. 25 5 14

The artist with the violin, observed. JanGroth w/ Anne Birgitte Paulsen. 29 11 16

The young Ole Bull, with his precious Gaspar da Salo, his ‘2nd Pearl’

Tin of 19th century Viennese gut strings

PSS playing the ‘Kreisler’ Del Gesu. Library of Congress, May 2008. Photo; Richard Bram

Introducing the Barak Norman Tenor to the audience, up close in the interval. Photo: Catherine Back

The Nielsen Patent mutes

Carved Violin (Gibbons?) ca 1676. St Botolph Aldgate 9 1 17

Buxtehude’s (Danish) Organ, Sct. Mariae Kirke, Elsinore. 1634-36 by Johan Lorentz,

Notes from the students in the Soundbox Session  19 11 20

Students at the Royal Academy writing about their instruments in real time:

Cello: so the thing visually I notice is that I have one peg that doesn’t match any of the others. It took me like a year to notice after I first got it but now I can’t unsee it. I guess I associate my instrument with my general existance  just because I rarely go anywhere without it. It rules over my term time and holidays. How I travel. Where I go. Which tube barrier I go through. So it just generally is something I associate with me doing anything.


Pianist and singer mainly, so I’m in a bit of a tricky situation, but my next instrument is the guitar. I was taught pop/folk guitar by my Dad from as early as I can remember, and I’ve got the electric guitar which I was given as a 16th birthday present with me. To the touch the thing that sticks out the most is the variety of sensations: that palm of my left hand feels the resistance of the finish on the back of the neck, while my fingertips notice the difference between the smooth varnished hardwood and the cold metal of the frets. More than anything, it reminds me of the communal music making I’ve done with it; with friends as teenagers hammering out Beatles songs, or teaching over Zoom more recently. Stark contrasts to the rather solitary practice of composing!


Piano: Materiality: I have great memories of the strange resonance of my first piano I had when I was little and the light touch, and I remember being quite disappointed by the cleanness of the sound when I played good pianos for the first time! I think the touch of pianos is something that’s important to me and I prefer pianos with a light touch where you can get subtle gradations of sound within the key bed./Something you associate it with: I like the calmness of having the sustain pedal down and experimenting with sound and resonance almost meditatively


Clarinet: Buffet Crampon ‘Vintage’ – Made from Grendilla Wood, a type of African Blackwood which is used for it’s durability and balance of tone. This model is interesting as it was an experimentation by the instrument maker as it is a revival of the first designs of the famous R13 clarinet, which is still today the most well known and well used model. With this clarinet, Buffet used the original model from the 1950s along with their modern research in pitch correction and ergonomics to bring together the ‘vintage style’ French clarinet sound to be used in the highly demanding modern often orchestral setting. This has been highly reflective on my own playing as I am always aware of this older sound and I try to keep this tradition with whatever music I approach.


Conductor: I recently snapped my baton so I needed to get a new one. I always seem to buy one with a round wooden grip, I think this is because a friend bought me a baton as a joke present when I first tried conducting aged 16. That baton had a grip this shape, now even though I don’t use a technique which requires that grip I still buy them out of habit and maybe sentimentality


My instrument is the Horn: something I notice physically about my instrument is that being made entirely of metal, it’s always cold to the touch. It is only playing the instrument which warms both the actual temperature of the instrument, but it also feels like the sound becomes warmer too as the instrument is played.

A battle horn, in the form of a dragon, in a pile of armour of the defeated, on the pedestal of Trajan’s Column


My trumpet is a slightly unusual design and it’s not entirely obvious how to hold it, so my relationship with the instrument has physically changed since I got it, and I’ve found that as I play for longer the way I hold it has to change to avoid getting cramp in my hand. In a way this is involved with the association too — as an improviser I have a very resistant relationship with the instrument, in that what I imagine will happen is not necessarily what does. Which causes brain cramp…



I’m an oboist – I visually love the intricacy and complexity of the silver work on the oboe and find myself admiring it in practice when I get distracted quite regularly… I am reminded of the oboe whenever I look at my right thumb – I have an ‘oboe lump’ on my thumb from hours of holding the weight of the instrument there – my oboe teacher at school hated her ‘oboe lump’ but I always thought it was an amazing reminder of all the work that goes into what we do so I refused to get one of the thumbplate grips to prevent it

Chris Redgate introduces his redesigned oboe – Nashville 2015


Violin: what I visually notice is the uneven but symmetry on the patterns I see on the body of my violin because of its made, however putting aside the visual factor, the vibration I get from my instrument is quite significantly larger than many other violin in certain weather conditions (whether that is good or bad…) which I actually quite like. What I associate, I don’t really know to be honest however it has a slight sweet scent for some reason which together with the color always reminds me of maple syrup.

The back of my wonderful (and newly restored) Hill Violin, which I have played since I was 16 years old, and used to record Telemann, Schubert, Haydn, Henze….



So as a composer I’ll talk about my laptop and Sibelius 7.5. I chose this laptop quite specifically because it has a good keyboard and a number pad!… I’m quite particular with the kind of keyboards I like so it would’ve driven me mad otherwise. It also looks nice with a matte black chrome finish. I suppose I associated it with many coffee-fuelled nights of composing before deadlines.


I’m a violist, and in regards to physicality, I actually think about the small flaws that have appeared on my instrument through my possessing it. I am the first person to own it, so even though any minor nicks and such are not something I’m exactly happy to have happen, in a weird way personalizes it to me specifically if that makes sense./I associate my viola with the places I’ve gone and how I’ve personally grown – I got it in my undergrad, following my decision to pursue music as a profession. Like I mentioned before, I got it when it was about a month old, so I’m the only person to own it so far. And the fact it’s been with me in so many different states/countries, and through so many musical experiences – it reminds me of many of my best memories and friendships made./Side note: I also love the wide range of shapes and size that violas can range- and how that discrepancy is the norm, rather than there being one pretty set size/shape like many other instruments


I noticed after two years of playing my trombone that the inner slide is slightly bent. It doesn’t harm the sound or tone of the instrument, but now I can’t un-see it. I associate my trombone with jazz music, as this was the rep I grew up with. Side note – also associate it with the memory of struggling to reach 6th position when I was beginning to learn.