For some years now, clarinets have been pigeonholed by the great British public as instruments for schoolkids to progress to once they’ve mastered the recorder.
While a lot of those young musicians are very happy with their new instrument, it’s a little unfair to cast aside the clarinet as uncool.
A staple of classic jazz in the hands of greats like Benny Goodman and Artie Shaw, the humble clarinet is an instrument with a great history – and a strong present, going in two different and easily overlooked directions.
Modern jazz still embraces the clarinet warmly, with Don Byron being one of the biggest standouts in the field. Byron’s New Gospel Quintet are being hailed as one of the best modern jazz bands, offering jazz interpretations of black religious music to great acclaim.
What makes the clarinet so useful for jazz musicians? Versatility. And in the age of internet performance, that’s where the clarinet has really begun to shine.
With video recording technology literally in everybody’s pocket, what might once have been nothing more than one-off jokey performances can now find an audience, and the clarinet’s clear melodies and range allow players to master tunes we all know and love.
Gaming fan MylesPrower is captured here playing a very recognisable theme at Anime-Boston 2014, and performances like this are becoming more and more common. With a comparatively light, easily portable instrument, any opportunity to entertain your friends can be taken and classic moments can be captured forever.
There’s even a YouTube tutorial playlist helping clarinettists master various video game themes.
It seems that the clarinet will conquer ‘nerdcore’ as it has so many musical genres before.
Is it any surprise that professional musicians like the CU Clarinet Ensemble are getting in on the act?
Of course, professionals have been using the clarinet to have fun for quite some time now. Swedish legend Martin Fröst put the idea on the map a few years ago with this unusual rendition of the Flight of the Bumble Bee.
The clarinet has become a staple instrument for samba, jazz, and many other genres as well as the traditional and folk tunes it was originally developed for. As a flexible, versatile instrument, it may only now be coming into its own as online culture develops the solo piece into a high art.
But whatever the case, the clarinet is played by some very cool musicians producing very cool music.
Really, you can answer this question yourself – don’t you think clarinets are cool?