By Chris Kornelis of the Wall Street Journal. December 7, 2015.
People made fun of me when I first got it because it’s so bloody huge, but I use a Samsung Galaxy Note II to draw the stage diagrams I send to the crew that sets everything up for us. This afternoon we’re performing Leonard Bernstein’s score to the film “On the Waterfront,” and I’m personally playing snare drum, three toms, xylophone, bells, vibraphone and marimba. If the stage is not set up the right way, you get percussionists crossing paths and running into each other. I used to draw a diagram with pen and paper and take a picture of it, but the Note is really handy.
A lot of my gear doesn’t come from the music store. All of my triangle holders, for example, are made from bent coat hangers. My chime hammers are yellow acrylic mallets that I get at the hardware store—I don’t even know what craftsmen use them for. And fishing line is a must-have. Sometimes, a score calls for key chimes instead of wind chimes, so I’ll round up everyone’s old keys and string them up with fishing line.
I travel with Drummers Service Abel Concert snare drumsticks, which I never, ever, ever check at the airport. They go with my laptop as a carry-on. The three pairs I have were made by Bill Reamer [owner of Drummers Service], who passed away, so they’ll have to last me my whole career.
I’m protective of my own gear, because I tend to humanize inanimate objects. I got my Black Swamp tambourine in 1999, when I was an undergrad at the University of British Columbia. I’ve spent so many hours with it. I know it. I just have this relationship and I know what it’s going to do.
We had a BMW growing up and it saved our lives when we got into a huge accident once, so I love my 2008 BMW 335xi, even though I don’t drive it that much. I’m quite sensitive to sound, so I don’t actually listen to a lot of music in the car. I listen to the sound of the engine or NPR.
I still own a metronome, but I don’t use it much because you have to find a 9-volt battery or practice by an outlet to plug it in. These days I just use whatever metronome app I can get free on my phone. Right now, that’s one called Metronome Beats.
My mother was a great cook, and so was her mom, so I learned by watching them. I use a Zojirushi Neuro Fuzzy rice cooker. When I was growing up, everybody had a rice cooker. I’ve never seen it made any other way.
Read the article on the Wall Street Journal's Website at wsj.com.
by Max Raimi, CSO violist since 1984
Every year, on a weekend day in early September, I share a ritual with my son Paul and frequently with one of his friends. We each fashion several paper airplanes and then head downtown to Orchestra Hall. As the season hasn’t started yet, the hall is usually deserted (except for the main security posts), quiet, and dark, which is perfect for our purposes. I have my concert clothes and viola, which I stash in my locker in the men’s dressing room while Paul explores the backstage area, showing his friend around and patronizing the vending machines in the musicians’ lounge.
Once my locker is set up, we start heading upstairs. We always enjoy going out into the boxes and the balconies to experience the various perspectives on the stage, but our destination is the very top level, the gallery. When we get up there, we proceed to the front of the section and take turns launching our airplanes. It is wonderful to watch them gliding down. Some of them only make it into the next balcony, but a really well constructed and thrown one will reach the main floor.
This year, Paul made history. One of his squadron actually landed on the stage, the first time either of us had managed this. A thing of beauty it was, gliding and sailing through the silent hall as time seemed to stand still.
We then scour the auditorium for our planes. In general, we don’t leave until all the planes are accounted for, but on one or two occasions, a plane has ended up in some sort of Bermuda Triangle, perhaps in the upper balcony, and has never been retrieved. If you found it, you now know the story. You have our apologies. Please don’t throw it during the concert!
My Percussion Instruments
by: Roger Cline, CSO string bassist since 1973
Out at Ravinia a number of years ago, Jim Ross, one of the CSO percussionists who knew that I did a lot of wood work, asked me if I could help him cut some pieces of wood to make a slapstick (an instrument consisting of two long pieces of wood that makes a sound like a whip). I was intrigued, so I set about making a replacement for the slapstick they had that was broken. I developed a new type of design that proved very effective and have since provided these slapsticks to many percussionists in orchestras throughout the U.S.
The next project I worked on was a Hammerschlag Box that, along with a very large mallet to strike it, is used for the “Hammer Stroke” in such works as the Mahler Sixth Symphony. Besides producing a very loud sound, I came up with a new design of the instrument that doesn’t break when hit. It is one of the few pieces of furniture I know of that is designed to be hit by what amounts to a sledge hammer.
Hammerschlag Box and Hammer
The picture of me standing beside a replica of a Ford Model “T” was my next project, a ratchet for our former composer-in-residence Mason Bates’ work “Alternative Energy.” In the movement of the work titled “In Fords Garden” a number of car parts are struck and a ratchet part is needed, which was incorporated by having the starter crank in the front radiator part of a Model “T” be the operating crank for a very loud ratchet. It was fun making a replica of a Model “T” that looked like it actually came from the car itself and fulfilled the need for a very powerful ratchet that was a thematic part of the work.
Roger standing along side the Model "T" ratchet
The next instrument, a ratchet that can change loudness while being played was originally needed for a work by Varese, “Ameriques”. I came up with the design in a couple of days and it was fun to hear the results in the Varese work when we played it on tour in Carnegie Hall. The current ratchet is the result of a number of years of design change which has improved the sound characteristics and dynamic range possibilities.
The Crescendo Ratchet, the only ratchet that has control over dynamics
The final instrument pictured that I have designed and made is a “wind machine”, which I made at the request of CSO principal percussionist Cynthia Yeh, for the performance of Maurice Ravel’s “L’Enfant et les Sortilèges” this past May, and was also used in our performance of Wagner’s “The Flying Dutchman” this month at the Ravinia Festival. This instrument produces a sound like wind by rotating a number of specially designed wooden slats past some very heavy cotton duck material by a cranked circular barrel type construction. Similar wind machines have been used since the baroque musical era for sound effects in baroque operas,
One would think that a better sound could be had in modern times by simply recording wind sounds, but the resulting recording would have to be played over an amplified sound system with loudspeakers which would not have the sonic impact that the analog, mechanical device like a wind machine has. Many other sound effects similar in concept are still used in motion pictures and are called “Foley Effects” after the person who first invented them.
I am always thrilled every time the CSO performs a work that uses one of my percussion instruments. Even so many times around Christmas when one of my slapsticks is used for the famous Leroy Anderson work “Sleigh Ride” it still makes me think that I am lucky enough to be able to design and make an instrument that can be used by my colleagues in the great CSO percussion section.