You ARE the music. YOU are the music. It’s not the oboe. It’s YOU.
Too many oboists live RIGHT up against the resistance of the oboe, blowing straight into the instrument and waging war against it DIRECTLY. Using their mouths to try to compensate for the intonation or clenching their fingers to hold extra tight, I guess so it doesn’t get away?
But what if you didn’t have to go in there, into the fray? What if you could maintain a bit of critical distance? What if you could be the boss of the oboe, instead of its timid colleague?
Here’s how I think about it – or at least how I teach it. Play a note, play it beautifully. Now. See if you can take a metaphorical step back from the oboe. Focus the air inside your mouth BEFORE it hits the reed. Now see how it feels different.
How much LESS work can you do, and get ultimately to the same result? Could you blow 20% less, and project actually more? Can you find the resonance in your own body, and just allow the oboe to amplify that? The less energy it takes to get your full, projected, beautiful sound, the more SPACE you have to add energy if the piece or the moment requires it.
Because, as odd as this seems, you will get more out of the oboe if you cultivate an air of detachment. You are the one making the music, the oboe is just the tool, the vehicle, the conduit. If your body has poise, if your air is coming from deep within you, if you know the sound you intend to make before you ever blow – the instrument will give it to you!
I’m sitting outside right now on a lazy warm summer afternoon, with my little dog next to me. If I speak to her she’ll wag her tail a little. If I idly suggest that she stand up, or dance, or fetch something, she won’t stir. If I, however, stand up, square my shoulders, and give her a command, she’ll (probably) obey. I have to inhabit my body, I have to use it appropriately, I have to mean it. Then she’ll be happy to oblige.
Similarly, I don’t think you can ASK the oboe for the sound and the music you want. You decide, you make that music. Bring the oboe along with you.