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!