ANU School of Music Streaming Sounds

Questions for Alan Vivian

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 July 30 

Hey Al

See you are doing a recital on the 16th. I am interested in your barrel and bell which I saw on The Beethoven slow movement excerpt. Looks interesting – I think it’s too late for me to experiment but interested to know how they affect the response. Look forward to hearing the show.


Hi Duncan, thanks for the question. The barrel and bell are made by Morrie Backun in Vancouver. The barrel is cocobola wood, and the bell is grenadilla. I have been playing on them for about 12 months now – orchestral, concerto, chamber and recital repertoire, and I am very happy with them. Great focus to the sound with no lack of dynamic, or change to intonation. I also find the response for articulation much improved.

Alan Vivian


August 13 

Hi Alan,

I was just wondering how you came about choosing the works for this particular program?


Hi Dave,
I’ve wanted to perform the Resamnovic for some time now, and the webcast idea seemed just right for it. Once I had that as the centre piece, I thought that the Beethoven slow movement would be a perfect contrast. David Pereira commissioned Elena’s piece which we premiered a couple of weeks ago and I’ve been pressing Miro to write me something for ages seemed like a good idea to go for the same trio combination. Add a flashy opener, a bit of jazz at the end, a one hour time limit, and there you have it!



August 13 

How do you mentally and physically prepare for big concerts/ auditions?

Also, What is your opinion in regards to playing (practicing) the day before/the day of a performance? Is it useful, or unnecessary.

Laura :)

Laura, I find I really need to keep playing/practicing right up to the performance. A lot of that has to do with making sure I am comfortable with my reed selection, but also just keeping my head in the right space for the repertoire I am playing. Also, it’s never too late to come up with a new fingering!!



August 13 

Although I enjoy clarinet immensely, sometimes it can be hard to get motivated to practice. Does this happen to you even as a professional? Do you have any techniques or suggestions to overcome this lack of motivation? 


Thea, I find that practice makes me play better and when I am playing better I want to practice more! That may sound a bit simplistic, but as in a lot of other areas of life, the better you feel about what you are doing, the more you want to do it. Make sure you have a structure to your practice routine, don’t just tootle aimlessly. Enjoying clarinet is certainly a good start!



August 15

Alan, how do you go about coordinating and preparing for such a big project, as there are clearly many people involved and a lot of work has gone into addressing the many aspects of this concert?


Tiffany, it has been a steep learning curve! Everybody involved has brought their own expertise to the project and the hardest thing for me has been to let them get on with what they do best so I can concentrate on my playing!



August 16

Alan, what would be the best piece of advice you can give to aspiring young musicians, in particular clarinettists?


Bori: Be serious in your practice, pay attention to the detail of the music you are playing, listen to as much music as you can (of all styles) and enjoy expressing your own unique personality as an interpreter.I think this is valid for all musicians, young or older. As a clarinettist, listen to as many different styles of playing as you can, incorporate what you like and discard what you feel is not right for you



August 16

Alan, I was fortunate enough to be at the “live” concert and of course I then viewed the “Streaming Sounds” result later. Both showed your great dexterity and interpretive ability with the clarinet and left me breathless. In trying to make a comparison between a pianist and a clarinettist – the pianist has a huge physical span of notes to cover and ten fingers to organise, but can usually breathe uninterrupted (though I know some who have been reminded that “it helps to breath now and then”) but my question to you is how in the dickens do you breathe and play such a huge cascade of notes and not turn blue? I know it’s all in the breathing – but do you? (I can only conclude that all wind instrumentalists have a hidden intake valve secreted on their body – but am open to discussion on this.) Do you (like some bike riders and ball kickers) get EPO treatment before a concert. Perhaps you have some hyperbaric chamber time before a good blow. Now there’s a thought – blood tests before concerts! Levity aside – it was a great concert and a fitting first from Australia bringing together this new dimension of communication and showcasing our talent. And I thought Colin Fox was right on-the-ball in bringing to the fore the multicultural aspects of the music and composers. Well done everyone.


Thanks for those comments Paul. What is EPO treatment? In all seriousness every phrase we make on the clarinet, (as with all other wind instruments), is air based. We learn to breathe as nature intended, i.e deeply and effectively, and then use our musculature to support and control the release of that air through the instrument. The teaching of breathing and support of the air column is, in my opinion, the most important aspect of early wind instrumental teaching. If young players start to enjoy the sound they make, as they will if taught to breathe and support correctly, the rest will follow. Thank you for your generous comments on the performance.



August 16

Hi Alan, loved the cd piece. What made you choose it to go on todays program?


Thanks Wyana. I’ve been trying to find an opportunity to programme it for some time now. Given that we were streaming live on the internet, and given the subject of the guy trying to download the Nasdaq futures, this seemed like the perfect occasion. It needs a sound engineer in the hall to control the balance,and we had some great people to make it work. I love playing it and the laugh from the audience at the end was just perfect.



August 16

Hi Alan,

Thanks for the concert. It was fantastic. I love the last piece best.
 Do you know if Kovacs wrote anything for the cello?

Hi Dominic. I really enjoy playing the Kovacs. He is a clarinettist himself, and I don’t know if he has written anything for other instruments. Maybe you should try to arrange “After you Mr. Gershwin!” for cello and piano!



