Thursday, June 7, 2012

And the band played on...

I enjoyed this blog project. I think I will plan to write musical thoughts in here; regardless of connection with music of other cultures. Feel free to check back in from time to time and offer your thoughts and comments. Obrigada everyone! :)

Monday, April 23, 2012

To Be or Not to Be?

I didn't have the opportunity to share this with everyone last week, so I hope you enjoy. Shelby and I performed this piece on Kate Wohlman's doctoral recital last semester, and while it is a bit bizarre at first I really enjoyed the way the piece is set up. Henri Tomasi's "To Be or Not To Be?" was based on William Shakespeare's "Hamlet". It tells a short version of the story of love, life and un-timely deaths. The piece is scored for three trombones (two tenor & 1 bass trombone) and solo tuba. I loved working on Tomasi's trombone concerto during my undergraduate studies as well. The following is a really good youtube video of a Master's recital (seriously, these guys did a really good job!) The most difficult part for me was the mute changes; they are fast and you have to do it as quietly and smoothly as possible. **Composers: This is something to consider when you are writing for brass---mute changes take time!!!
Enjoy this great performance of Etre ou Ne Pas Etre: Monologue de Hamlet by Derek Fernstermachter and his trombone trio. I suppose this is my last post for this class; however I am thinking about making a new blog to discuss things in my musical world---stay tuned and thanks for reading!!!

Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass

I was reminded today of some music I used to listen to growing up. My mom and dad loved Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass, so my little sister and I would hear it played around the house while we were home during e weekends. I specifically remember a tune called Bittersweet Samba. Initially I was going to post a link to the YouTube video, but watching the first minute decided it was a little too racy for ABEL. I like that Herb Alpert's group was mainstream and popular, yet the brass played a leading role in all the tunes, and we're even included in the band name! If you haven't heard this group yet it is worth checking out. :)

Thursday, April 19, 2012


I don't think I've posted about this group before, and I don't remember if anyone has discussed it. This is one of my favorite indoor "drum corps" style ensembles. Mostly made of brass musicians with some percussion and colorguard, BLAST! is a fantastic demonstration of how musicianship can stay at a high level (the flugel player at the beginning holds a note by circular breathing for FIFTY SECONDS!!!!) with theatrics, dance and movement incorporated.
I admit that the accuracy of the trumpets suffers a bit at the end, this is a LIVE video and is the last piece on a show that is an hour long. :) Enjoy this production of Blast! performing Malaguena.

On "sendo uma boa audiência"

Have you ever performed for a masterclass or a recital where you're anxious and the crowd seems THIS BIG?

Or how about a seminar performance where you're already nervous and then the audience stares at you like THIS?

I believe that us musicians often lose sight of how important it is to not only be a great performer, but also to be a good audience member. When our fellow musicians stand up to share their music with us, the very least we can do is to give them:

1. Our full attention.
2. Our support through generous applause.
3. Our respect (not opening candy wrappers or playing on our cell phones)
4. Good body posture --not slumping or leaning on the person next to you.
5. A smile.

The last is one of the most overlooked parts of being a good audience member, and it is something to consider next time you're watching a fellow musician perform. Looking out into a sea of faces that appear bored, angry, or simply unsupportive can be very stressful to a performer and can cause concentration issues.

So the next time you are in an audience of any kind, try out these few ideas. This doesn't mean you have to sit in the crowd with a crazy grin on your face the whole recital, it just means relaxing and enjoying the music with a pleasant expression. After all, you can't see your facial expression, but the performer can. And whether or not you mean it, you may be conveying negative messages through your body language.

Lets all try to be like THIS audience to help encourage our colleages to do their very best.

Venezuelan Brass Ensemble

After hearing this great ensemble the other day in ABEL I wanted to hear more of their music. I was pleased to hear this fantastic rendition of Leonard Bernstein's "Mambo" from West Side Story.

Venezuelan Brass Ensemble - "Mambo"

There is one spot where the ensemble starts rushing (when they begin incorporating theatrics and such) but I love the energy and the agility of these players. They play really well in tune, with good overall rhythm, great tone and most importantly....

