Monday, April 24, 2017

The beginning of the End

Well, here we are. twenty four brass ensemble blog posts later. My how the time has passed. Thank you to professor Manning for being a great professor. This has been a fun exploration of brass ensembles and every thing related. The beers, the brass... at times I wonder if there is more to life, but I seriously doubt anything can make me feel that special feeling the way a room temperature stout at Lions bridge while the brass quintet kicks into their first set of the evening. I truly feel fortunate to have taken the time to examine the ins and the outs of the brass ensemble world. With that I am excited to say that one of my last performances of the year with the University of Iowa will be largely brass ensemble focused. This Wednesday Louis Hanzlik of the ABQ is coming to the University of Iowa for what will be a brassapuluza, a brasstacular, and mind blowing feat of brassgasms..... sorry about that.

The evening will feature the Iowa Brass Quintet, with former member David Greenhoe, and my current trombone teacher Dr. David Gier. Cake trio will take the stage for the last time in the forseable future playing the first movement of the Poulenc brass trio, and the evening will conclude with a triple quintet performing two pieces. It is sure to be a crowd pleaser, so please stop by if you are free.

On a a final note, I have been thinking a lot about brass ensembles in all their shapes and sizes. The richness they add to the musical tapestry. The friendships formed over playing chamber music and drinking beer. I almost can't imagine other people lives, that do not involve healthy doses of both.

I was also thinking, I have noticed a strong tie between brass players and love of coffee as well. On my walk to school this morning I had a strange thought. Why do brass players love coffee and beer?  Do we just love mood altering chemicals, do we enjoy the finer things life has to offer, does love of coffee and beer permeate all fields this deeply. I've always thought musicians share the same mentalities as chefs, and comics. We work when others don't, our careers are less defined and more open to our personalities, and we seem to live life harder than everyone else.... well whatever. See you all later, thanks for the good times, hopefully we run into each other over a beer, or in a brass ensemble.

trombone quartet for the masses

Whoa, second to last blog post coming at ya

I guess trombone quartets have been on my mind lately because I got another group of beer loving, trombone playing fools that I am excited to write about in my second to last blog post. This is a group of guys that formed a group at North Texas University and they go by the name Maniacal four trombone quartet. I heard about these guys a few years ago because they won the quartet competition that the ITA hosts every year and have launched that into a career that is the envy of trombone quartets. They have since toured internationally and released two CD's. I love this group vibe and their energy is infectious. They have gone a decidedly different route than most trombone quartets and have a largely rock driven show. Check out their viral video on Carry on Wayward sons.

I love the mass appeal these guys are getting. Carry On dudes, carry on. 

Summer is coming

Any Game of thrones fans out there?

Summer is just around the bend here and you know what that means right??? Brass bands around the country are dusting off their khaki pants, and oiling up those alto horn valves because it is about to be BRASS BAND TIME.

The American brass band seems to be one of the last refuges for mostly amateur musicians to get together and make music in an ensemble setting. It's not fourth of July unless you are at your local park grilling meats, drinking a miller lite, and listen to your community brass band stumble through an array of military tunes.

I love the throw back feel of listening to brass band. It's almost like what is the opposite of abusing social media and electronic equipment.... listening to a brass band outside on a hot summer afternoon playing music that you only hear in the summer.

I guess that I only hear in the summer, I suppose if you play in a military band you probably hear this music year round... but anywho.

I guess this post is dedicated to all those weekend warriors, that maintain their chops for ten short weeks of summer concertizing. They look forward to the nights when they have to tell their wives (and husbands) "I have a rehearsal/concert/gig tonight, I'll be home around 11". They get to live the dream for the summer, and than come labor day they put their horns back in their cases and rejoin the civilians with a blissful look in their eye.

Sorry... I did a thing there. I really do like amateur musicians. Without them there would be no one in our audience at concerts, and their energy is infectious. I think sometimes it is easy to fill trapped in this profession. I have often thought the phrase, "this is all I know, this is all I'm good at, what else would I do with myself." For these amateur players, they get to come out for a short time each year, and enjoy the music making process knowing that this is a just a small part of their lives for them to enjoy. I envy that distance they are able to maintain between their level of playing and self worth. I know for me and my colleagues, when we go and have a bad night, we take it very personally and it is difficult to not associate your worth as a person, with your degree of execution that night.

