One thing I’ve learned over the years as a technician is that the more you know, the more you realise how much you don’t know. There’s nearly always more than one solution to any problem, so I’m always up for learning new tricks and techniques. Here in Australia over the last five years or so, a community of instrument repair technicians has come together through conferences to learn from each other and our counterparts in the US and Europe. I’m honoured to have been asked to present at these conferences on oboe repair, but I have learned from others just as much as I have shared my knowledge and experience with them. Technicians can have a tendency to regard others as competition and keep knowledge to themselves in order to maintain a competitive advantage, but this new communal spirit marks a significant change to that. Everyone’s a winner in this, most importantly our customers.
So in the quest for knowledge, last December I had the pleasure of visiting Bernd Moosmann at his factory in Waiblingen near Stuttgart. It was fascinating to watch the master craftsman at work making his bassoons and I learned a great deal. I have repaired many broken tenons using a technique that I learned at Howarth of London, but Bernd showed me a completely different way of doing the job, which I have used successfully on bassoons and oboes since I returned to Adelaide. He showed me how to replace broken finger tubes in bassoons and he has a number of cutters and other tools designed differently from the tools I have made and used.
Although the Moosmann factory is a purpose built modern facility, his methods and techniques are as steeped in tradition as his village way of life. His bassoons (and German system clarinets) are still made by hand in the traditional manner handed down through centuries of woodwind making in this part of Germany.
The vibe in the factory is one of pride and quiet respect. People are more polite and formal than we’re used to in Australia and workers address Bernd as Herr Moosmann.
Waiblingen is one of a number of satellite villages on the outskirts of Stuttgart, and walking through the local Christmas market was really like stepping back in time to a tradition lifestyle. There was a real feeling of community and connection which was also manifest on a riotous night in a skittle alley with Bernd’s extended family. Inordinate quantities of locally brewed beer were consumed while the rules of the skittles games got more and more bizarre and complex. There was one round where the object was to knock down as few skittles as possible, but if you miss altogether you incur the maximum penalty. Or something. It was getting quite late by that stage!
We rounded off the visit with a tour around the Mercedes Benz Museum in Stuttgart, which was really fascinating and well worth a visit if you’re ever in the area. So thanks, Herr Moosmann, for your wonderful hospitality and I look forward to our next meeting.
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