....they look like they enjoy themselves while performing. Music is supposed to be fun, and I think we get all too serious while we play in America. HAVE FUN WITH MUSIC---that is the point! :)

is one more great tune the group does. This piece features much more South American flavor (I think we heard a sample of this tune in class). There is one shot right around 1:18 seconds where the camera pans over the ensemble and they are all MOVING together and enjoying the playing. Its kind of cool. :)

Sunday, April 15, 2012

State of Mind

Tonight the Genuine Brass Quintet (with Dave, Megan, Aaron, Caitlin and myself) played for Dave's master's degree recital. We performed Ewald's Quintet No.2, and we played it very well.

The reason I mention this, is because we had performed the exact same piece in its entirety on Friday for some high school students, and I think the quintet would agree when I say that it did not go well at all. From faulty music stands to individual mistakes (I personally had many) and an overall lack of group focus.

With no rehearsal since that very average performance, we came out this evening and played Ewald 2 with vigor, musicality and polish.

I've racking my brain to figure out how there can be such a huge difference in a group over such a short period of time.

Of course there are personal stressors, such as school or personal issues, that can contribute to a less than stellar performance. What are some other reasons that you can think of?

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Easter Reflections

This Easter I was able to put together a trombone quartet to play for Easter Sunday service. It was a good group; three graduate students and one recent grad (who is headed to grad school in the fall).

It always amazes me how quickly four good musicians can get in sync with each other with minimal rehearsal time. We met about 45 minutes before the performance to sight-read, and then we played the gig.

While overall I feel the quartet did a good job, there were still a few moments during the performance where we came out of sync and things didn't quite line up. The question I wanted to pose in this blog post is as follows:

What are some ways to take four great musicians to the next level of refinement on a chamber ensemble gig?

One of the primary functions of chamber groups is to allow for live music to take place in a setting that does not wish to use a recording, yet doesn't have a large budget (ex: weddings, church services, dances, and dinner parties/galas). And more often then not, these groups are a collection of musicians who have never met. How can we best equip ourselves to be instantly professional musicians, aside from simply spending more time practicing/playing.


p.s- I know this blog has completely strayed from Brazilian music. Feel free to throw out South American musical groups if you happen to stumble upon them.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Megan's Presentation

Megan played some great music for us today in class. One of my favorites was the brass trio she played, titled "Soli IV for Brass Trio" which was written in 1966. I loved how some of the movements were nothing more than a single motive, lasting only 5-10 seconds. I also loved the use of trombone as a soloistic instrument, as well as a chamber instrument. I also appreciated the idea to name each movement as a tempo marking. This creates the opportunity for ambiguous moods, to be determined by the music itself as opposed to the title of the movement.

I wanted to do a little more research on Carlos Chavez (the composer). I was surprised to learn that Chavez has composed seven symphonies and two ballets in addition to his works for solo and small chamber ensembles. His greatest influences did not specifically derive from the Latin tradition, but more from the Neo-Classicism composers like Stravinsky. This can be heard with the rhythmic choices within the work.

My question to my readers is as follows: Which movement was your favorite? Why did you like it?

(I know there were lots of movements; so you may need to listen one more time on youtube or something)

Mine was the very first movement (Quarter Note = 84) because of the short trombone solo that opens the piece.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Reflections on Bernstein

Listening to Bernstein's brass quintet today, I realize how much I actually love his music. Sure, there is the famous "West Side Story", but I think there is a lot to be said for his other compositions.

As Professor Manning said today, it may be that the true genius of Bernstein's writing is overshadowed by the popularity of West Side Story, which makes a good deal of sense to me. It is similar to an actor who gains their fame in one major leading role and is then forever thought of as that particular character (Elijah Wood, anyone?)

Listening to the short quintet today made me realize that it is important to explore many compositions by the same composer instead of simply going by what is 'popular' in our culture. By taking the time to dive in a little deeper we can discover some amazing musical gems that might otherwise be buried forever.

Thanks for reading---more posts to come soon!

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Meagan's Presentation

My favorite piece from Meagan's presentation was the Stravinsky piece for two trumpets (thanks for introducing me to this piece, Meagan!)

I know, I know. It was super short. BUT...I found it to be very thought provoking. I have generally enjoyed Stavinsky's music due to the 'primitive' nature of it, but this particular piece begs the question:

How long does something have to be to establish that it is music, not just sound?

And is any sound music?

