'Articles For Students of the English Language'
The American musician Daniel Smith has a rather unique career. He's a solo bassoonist. He has made 14 solo albums to date, more than any other bassoon player in the world.
The bassoon is a wind instrument and has a range and sound similar to a cello. Not many people are familiar with the bassoon, even though it is in the background of many famous pieces. A bassoon plays the theme of 'The Sorcerer's Apprentice' by Dukas and is also the sound of the grandfather in Tchaikovsky's 'Peter and the Wolf '.
As a bassoon player, Smith has many challenges. The bassoon is rarely used as a solo instrument, so Smith has the challenge of convincing the public to accept him. The bassoon is also a difficult instrument to play. Because of it's large size, it takes strong lungs to produce a good sound.
Smith didn't start as a child, as most classical musicians do, and he didn't even start with the bassoon. On New Year's Eve, when he was 16 and growing up in the Bronx, he watched the jazz clarinet player Benny Goodman on TV. "I liked the sound so much," says Smith, " that I went to a local music store the next day to arrange some lessons on the same instrument that Goodman was playing, only I was so ignorant that I thought it was a trumpet".
Smith quickly learned the clarinet, flute, piccolo and saxophone. Finally, when he was 24, he started playing the bassoon.
Because he started so late in life, Smith has developed his own unique style of playing. He studied with some of the great bassoon teachers and players in America. But his style of playing is not dominated by any particular "school". A few years ago he even stopped listening to other bassoonists because he wanted to let his own style emerge.
Smith isn't sure what makes his sound unique, but critics say it is different and easily recognizable. And people like it! Smith's records are becoming more popular all over America and Europe.
Where does he get his material? Although the bassoon is not a popular solo instrument today, it was very popular in the 18th Century. Vivaldi especially liked it and composed 37 bassoon concertos. Smith is in the process of recording all of them in six volumes. Mozart wrote his Bassoon Concerto in Bb which is the most famous. There are also modern composers who have written for the bassoon. Smith says that there are "shelves of music to record" and that "the public deserves to hear it"
- Johanna Shales