Carry on Brass Bands of America, carry on.

I enjoy my brass bands outside, in the shade with a nice cold
Image result for miller lite

Miller Lite! The key is to stay hydrated during those long summer days. Till next time friends.

Meat is in the air

Do you guys smell that? There is something cooking at the Chicago Symphony and it has low brass players, and brass enthusiasts salivating from the chops.

The Chicago Symphony announced earlier this year that they have commissioned Jennifer Higdon to write a concerto for the low brass section to be performed next season. I know Ms. Higdon's work Blue Cathedral having performed that many times ( I am an excellent crystal class vibrator btw) but did not know that she has actually written a trombone concerto that was premiered by Peter Sullivan of the Pittsburgh Symphony.

I don't know about you, but this sounds like a great concert to attend. These guys have been a section together since 1989 and have a very special sound. I heard them play trombone quartets together at a brass bash type concert they do every year. I think it was Dale Clevanger's last season in the group, and they featured him playing Green Sleeves with the trombone quartet. Even with Mr. Clevanger's diminished abilities, that was a memorable performance. The thing I still find unique to the CSO low brass section is their ability to play softly. When it comes to the soft chorals in Mahler, Brahms, Schumann, and Bruckner, they still play circles around their (often much younger) peers. I can't wait for this concerto and am excited to hear my teacher and friend Jay Friedman in what will most likely be his last solo appearance with the Chicago Symphony.

Just for fun (lets imagine the most mind blowing trombone quartet)

Ahoy brass and beer lover alike,

  Have you ever played that game of "who would be the best brass section" where you combine your favorite Principal, second, bass trombone and tuba player? ( obvi, this might be different for trumpet and horn). Well it seems someone played this game with trombone quartets and in 2009 the World Trombone Quartet formed to play at a trombone conference in Europe. Members of this group are arguably the most distinguished trombonists in the field today.

The group includes Jorgen Van Rijen, Joeseph Alessi, Stefan Shultz, and Michel Becquet. Each man in his own right holds (or has held) a chair in a world class orchestra, but also teaches at world class institutions and are renowned for the playing abilities.

The title of this post is taken from their new CD "Just for Fun" which I recommend everyone in this room immediately go and check out.

You know how sometimes in sports they have those all star games where the best players that season are picked to compete on these super teams, but sometimes instead of creating an all star team, you end up with a group of talented players, that let their egos get in the way of being a team? Well, these guys are the total opposite. They clearly have nothing but love and respect for each other and hearing them make music as an ensemble really does give us a product that is greater than the parts.

To gig or not to Gig

Hey everyone,

As some of you might remember last Sunday was the celebration of "national everyone who can make a noise on a trumpet gets a gig day" otherwise known as zombie Jesus day.... I mean Easter.

What is it about this one day that calls for every brass player to show up to church early in the morning to play brass ensemble music for the masses, but come the following Monday people are happy to take a hiatus till at least Christmas if not Easter the following year. Wouldn't it be a crazy, if every day was like Easter morning? You wake up, play some easy tunes, and you are home before 2pm with more money than you might make the following week combined. Sometimes it does feel like we are getting away with something.

On a side note, I've noticed a lot of musicians make these pride statements that they don't take work on the Holidays. It's comments like that that make me want to get off social media. Like, we get it. You are in a place in your life where $500 isn't going to make or break you financially and you have chosen to be home with your loved ones for the holiday. It just seems like kind of a jab at the rest of us who look forward to the lucrative work Easter/ Christmas and other holidays. Me? I've never felt to connected to attending church as an audience member, so even as a kid I looked forward to playing in church as opposed to sitting in the pews. When I was in high school I played in my church's brass quintet (for probably no pay!) for Easter. It was made up of my teacher (who played trombone in the group as well... maybe we were a sextet or something).... Anyway, it was also more fun sitting around in the green room during the service practicing scales and than going out at the end to play a couple tunes. What do you guys think? Is Easter your fincially honeypot that keeps on giving? Or do you look forward to the day you no longer have to wake up at 6:30 on a Sunday to make it to that 8:00am rehearsal before the 9am mass?