This is a debate that has received much attention over the last century. Weigh in with your thoughts, ABEL classmates!

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Adam's Presentation

Today Adam introduced our class to two quintets that I have played previously; the Malcom Arnold Quintet and Ewald's Quintet No.1. It was good to hear some brief feedback from others in the class about tempos and nuances of the piece.

I would love to get some more feedback, since there wasn't much time for discussion in class. So what I want to know is:

1. Comparing the two quintets, which did you like better? Why?

2. Are there any specific moments that you remember from the listening? What were they?

I know I've enjoyed playing each quintet for different reasons; the Arnold is GREAT because it has an extended trombone solo that is rubato and quite difficult. As a trombonist in quintet, it is really nice to have moments when you can lead the group and play expressively. The Ewald (although we didn't listen to all of it) is such a great example of full quintet writing; there is something for everyone in the Ewald.

Let me know your thoughts; thanks for choosing these pieces, Adam!

Shelby's Presentation

New Orleans Style Funeral Procession

New Orleans style brass band funerals are one of a kind; and I was really glad that Shelby brought in a video for us to watch.

These events remind me of gatherings we went to in Brazil called "sambas"; although the premise is slightly different. Funerals are obviously to celebrate the life of the person who has just died, but sambas are generally just to celebrate our current lives.

Why does a New Orleans style funeral remind me of sambas?

Good question.

Brazilian Street Samba

The sambas are nearly always random groups of musicians who gather together and improvise. The only constant most of the time is the rhythms of the percussion. Percussionists will often play a clave rhythm of 2+3 or 3+2 and the brass/winds will improvise over it. New Orleans style funerals are founded on a tuba bassline and the other instruments improvise over it.

Movement plays a huge role in both events. In American funerals (and sadly, even some American dances!) participants often spend a good deal of time sitting still and listening to music instead of participating. Both in Brazilian sambas and New Orleans style funerals the participants are up and moving their bodies while the music plays.

Thanks for sharing this, Shelby! :)

Sunday, March 25, 2012

A Brief Hiatus from Brasil

Last week, we read an article about the history of the brass quintets by Victor Ewald and Professor Manning asked us to answer some questions about the article. Here are my thoughts.

Q1. What did you know about Ewald and his brass quintet before reading this article?

A1: I knew very little about Ewald himself, but I had played most of his brass quintets (Qtets 1,3 and am currently working on 2 with my quintet). I knew that he was one of the premiere composers for quintet and that his work was considered standard and a staple of the quintet repertoire.

Q2. What did this article teach you about proper research?
A2. Professors always emphasize how important it is to check the accuracy of your research before writing it or passing the incorrect/flawed information along, but reading this article really brought this to light. The rumor that Ewald was responsible for creating the tone ideal boosted his original fame undeservedly (although his music is very good and indeed deserving of high praise).

Q3. What questions did this article raise?
A3. There is some question about which quintet was actually written first, as they ABQ performed the "Fourth" quintet last, but there is some historical evidence that suggests it is indeed the FIRST quintet that Ewald composed. Most people just read the score title and assume that because it is labeled 'fourth' that it is the last one, but this is not correct. I thought this was interesting, and I believe that most people assume the quintets are chronologically arranged numerically.

Q4. What are your thoughts on rotary vs. piston valve preferences mentioned in the article?
A4. I don't have much preference about rotary vs piston, mostly because I never use either of these. It is common for different countries to utilize different instruments in order to maintain the sound that that particular culture values, and if the rotary valve is the favorite of the player, then they should use it (and viceversa)

Q5. Do you agree with Forsyth who wrote, "There is in general no true legato on the trombone"
A5. As a trombonist, I found this question to be one that I feel strongly about. I believe that true legato should be defined by each instrument. For example, 'true legato' on piano still involves articulation, as the pianist must press a key and have the mallet strike the wire. No matter how slowly they press down, there will be an articulation. Or percussionists, for example. Timpani players may play a passage in a 'legato' or smooth articulation, but there will always be articulation present. The same is true of the trombone; it involves many articulations, but there are also natural slurs, in which a trombonist can smoothly move from one note to another without tonguing and without getting a glissando between the notes. The trickiest part is making the legato tonguing sound like natural slurs.

