Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Sound for healing, sound for harm

I was reading an article for class the other day and there was a portion that discussed "Joshua's Trumpet", a 75 foot long trumpet being created to sound at 4 Hz. The sound is powerful enough to destroy the entire city of Chicago. This information got me thinking about the power of sound. Whe already know that pieces of music can manipulate someone's mood or inhibit a feeling; what if we expand upon that? The Ancient Greeks believed that certain types of people's needed to listen to certain types of music such as soldiers only listening to war music. I believe they were along the right track. We use certain types of music in today's society to sooth people in various environments such as on the elevator, in the work place, as music therapy. What if we expanded this to school lunchrooms, classrooms, various jobs... There is scientific evidence of music increasing the amount of brain we use as well as making children smarter or even developing a fetus differently. If we as musicians and physic of sound really put our minds to it, not only could we increase the ways music can benefit us, we can also perfect sound as a weapon. Imagine soldiers beig able to go into a war zone and completely disable the enemy by a sound pulse rather then by bullets or bombs. Sound can Ben be used for torture. But though all of this, sound and music can be harnessed to help shape the people and their lives.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Sound identity

I have found myself listening to a large amount of brass ensemble literature lately, and have found myself more often then not disappointed by the overall sound of the group. When I think of different instruments, I think of different colours and timbres; I think of the different sound qualities joining together to play in harmony. The groups I have been listening to have for the most part been professional, so their tuning is for the most part on par, their intonation is good and they obviously know how to play. So what is it that leaves me wanting? I have been pondering this, unable to find words. Today, however, I was on one of my favorite brass ensembles' websites (The Washington Symphonic Brass) and found a quote of J. Reilly Lewis, music director Of the Cathedral Choral Society and The Washington Bach Consort, concerning the Washington Symphonic Brass: "Impeccable musicianship... Roundness and warmth of sound not often associated with brass ensembles." I believe this is very true. There are too few groups that have this roundness and warmth. The goal of an ensemble is to create a unified sound, but I believe this concept is being taken to an extreme. A French Horn is meant to sound like a French Horn, a 1st trumpet like a 1st trumpet, a trombone like a trombone, etc. when these individual colours come together, they are glorious. It gives me goosebumps nd brings tears to my eyes. On most of these recordings I have been hearing a French Horn that sounds like a trombone, a 2nd trumpet that sounds like a 1st trumpet. I believe even the two trumpets in a quintet need to bring to the table different colours. I have had the pleasure of playing as a sub and now member of the Baltimore Brass Quintet for many years and each time I play with them it is a treat. Now know why it is so different then most groups I have been in. Jeremy and Brian have been playing together for most of their lives. With one look they can switch parts and when they do their colour changes, the second part maintains a slightly darker sound that fits perfectly into a properly constructed sound pyramid. They also instinctively know that there are exceptions to this rule. When a melody passes from trumpet to trumpet, they sound like the same player. With the Horn player sounding like a trombone, the colour of the horn is missing from the whole and the sound pyramid is skewed, with the lower bass voices being more powerful and there being no middle portion of the pyramid. If the horn player sounds like a trombone, there are two sound pyramids essentially and two groups (two trumpets in one group, and horn, trombone, and tuba in the other) playing the same music at the same time. Perhaps the answer is to work at maintaining a solid sound pyramid while focusing to unify pitch, intonation, dynamic intensity, etc. Brass ensembles have such potential to be enjoyable and intense in their uniqueness. They say in relationships, each person needs to maintain their own individual identity; maybe musicians should do the same. Bringing their own traits and personalities as well as unique timbres of their instruments to a group, while maintaining a professional level of musical integrity would not only shake things up and open worlds for the musicians, but the listeners as well!

Monday, March 5, 2012

Benevolent Venues

I wanted to compile a list of possible venues where we can perform benevolently. Churches Elementary schools Middle schools High schools Private schools Home school meetings Community centers Subways Boardwalks Bus Stations Shopping Malls Veterinary Hospitals and Clinics Animal Shelters Animal Rescue Groups such as PAWS (these do not euthanize and are often run strictly on donations Family neighborhoods Caroling National Parks State Parks Historical Sites Campgrounds Hospice Hospital Children's Ward Coma patients VA Hospitals Soldier homecomings from deployment Bases where soldiers are stationed for combat Injured veterans American Legions VFW's When it comes down to it, we could play pretty much anywhere for free. Where is the line though? After all musicians need to eat too. I tend to volunteer my services to assist in a good cause that typically cannot afford funding for musical entertainment or for fundraisers to raise money for a cause I believe in. Each of us is different and will tend to be drawn to different "good causes". Another idea is to give discounts on a sliding scale. That way you can at least give a tiny discount to churches or other places you feel strongly about but who you know can afford your services. On the same scale, places such as nursing homes or animal shelters could only pay for your gas and dinner and volunteer animal rescue groups you could play for free. The only person that can decide what warrants benevolent performances is you. Also, talk to a tax company and see what kinds of write offs etc. could be available for charity and volunteer performances.

Possible Recital Program Themes

Last week in Brass Pedagogy we were asked to come up with a list of possible recital program themes. This was fun and surprisingly a challenging assignment. I would like to share my list of ideas, and would love feedback with additional thematic ideas! Please keep in mind this list is French Horn specific so some ideas would need to be modified for other instruments Jazzy Pieces Pieces written for specific horn players Nationalism Regional music Chronological Versatile Horn and other instruments than piano Horn, Cello, Harp, water glasses or marimba, Bagpipes 1 specific style Various mediums Horn evolution Evolution of horn calls Nationality of horn calls Acting pieces All one type of work All encores and prunes Favorite encores of famous players All one theme Take descriptive words of when your recital is and form fit a recital All pieces that incorporate percussion All transcriptions Medieval or Rennaisance vocal music Baroque vocal pieces Vocal duets Adiemus pieces Disney theme music Different groupings Emotions or moods Nursery rhythms or children's melodies Hunting calls Extra musical implements (costumes) Transiberian orchestra lighting Staging Silent film Pictures Pieces of art Audience catered Gregoriam Chant Hildegard Von Bingen Supplemented by Nature sounds Survey of compositions in a margin of years Commissions Pieces that use different techniques (stopping, multi phonics, etc) Thematic music (music specifically composed for specific themes) All Bach cello Improvised Parlor songs Theme and Variations Non western composers World music that is not conventional for horn Mixed types of horn, Tibetan horns, Alpine Horns, Diggerydoos; multi-cultural Unaccompanied recital, loop pedal, effects pedal Sonar and Horn All composers are horn players Only works by women composers for horn All hunting horn All natural horn Acted out with brass quintet or pianist and soloist dialogue being shared through musical styles and techniques World music techniques (Middle Eastern semi-tones) New Age vocal transcriptions