Cake Trio brass premier concert

This post is on a concert that happened yesterday on a group that I started this semester with Anna Marshal and Kenken Gorder named Cake trio. First the main deets.

 We played an hour long concert with no intermission yesterday at High Ground Cafe featuring works by Poulenc, Sampson, Francois and Ewazen. This concert was also a benefit for the ACLU and we raised $120! More on that later.

First a couple things about yesterday that I thought were really cool. We came together as a trio and ventured into something above and beyond the expectations for our trio, that was largely put together for the sole purpose of taking a chamber credit. It is so different performing in the recital hall, or concert hall than it is performing in a cafe. I was a little apprehensive (as were the people working there) about how live the sound was in the cafe for brass ensemble music. However, I think because we were a trio and not a quintet we were able to make it work. I am really proud that we were able to go into the cafe sight unseen, squeeze into a tiny corner, and perform our program in a respectable (all be it quieter version) manner. Even with all the distractions of a busy environment, in a place where we are not sure exactly how things are going to go over we pulled it off.

Some thoughts on what made this concert work. We ( and by we I mean mostly Kenken) got someone to read poetry between the movements of the Sampson pieces. I am surprised how little collaboration I see with chamber music and poetry. I have no idea what the poems were about, but the music made the poetry seem relevant, and the poems did the same for the music. Each added a weight to the other that before had not been there. I also think it is cool to clear the air after a movement with spoken word, and not just constantly bombard the audience with sound. This also gave our program a little more credibility. We weren't just there to run down our program, but were really trying to give a nice hour of artistic expression. We also had an artist drawing/painting to our pieces.

Final thoughts. 

I was really glad that we followed professor Schendel's recommendation and mixed in flugel horn and euphonium on half the pieces. These instruments were a little easier to blend at the softer dynamic, and the more rounder sound worked well in the cramped space.

I also can't believe we actually raised money. It feels good knowing that we did something positive for the world, even in our own tiny way. It's easy to feel defeated all the time, not knowing how to help or make change. Being able to give to a great organization that is helping people in need meant a lot to me, and I hope to do it again.

Class listening 3/20/2017

Today in ABEL we listened to pieces for large brass ensemble

Malcolm Arnold- Symphony for Brass

1st movement starts mysteriosly
non traditional chord progressions

Doesn't sound like his quintet at all in the opening

At F the trumpet lick sounds like the end of his quintet

reminds me of Dahl Sextet for Brass

not a lot happening in the trombone lines

killer tuba, horn and trumpet solos

movement 2

at F he passes high trumpet duet motive to the tuba part. Interesting contrast in textures

more extended tuba solos before I

than back to high trumpet duet

movement 3

This sounds just like Dahl movement one with bombastic loud sustained chords st A
give way to a beautiful horn solo at B. Very lyrical and contrasts the opening statement.

Movement 4

Features a much softer contrast to movement three. Back to featuring solo lines snaking chromaticaly. At L the style goes back into more tutti articulated passages. At K it begins to sound like the second movement from his brass quintet.

The ending reminds me of the way he ends his brass quintet with dueling trumpets.

This recording demonstates that the PJBE was willing to go out on a limb and record pieces that were more serious in nature. This symphony is pretty dense in both sound, and musical ideas. The playing of the PBJE is very good, but it sounds a little dated to my ear. To me at times, they are pushing the line on aggressive playing. I love listening to it, but it also strikes me as something that we would not necessarily go for.

Final thoughts,
To me as a listener this piece seems a little long winded, and hard to hard to follow. It jumps from one contrasting section to constrasting section but does not easily invite the listener to make musical connections with examining the score.

Tomasi Fanfare Liturigiques

Biblical titles to the movements

pieces dipict biblical stories

sacred brass choir version of an oratorio

movement one

great moments where just the horn section plays

sounds like four part bach chorals

Movement II


fantastic extended trombone solo

starts out much like the Rimsky Korsakov trombone solo in Russian Easter Overture which also uses the trombone to depict religious conotation. This is like the trumpet sounding. The word of God.