Q6. What are your thoughts about Smith's ideas on instrumentation mentioned on pg.13?
A6. Smith doesn't seem to present any major ideas, but he does discuss that the trombone serves multiple roles in the orchestra and he emphasizes that the trombonist must be a chameleon and adapt to whatever style of music they are performing. I also tend to agree that a rotor trombone doesn't generally serve much purpose in orchestral/chamber music.

Q7. In regards to the modern revival of Ewald's brass quintets, what roles did the following people play? Froides Werke, the American Brass Quintet, the Empire Brass Quintet?

A7. The American Brass Quintet was the first ensemble to perform these quintets as important works in the brass quintet world. Because of the high caliber of the musicians in the group, and the works themselves, the quintets were very well received and began their journey towards becoming part of the quintet classics. The Empire Brass Quintet played a huge role in straightening out historical facts by obtaining original copies of quintets No.2 & 3. Historical accuracy is of the utmost importance, and up until the point of the Empire Brass bringing the score back to America, Ewald had fallen out of the spotlight for his works.

These are just my thoughts/summaries of what I read in the article.

Thanks for reading@

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

BrassUka Final

I had to do one more post about this group when I discovered this particular Youtube posting. This format is a GREAT way to publicize your group internationally and for FREE.

The video features not only photos of the ensemble, but also snippets/excerpts of their performances in a huge variety of settings. It shows the quintet in the concert hall, rehearsing, performing at school functions and even dressed in costumes performing a children's show.

Que trechos que você mais gosta e por quê?

My personal favorites were Nessun Dorma (BEAUTIFUL playing and I love how the group always moves instead of standing perfectly still) and Song for Japan (10:18). I liked them because even though the group moves a lot, they play musically and with GREAT sound, even on 'mistake' (aka chipped) notes. :)

Monday, March 19, 2012

BrassUka II

Dear Friends,

I am sorry I have been awful about updating this blog. I'm finding that while I love the topic of South American Music, I am running into a bit of a language barrier when it comes to researching, as I don't speak very much Portuguese.

I think I have some great ideas that I've been exploring so I'll try to be better about updating. :)

Here is another great link of the BrassUka group performing live in Brasil just last year. Pay special attention to the groove being played in the drumset, and see if you can figure out which instrument plays which part of the groove. (hint; it isn't often the trombone. :)

Água de Beber (which translates to 'Drinking Water' in English)

Obrigada por ler! :)

Tuesday, March 6, 2012


Thanks to Professor Manning I was able to explore the website of a well established brass quintet based out of Sao Paulo, Brasil. I discovered that this group is made up of VERY young players; most are still attending school at the college level and one is only 26 years old! (Feel free to browse their youtube channel and pick a few of their tunes to listen to) I read the information on the website and the first question that came up in my mind was:

"What is the mission statement/goals of the chamber groups I play in?"

The Quintet BrassUka makes it very clear through their website that their aim is to further the performance of specifically Brazilian music that was written specifically for brass instruments. However, they don't stop there. The group also prides themselves in reaching out to the community by performing at schools for children and teenagers and raising awareness of brass repertoire to the community through their "Metal World" concert.

Chamber groups often form specifically for the idea of playing with a small group of musicians and also playing for profit. I think more American quintets should consider doing free performances (or very inexpensive) to promote brass chamber music in the United States and to give back to the community.

Food for thought---what is the goal/mission of your chamber groups?

More to come on the specific sound of this group in my next post---stay tuned!!!

Thursday, February 23, 2012


To go along with the idea of Frevo, here is a specific dance that originated from the Frevo brass music from Carnival. Capoeira mixes street 'fighting' and dance. The dance was added to the karate-like moves to hide weapons such as knives from being seen by the police.

Eventually capoeira became an acceptable form of dance, and this is one of the street performances we witnessed in the marketplace near our home-stay area in Campinas, Brasil.

(Video ends after 1 minute)

As you've probably noticed, there is no brass in this example, only percussion. Keep in mind that this is a form of dance entirely stemming from a brass ensemble tradition. It is pretty amazing to see how the arts are so closely connected!

Below is an example of how frevo music can be used with capoeira to create a finished product of dance & music. This was shot in New York.


Frevo originated in Brazil and is a type of music created specifically for bands to play during Carnival. The bands were primarily brass with some percussion, and the crowds would cheer for their favorite bands as they came down the street.

