“mr. gorbachov, tear down this reed” (reagan era cane)

26 05 2008

Back in the early 1980’s, I received a few not-so-good batches of oboe tube cane. When beginning the processing of this cane, I remember that much of the cane was not straight. When splitting the cane, the splitter twisted with the naturally crooked grain of the wood, leaving much of the cane unusable for oboe reeds. The pieces that did prove to be straight were rather hard, making every step from splitting, gouging, shaping & ultimately playing on the cane laborious. I remembered hearing that some cane, if put away for a number of years, will ‘season’ and become more usable. Unhappy with the 1980’s results, I packed it away in a box, virtually forgot about the whole thing, moved a few times, & retired from my full-time oboe job with the US Navy Band (Washington, DC).

Fast forward to 2008.

“Hey – here’s a box of cane!” I began processing some of this ‘antique’ cane last week. No amount of time will make crooked grain straight in a piece of cane. I had to discard a lot of non-straight pieces. The cane generally felt ‘normal’ under the gouger blade. I made a few reeds in preparation for my performance in Philadelphia (of 3 Yiddish folk songs for voice, oboe & piano – on Laurent Levy’s recital). The cane was not ideal, but it has certainly aged and become more usable over the last 20+ years. It’s way too early to know how well (or not well) the cane will serve me, but it’s certainly interesting to see how cane I couldn’t work with 20 years ago has resurfaced & is given a second chance.

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