Thomas Stevens

Dynamics-Part VI ( Composer/Conductor Ingolf Dahl )

  • General Quotes

Composer ingolf Dahl offers a comment that supports the concept of relative dynamics.

One day in Los Angeles, ca. 1960, the Swiss-American composer, Ingolf Dahl, was coaching a chamber ensemble rehearsal when, out of the blue, a trombonist in the group unleashed an ear shattering fortissimo that sounded like one of those salutations one might hear from the air horn of an eighteen wheeler barreling down some interstate highway.

The proceedings immediately ground to a halt, and after the ensuing laughter had died down, Ingolf queried the trombonist as to the reasons for his “generous outpouring of sound” (a phrase forever etched in the "local" memory bank). The trombonist defensively and defiantly responded that his part was clearly marked fortississimo (“fff”).

Mr. Dahl then offered the opinion the trombonist’s “fff” was far too loud because there were only nine musicians in the group, and that his “fff” might be more appropriate in a “marching band over at the [L. A.] Coliseum.” ( a stadium facility located approximately one km from the locale of the rehearsal in question)

One of Dahl’s favorite and oft-stated musical admonitions was the universally accepted axiom that dynamics are relative, a concept that should be a “no-brainer"* but which, nevertheless, is routinely violated or ignored by many musicians.