This past week, I joined the Stockton Symphony for a concert that included Smetana’s The Moldau, He Zhanhao & Chen Gang’s Butterfly Lovers Violin Concerto, and Brahms’s 3rd Symphony. I had the pleasure of playing with my friend Nicolasa Kuster, who teaches bassoon at the University of the Pacific, and one of her former students, Annalea Milligan. Here’s a shot of our section after the concert (stolen from Prof. Kuster’s blog):
I’m going to start things off here by reposting some bassoon-related content from a previous incarnation of my blog. First up: Never Cry Wolf, which I first posted about in May 2009.
Never Cry Wolf is a 1983 film adaptation of Farley Mowat’s 1963 book of the same name. The film features Charles Martin Smith as Tyler (a fictionalized version of Mowat), a young biologist sent to study the impact of wolves on the caribou population in northern Canada. Tyler discovers that the wolves subsist mainly on small mammals, and that their reputation as ruthless killers of larger animals is completely unfounded.
A while ago someone (I can’t remember who now — tell me if it was you) suggested that I watch Never Cry Wolf because it prominently features a bassoon. This is an insertion of the filmmakers, though — there is no reference to a bassoon in Mowat’s book. In any case, the wonders of Netflix brought the movie to us, and we watched it a couple of weekends ago.
The government agency that funds Tyler’s expedition sends all sorts of unnecessary equipment with him — pallets full of toilet paper, crates of government carbon-copy forms, etc. But Tyler himself brings along a seemingly superfluous item: his bassoon. But, shortly after he and his gear are dropped off by a bush pilot (Brian Dennehy), he finds a use for it. Standing alone in the middle of a frozen lake at dusk, Tyler hears the howls of wolves. He grabs the closest weapon-like thing he can find without any serious unpacking — the boot joint of his bassoon — and hides under his upturned canoe:
Tyler (and his bassoon) escape unscathed, and he manages to set up camp and begin his observations. He befriends two Inuit men, Mike (Samson Jorah) and Ootek (Zachary Ittimangnaq). They help him survive the inhospitable climate, and aid in his study of the wolves and caribou. A couple of times in the movie, we see the three sitting outside together in the evening, Tyler playing his bassoon. He tries to mimic the howls and cries of distant wolves:
At one point, Mike gives the bassoon a try, too:
I won’t say anything more about the plot, but the soundtrack is worth mentioning. As one might expect with so much on-screen time for Tyler’s bassoon, there’s quite a bit of bassoon in the movie’s music, as well. Rufus Olivier, currently the principal bassoonist of the San Francisco Opera, plays throughout.
Every bassoonist should see this movie, and I’d probably also recommend it even if it didn’t have any double-reed connection. The film is beautifully shot, and the arctic scenery is gorgeous. The plot is also quite compelling (although, I wonder how accurate the tagline “A True Story” is). So, add it to your Netflix queue!
P.S. — Thanks to the wonders of Wikipedia, I am also happy to report that Never Cry Wolf “is also noteworthy for being the first Walt Disney film to show naked adult buttocks.”