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The Double Reed Vol. 24 No.

1 2002


Interview with Daniele Glotin

(This article first appeared in Scrapes International, 2nd issue, December 1999, pp. 12-19. It is reprinted here with permission.ED)

Initially he only made double reeds for oboe, English horn and bassoon. In the course of time, the program was expanded to single reeds (my father also studied the clarinet and the saxophone) and later still, all kinds of double reeds for traditional and baroque instruments. Moreover, along with all that, there were pads, tubes and accessories for all kinds of reed instruments. The supply of good quality cane is central to our business. Therefore, I spend a lot of time in the south of France (Frjus, Var) to supervise the growing and selection of the cane in our production area. However, our factory is located close to Paris.

hirty years ago, when one wanted to buy oboe or bassoon cane in Holland, the names of only two companies would come to mind: Glotin and Prestini. You must be one of the oldest suppliers for double reed materials. My father, Albert Glotin, started the business right after the war in 1945. He had studied the oboe at the Paris Conservatory with Professor Bleuzet and also with the solo oboist of the Garde Rpublicaine, Mr. Lamorlette, both students of Fernand Gillet.
Photo 1: Albert Glotin (right) in the field.

So your father started out as a musician, but how exactly did he get involved in this business? That had to do with a number of factors. My father grew up during the depression between the two World Wars. His father died after the first World War from wounds he had incurred during the war, and his mother decided to move from Paris to a small town, Ezanville, about 15 kilometres away. Because of the need to earn money, my father began working as a toolmaker in a company which produced metal barrels at the age of thirteen. This he did besides his music study. Later on he was engaged as a member of an army band and, also to earn a living, became a leader of a jazz band, playing the saxophones and the clarinet. Around 1943, his teacher Roland Lamorlette had difficulty in getting reeds. He

Photo 2: Wood in the factory at Ezanville, ready for shipment

The Double Reed Vol. 24 No. 1 2002 106 remembered my fathers involvement with mechanical things. At his instigation my father then built a gouging machine together with Lamorlette and started to make reeds for others. When the war ended he decided to make this his profession. His reputation grew amongst oboists as far as the USA and soon he was working very long days in order to cope with the demand. Gradually the house in Ezanville was transformed into a factory.

Photo 3: One of the fields

know because my neighbour there called and told me that he had seen two people in my field. It is a good thing you are calling now because I have already notified the police. Our company has land on lease from various proprietors. Altogether the leased land and our own fields cover about 50 acres, of which about half has been made into cane plantations.

So what do you have to do to get your supply of cane? From the beginning, my father got his main supply from one man, Mr. Dante Biasotto, who was very knowledgeable about quality. My father taught him how to select cane in the course of the forty odd years he worked with him. The time to harvest the cane is from December till the end of March, that is when you go through the fields to cut the cane. (photo 4 and 5) After the beginning of April you cannot go into the fields because you will destroy the young sprouts which will become the cane for the next season, or actually, the season after that. The plant has to grow for two years before it is ready to be cut. What we do is to start preparing the fields in October and November. We cut away bad-looking cane and make sure that the promising ones have enough space and light to grow properly. When we begin harvesting in the second half of December, we start with the larger diameter cane for

Photo 4: Harvesting bassoon cane

We know that Arundo Donax, from the Var dpartement, is considered to be the best but most players do not know more than that. Some might even have vague plans to spend a holiday in France and cut some for their personal supply. What is fiction and what is reality here? To begin with, most of the fields are owned by the local farmers and are carefully watched. To go into any field without permission is unthinkable; it would be the same as if we were to go to Holland in the spring and go into the tulip fields to cut our own bunch of flowers. It might seem that in some places the plants grow in the wild, but every single piece of land is somebodys property. For example, last season I was in one of our own fields and we went in for inspection and some cleaning up. I went to call the owner to tell him that he might see two of our people working in the field we lease from him. He said: Yes, I already

Photo 5: Cutting the cane

The Double Reed Vol. 24 No. 1 2002


107 You mentioned that you also have plantations. What do you mean by that?

bassoon, clarinet and saxophone. One month later, we begin cutting the oboe cane. So you have less time to harvest the oboe cane because you can no longer enter the fields after the beginning of April?