August 20

Hello Alan:

I didn’t get to see the live stream (it was way too early here in the States) but my family and I watched and thoroughly enjoyed the webcast recording of your excellent performance of my piece in particular (ballistix), and the concert as a whole. I must admit I normally don’t enjoy listening to recordings of live electroacoustic works because the typical center stage mic placement can never produce the same balance in the recording as the audience is experiencing in the hall. However, the balance in the webcast recording sounds excellent and there is a good sense of stereo separation. Thanks for bringing the work to a wider audience in such a unique and I must say very appropriate way. If you’re interested, I do have a clarinet concerto I think you and your audiences would enjoy.

Warmest Regards,  Nikola Resanovic


Hi Nick,
Thanks for your kind comments. I agree that the webcast sound was of very high quality, although of necessity a little compressed. I wondered whether you felt that the CD sound was just fractionally too present? I have had a most enthusiastic response to your piece, and I think you will getting a fair few inquiries from clarinettists wanting to perform it!
This was the first time I have played it, although a couple of my students have programmed it for exam recitals, and I must say I enjoyed the experience tremendously.
I know of your concerto and would very much like to see the music. If you are interested, I would also like to explore the possibility of commissioning a trio for clarinet, cello and piano. Miroslav Bukovsky’s piece on the webcast was just the first movement of a trio on which he is working; we have Elena’s piece, and one from you would be great!. Let me know how you feel about that instrumentation and the idea in general.
My email address is:
Thanks again for the message,



I’m certainly interested in writing for the specific combination you mention and will contact you privately about this. My first hearing of the “” performance was over a set of full range (Polk Rti A7) speakers at a moderately low level. The CD balance did not strike me as being too present under those circumstances although I must admit that my listening at that time was not entirely focused on this sort of critique. However, listening over a pair of headphones, I do notice a greater difference between the clarinet sound, which contains much more of the hall’s ambience, vs the CD which seems to contain less of the hall reverb and thus sounds a bit more present. I don’t find this too distracting, however.

I did an unreleased studio recording of this piece back in ‘97 with Hakan Rosengren on clarinet. We left the CD accompaniment exactly as mixed and he balanced his clarinet playing against that just as you would in a live performance. There was no editing; he did the whole thing straight thru in a single take. Since it was a ‘dry’ studio recording we both decided that a little reverb was warranted on the clarinet solo which was isolated on its own track. However, interestingly enough, we both felt that the ’soliloquy’ (unaccompanied clarinet solo for the readers) sounded better with more reverb and the ‘balkan dance’ better with less reverb to make the clarinet a bit more present during the accompanimental phase.

Unfortunately, in a live hall recording these kinds of performer/ambiance balancing adjustments would be much more difficult to achieve. Of course, a live audience (as opposed to a dead one  is hearing the same amount of the hall ambiance imprinted on the CD accompaniment as on the live clarinet sound, so it works well that way and the only real issue becomes one of balance. The ambiance discrepancies are likely to surface more in recordings – either live or engineered. Also, there will always be an element of subjectivity and personal taste in all of these things.



August 23

Hi Alan. 
My name’s Joshua, listening from Sydney. I’m a year 11 student (doing 
grade 7 clarinet this year). First of all, stunning performance. I couldn’t help but notice the peculiar barrel you were 
using. I was just wondering how you go about choosing the parts for 
your clarinet, if you buy specific parts for specific pieces and if 
you do things like change reeds or ligatures in between pieces to suit 
the piece? Joshua Druery


Hi Josh, Glad you enjoyed the performance. Good luck with your Grade 7. The barrel and bell are made by Morrie Backun in Vancouver – have a look at his website. They give a terrific focus to the sound. I play Buffet Festival clarinets, a Selmer C85/120 mouthpiece with a Vandoren Classic ligature. I try not to change reeds during a performance, but try to make sure the reed I choose for a particular performance is really well prepared so that it (hopefully!) won’t change during the recital.

Alan Vivian

  1. Hi Alan,
    My name is Adam and I’m in Year 9 (doing Grade 6)in Melbourne. I loved the concert – it was amazing! Really beautiful and interesting. I have had problems with my articulation, and I’m not sure how I can improve it. I seem to make a harsh and heavy staccato tongue (I’m using the ‘ta’ syllable), instead of a light one, particularly in passages with a slower staccato. What suggestions do you have as to how I can improve this? Thanks

  2. I quite agree with Hannah, clarinet.ballistix.boomerang could be an idea for a new work. Great concert as always Alan.
    I am interested to know more about your tone colour (as I am a big fan of it) -has your equipment selection played a big part in the development of your sound? And how did you come to the equipment you currently play on?
    One day I would like to hear more about your “brief flirtation” with jazz…

  3. Well done you!

  4. Good luck for your performance today, I know it will be great an am looking forward to the inparticular.

  5. Alan,
    How do you feel about premiering new compositions, knowing that you are the first ever performer of what could become a timeless classic?

  6. I am aware that you provided your clarinet students with a slice of insight into Australian Indigenous culture last week in performance class. I strongly believe that the wider community and young, upcoming students and musicians watching today would benefit from a similar display of cultural heritage performed by a professional musican, such as yourself.

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