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!!!