Evenness of sound is something that instrumentalists have been working on for many years. It is one of the mechanical arts of 'fine' instrumental playing that players strive for, especially in the 'classical' orchestral realms.
However, in recent years it seems to me, it has been getting to be almost an obsession. Certain players just can't 'see' past anyone who doesn't have an 'even' sound in all the registers. This over preoccupation with evenness also affects nuances and timbre variation as well, which of course, are the symptomatic expressions of a player's central government of concepts from where their music comes out of.
Lets look at this 'even' issue. Instruments that are 'built' with a sound, like certain keyboard and percussion instruments, still need the player to develop enough control to articulate evenly in all the ranges. And we all know for example, that different pianists would sound remarkably distinct from one another if they were playing the same piano.
Are some teachers really tough on evenness because it shows a lack of control or a lack of discipline on the students part for not sticking to it enough to develop the control it would take to play evenly? Or, is it that some teachers only see their music from the standpoint of technical mastery and don't really know how to convey or inspire deeper expressive qualities? Or, do they figure that the rest of it is subjective and the only clear 'objective', 'concrete' thing are the mechanics?
It brings me to questions like, "what is important in the balances of our playing?" If it all comes down to "I want a job," then we are at the mercy of the ones that have gone through that process and got the job, and are now considered from others on the 'outside' to be the authorities.
This makes a certain amount of sense on that level. But, if it produces 'clones' of players, and 'cloned' excerpts and performances, let me ask the following question, "what in the world does that have to do with Art and originality? Let alone the deeper human development and creative processes?
What in Nature is even? This is a huge subject, but the forces of Nature, the cycles, seasons, flora and fauna for example, have a motion to them and not always so predictable and 'even'. Maybe the obsession with evenness is a human's way of trying to find perfection and stability. This kind of 'perfection' is not connected to anything in the natural worlds. It will eventually deteriorate because our physiology changes, and not always in clear, predictable and chartable ways. Our physiology is not the only thing that changes really, but whether we the person wants to change or not, our body has a limited life and is changing all the time.
In practical brass playing terms, that beautiful sound we hear in our minds and would like to have for every single note, is temporary, that is if we actually achieve it. The idea for example of an 'open' sound might get increasingly difficult as our bodies change and our internal life changes with living and experiencing what life brings our way. Would we be willing to 'compromise' if it meant giving up our one wonderful even sound so we could continue to play at all?
If 'evenness' is such a huge criteria, could it be out of proportion to the bigger musical picture? Can it be its own type of 'cholesterol' blocking our deeper perceptions out of fear we will not be 'even'?
Hey, I practice my 'even' exercises everyday. But, in no way will I let that be my sole musical government. I still believe that there is room in the job market for those 'less than perfect' players who play with feeling, passion and connection. Of course you can have all those qualities and be a 'perfectly even' player too. Im just trying to encourage those wonderful players out there, many of whom I have heard, that are exciting and expressive players who may not have the 'perfect even' thing down. MUSIC, the essence of it, is an equal opportunity employer!
I'll end this post on evenness of sound by quoting something a great long time friend of mine said who is a terrific violist in a major U.S. orchestra. I was talking to him about this subject of evenness a few years ago. He looked at me and said with a tone of seriousness and a tinge of dark humor, "you take some coffins, you line them up, and their even."