Lessons for Rufus: the Oboe

November 3, 2006


Hector Berlioz (1803 – 1869), channeled by Roger Bourland

My Dear Rufus,

As I am not falling asleep this evening, I realized I need to tell you about the beauty of the oboe. Oboists can sustain the longest line of any of the wind or brass instruments. For that matter, they can sustain a line longer than string instruments, as string instruments must “breathe” through their upbows and downbows. Oboist must actually EXHALE air at the end of their lines.

If I had to say that YOU were an instrument in the orchestra, I would say that you could be an oboe, or maybe an English horn on opium, but same effect: long lines, like your tunes.

Compose more instrumental lines. Close your eyes, fix the sound of the instrument in your inner ear, take a breath, and go. Your melodies do not need to hang on words. Free yourself.

Even though I go on about the glories of the oboe, I must confess that for many years, my host, Roger Bourland, could not stand the sound of the oboe and always replaced it with a soprano saxophone. [This was the day BEFORE Kenny G, when Dave Koz was still my student in an electronic music class at UCLA, and Rikk Stone was my idol of soprano saxophone sound in the early 80s. (RB)]

Remember what I have always taught you:

Music takes over where words fail.

It is time for my opium, so I’ll sign off. Speaking of which, I am becoming less and less social, so I prefer to continue our lessons by post until I can kick this nasty habit.

Ever yours,

Prof Berlioz

[Author’s note: Roger does NOT take opium. Hector Berlioz, the resurrected composer whom I am channeling for the benefit of Rufus Wainwright, was known to take opium. How much, I have no idea. “Symphonie Fantastique” was allegedly written under its spell.]


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