In the wild, sprouts will come up every year. These have to grow for two years before they are ready to be used as cane for musical instruments and the qualThat is correct. We have peoity will depend on their location. ple cutting the cane, and after You can also choose a field which one month some of them start has good location and plant the cutting the oboe cane. That is cane there yourself. This is a Photo 6: Young cane the same species, Arundo Donax, laborious undertaking and takes but because of the location and more time because the planted related factors such as soil, water supply and sun it roots (rhizomes) need four to five years before you does not grow larger. can start cutting. To make a plantation is a large Here I want to explain something. Many people investment in time, energy and money. The advantages

Photo 7: Growing oboe cane

think that you use the whole stem of the plant. But are that, when planted in rows, it gives easy access for unfortunately because of problems with the diameter the labourers to maintain the fields and provides for and the thickness, we can only use part of the stem; easy transportation of the cut cane. The natural fields the rest is useless. It therefore is the size of the plant do not have that and are moreover always close to determining for which instrument it can be used. There water streams which makes access even more difficult. are two kinds of plants of Arundo Donax. The first Moreover, in times of bad weather and torrential rain one with a smaller diameter the soil of whole areas can is for oboe, English horn wash away as happened to and so forth. The second us two years ago, and that one is thicker with a larger means the end of the plants diameter and is used for there. That was a big loss the saxophone, clarinet and for us. The plantations need bassoon. an irrigation system, which As you say, it is like means an additional investgrape growing; there is a ment. On the other hand, long history of tradition and you then have the advanexperience which goes into tage of not being so depengetting good quality cane dent on the weather because Photo 8: Bassoon cane for the various instruments. you can regulate water sup-

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Photos 9 &10: Drying bassoon cane

ply which is not really feasible in the natural fields. The irrigation demands careful handling because too much water is not good for the quality. We need to irrigate intermittently for a few hours practically every day. How do you select the cane, and what happens next? The selection of cane is a question of knowledge based upon experience. Mr. Biasotto really had that and that is why my father worked with him all those years. We try to be as strict in our selection as we possibly can because the subsequent proceedings are very time consuming and therefore expensive. In this respect, I mention the fact that we have one plantation field which we selected for cane which all grow to the size suitable for oboe cane (photo 7). I think that is unique in our business. As I said before, the plants are all of the same species but it is the soil and light conditions which are decisive to what size it will

grow. I also think that the Var is the best area in France, and in the world, to get cane for musical instruments and Frjus is the best place to get a quality growth. When we cut cane of the larger diameter for bassoon, saxophone and clarinet they are stacked in racks (rateliers) (photo 8). After the cutting is finished, the leaves are removed and the tops are cut off to make handling easier. At the same time, we go through a second round of selecting and will end up with around 60.000 cane, sometimes more, sometimes less. Then they are laid out in a special field and dried in the wind and the sun (photo 9 and 10). We turn them 180 degrees altogether in three times over a period of 10 to 15 days in June, July or August. We can handle 30,000 cane at one time in our field which is especially prepared for that, so for the 50 to 60 thousand cane of one seasons harvest we have to do it in at least two batches. After that they are stored in the barn we had specially built. The walls are constructed with overlapping slats so that the wind has free access. Rain cannot come through but continuous ventilation is assured (photo 11). We deal with oboe cane in a different way. After cutting the cane, they are stacked in pyramids after removing the leaves (photo 12) and after an additional selection. When the cutting season is finished they go directly into the barn to lie there undisturbed for two years (photo 13). The tops are not cut off because the cane is not that tall. The next year the stems are cut in pieces of the right length (photo 14) and those are gathered in waterproof sheets. These are put out in the sun during the summer for a period of two to three weeks, depending on the sun conditions. Every day, the sheets are unfolded and the pieces of cane are spread out after the morning dampness has gone at about nine oclock. Then they are taken up again and put back in the barn at the end of the day (photo 15 and 16). The procedures for oboe and bassoon cane are basically the same, but the sequence in which they are applied are different. You also produce many different accessories like staples. It is remarkable that you make, for

Photo 11: The barn for drying

The Double Reed Vol. 24 No. 1 2002



example 42 mm staples which are only sold in The Netherlands. How did that come about? We listen to the clients and if possible we manufacture to specification. Good quality staples are expensive to make so it is important to know exactly what the result should be already in advance. We have long-standing agreements with Maurice Bourgue,

Robert Casier, Claude Maisonneuve and more recently with J.L.Capezzalli. We fully realize that this is rather exceptional. How was the company set up since you did not possess your own fieIds ? When Mr Biasotto became older he was willing to sell his small company to us after having been our main supplier for nearly forty years. He did not own the fields himself but leased them from the owners. Since we bought his company in 1991, we now lease the fields from the owners. It is somewhat complicated because we have invested in these fields throughout the years: we do all the maintenance for which we employ people all year round, and of course there is the investment in the planted fields, with our irrigation systems and so forth. The only thing we actually own is the specially designed storage building to control the drying process. It was built in 1991; before that we did the same as everybody else: to dry the stored cane you opened the door of the barn when the weather was nice and

Photo 12: Cutting off the leaves

Photo 13: Oboe cane in the barn

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you kept it shut when the weather was bad. Our last question: how did you get involved in this business? Very simple. Since my childhood, most of the time there was talk about reeds, music, cane, good

harvests or bad harvests, problems with cane, excellent cane and the secrets of the trade. I always found that fascinating; it was a part of my life. and has become my life.

Photo 14: Sawing oboe cane

Photos 15 & 16: Drying oboe cane