Here is a clip of the University of Iowa's JCL (Johnson County Landmark) jazz ensemble playing a frevo with a Brazilian group during one of our shows in Atibaia, Brasil.

(starts at 0:30)

You can hear the audience interacting with the groups the minute we began to play as well. Kind of a cool tradition!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

What's the Rush? Desacelerar.

The following is a rather unusual sounding piece by the Cia Trombominas Trombone Quartet.

The mixed meter sections, long periods of crisp double tonguing in the lower voices and a super laid back feel make this sound much more like something I would have heard in a concert in South America. Something I haven't mentioned yet is that most Brazilian music comes specifically from dances; which is why most groups will also be accompanied by a percussionist. Much like samba, there is a lot of forward motion to the music in this quartet piece, but it almost never feels rushed or anxious. This was a general Brazilian cultural observation I made while there; people were rarely in a 'rush' to make it somewhere.

I have one simple piece of advice to offer American brass groups (and Americans in general). That advice is:


Slow down.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Just a Closer Walk---Brasil-style

I wanted to explore classic, American street music (aka "New Orleans-style") performed by Brazilian groups. Listening to this group, a quintet titled "SomBrass Quintet", was interesting because I felt they did a fantastic job capturing the New Orleans style brass band music from the United States.

Have a listen. (Its 2 1/2 minutes long; you can do it!!! :D)

This group is a notable example of a fine quintet that is capable of performing a style from another culture with impeccable accuracy. In my next post I plan to explore the idea of 'musical accents' more. In this case, I don't mean an articulation marking in the music, but I mean the overall sound of a group from one culture performing music from another culture; just like an 'accent' when someone is speaking a second language.

Enjoy this great rendition of 'Just a Closer Walk' and let me know if you heard any musical inflections that seem to hint at a 'South American' accent. :)

a paz, pedagogia amigos!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Uber Brass Quinteto (2)

As I forgot to mention in my last post, I think it is very interesting to not only listen to the music itself, but to observe the way the ensemble sets up. Brazilian ensembles tend to perform TOWARDS their audience; in arch-like formations rather than facing each other for ensemble listening and consistency. It is very different from a traditional "American" brass quintet set-up (pictured below).

Also, it would seem that the audience is very receptive (which mirrors the experience I had while in Brazil); they are more willing to sit back and enjoy brass chamber music as a concert, instead of just background music (weddings/church etc)

Something to think about.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Baião: Uber Brass Quinteto

As promised, here is some more info on the baião rhythm being used in brass chamber music of Brazil. Below is a link for a brass quintet based out of Brazil--they aren't the tightest, most polished group, but I enjoyed hearing how the rhythm of the baião starts up in the pandeiro (around 1:00).

Upon speaking with some of my Brazilian friends, I discovered that percussionists are included in a high percentage of brass ensembles/chamber groups in South America; so it is common to see a single percussionist or a whole rhythm section with brass groups.

The brass imitate the baião rhythms (ex: trombonist at 1:10; tuba and trumpets at 1:20). The piece is a take on the original piece called "Brazil". Have a listen to how RHYTHMIC everything is--its pretty interesting in contrast to what we view as popular literature in American brass quintet music.

Around 3:11 there are some cool "James Bond-esque" quotes. :)

Enjoy--Uber Brass Quinteto of Brasil

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Ritmo e groove

Last May, I had the amazing opportunity to travel to Brazil to study their music and experience their jazz culture.

It is fascinating how rhythm is utilized in every form of music I encountered. I've begun to wonder how rhythm and groove plays a role their brass chamber music writing--especially the Baião rhythmic formula. I can see how some of the defining characteristics of percussion in Brazil might translate to brass writing....

Check out the Baião rhythm being demonstrated by this percussionist on the pandeiro.
(Sorry, the link button isn't working---you'll have to copy/paste it into your browser)

Annnnnd...more to come on rhythm/groove and the as it applies to brass pieces in my next post. Obrigada pela leitura!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Bem vindos ao meu blog!

Welcome brass playing friends!

I am looking forward to researching and studying brass music of Brazil (and other parts of South America) over the next few weeks. I will be posting my thoughts about style, sound, repertoire and performance personality here on a bi-weekly basis--so check back soon.