Blonde Bassoon Basics
If you’re on social media and you are a bassoonist, you’ve likely seen photos of the elusive North American blonde bassoon and its players. I am one such lucky bassoonist to perform on a blonde Moosmann bassoon. I’ve had many questions asked about my blonde bassoon over the years, and thanks to the Council of Canadian Bassoonists, I have the opportunity to answer a few of the questions that have cropped up.
What is it made from?
How many blonde bassoons are there?
Does it change the sound?
Why did you want a blonde bassoon?
One of the first questions I received about blonde bassoons was “why are they called blonde?” It turns out that there is a simple explanation. Blonde bassoons are unstained, and unstained maple is known as blonde wood, combine the two and we get blonde bassoons! Ultimately, my blonde beauty is just like the next bassoon, only in natural color.
Blonde bassoons are aesthetically enjoyable, showing off what nature gave us in the beauty of the maple, forever captured in a crystal-clear lacquer finish. No stain, no painted striping, just natural beauty combined with fine craftsmanship of the bassoon maker.
Blonde bassoons are rare and uncommon
Because it’s so rare to see to see a blonde bassoon, many people ask how many there are. While I don’t have numbers for the entire world, I do know that Moosmann is the only bassoon maker selling them in North America. I reached out to Justin Miller at Miller Marketing, the North American distributor of Moosmann bassoons to find out. To my astonishment, only 13 have been sold in North America since their introduction in 2014. Leaving me to take note that blonde bassoons are more uncommon than even I previously thought.
Sound doesn’t change based on color
I’ve often wondered why one of the first questions I get about my blonde bassoon is “does it change the sound?” I want to take a moment to answer the question, then discuss where it may originate.
No, the color of the stain, or absence of stain in my case, doesn’t affect the sound of the instrument. The largest non-performer contributions to the instrument’s sound are craftsmanship of the bassoon maker and the raw materials used in construction.
Many of us, myself included, make snap judgements based on what we have learned in the past. My colleague Matthew Ogden and I are the bassoon section with the Piedmont Symphony Orchestra in Virginia. When our paths first crossed as performers, I saw his bassoon and I was confused. It was black. I wondered if it was plastic.
Matthew’s bassoon was the first black wooden bassoon I had ever seen in person. I made an assumption based on the color. I questioned the professional quality. I did all this without questioning his ability to perform on the instrument. Without ever hearing him, I passed judgement. And it was purely based on appearance. I realized that this is the type of bias many people face daily and now I work to be a person that drives change.
Color Doesn’t matter
In 2020, I ordered a custom made Moosmann bassoon and I chose to stay with the blonde aesthetic. I’ve grown partial to the look. While the color doesn’t change the sound of the instrument, the feeling I get when performing on my blonde bassoon changes everything. I’m not timid, I have a big personality, and if I’m going to spend so much time with an inanimate object, I want to love it! And I do love my blonde bassoon.
The truth is, I didn’t originally want a “blonde” bassoon. I purchased my first blonde bassoon second hand. I didn’t buy it because of the allure of the natural finish, but because I had heard this bassoon played so beautifully it brought me to tears. The chance to buy it was one opportunity I could not let pass. Color just doesn’t matter.
The world has changed so much, yet so much has stayed the same. In the world of classical music, judging based on color or any biased observation doesn’t have a place. It never really did, but complacency can create the illusion that everything is fine. We must be better.
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