Movement III


the four hoursemen

the percussion at the beginning depict the galloping of horses

Movement IV

we get the famouns des ira chant in the tuba and trombone. Just like Berlioz used in his Symphonie Fantastique

Much more coherent that the Arnold. Maybe because this piece is more programatically driven. It is more satisfying to me as a listener because I am not constantly in whiplash. Things seem to be more in line with my expectations.

Group presentation 3/29/2016

I love days like these where we all show up with are favorite brass ensemble recordings. It's like playing pokemon (or so I would imagine) where we all show up with what we think are strong recordings and make them battle to see whose recording reigns superior. Totally kidding... kind of.

Kenken's contribution 

Sonata for horn tuba and piano-- Kulesha

The instrumentation of this ensemble is really fun. Both the horn and tuba provide nice round conical sounds that blend well, but also cover a wide tessatura. The piano adds a lot the rhythmic grooves, for the tuba and horn to play over. The playing by Eastern Standard is excellent. The recording has a warm sound, and the harmonies and melodic lines are well executed.

Anna's piece

 Daft Punk Brass remix

 Vigilanre Brass Doin' it wrong

This recording is straight baller. I have never heard Vigilante brass before but they are also pretty tight.

Mark's Piece

Electronic tuba. Yes please. I think the piece we listened to was the chicken and the egg. It was a funky piece for brass ensemble that utilizes Electronic tuba to play the "bass" line. Like Seinfield style bass lines. This piece was a lot of fun to listen too, with really excellent solos by a trumpet with plunger and trombone.

I did Jesus is coming


Brass septet Imperial -- Sibelius

Overture in F minor

This is a nice traditional piece


Piece for horn for horn ensemble

piece for eight horns. Group is from Thailand and played the piece from memory.

Farewell to the red Castle-- Kerry Turner

Alvin Etler Brass Quintet

Composer: Alvin Etler (1913-1973) studied oboe, and composition with Hindemith at Yale

Composition date: 1963
Title: Piece for Brass Quintet

Four Movement pieces

notes of interest: rhythmic counterpoint even in the "intellectual" style of writing popular in the 1960's/

Rolph Smedvig invented a story about Etler's brother dying in the korean war as a Morse code operator and that is why he hid Morse code in this piece. After Professor Manning contacted Etler's grandson he found out that the Morse code was in fact there as a sign that Etler was a ghost composer for other commercial projects he may not have wanted his name on.

1.quarter= 60

Running 16th notes in all parts give this movement a nice motor rhythm and grooving effect

2. quarter=132

 5/8 3+2 throughout

This is the movement with the "SOS" code written in. It actually sounds very idiomatic for a brass quintet to pass around this motif. It lends well to brass articulations, groove, and forward movement. The harmonies in the piece would definitely challenge anyone not familiar with this kind of writing, and may be difficult to pull of for audiences looking for a more entertaining show rather than something they have to think about it and reflect on.

3. quarter=56

Starts with a lyrical trumpet solo that could start any slow movement of a brass quintet. When the rest of the group enters we once again are in the realm of non functioning harmonies. I like the somber effect of this movement.

I wonder about composers during this time and the why the wrote music like this and their goal for that music. It's not that this music is torture to listen too or anything, but I do feel that if you are not up front with the audience about the experience they are about to receive that is can come off as confusing and not coherent.

4. quarter=138

this movement features markings such as "indistinct tonging", half valve passages and homorythmic passages. According to our fearless leader the last three bars of this movement (played in a homorythmic passage by the group) can also spell out S.H.I.T in Morse code as well. Tehee.

Me, personally.... I think this piece is pretty cool. But, and a strong one here. I am a brass player, getting my third degree in music, I played for two years in a professional brass quintet, and I have been to thousands of classical music concerts, studied musical forms, and in have a big interest in brass music. My question is, for the listener who only shares a few of these things in common with me, will they like this?

Monday, April 10, 2017

class listening party 4/5

These class listening parties have turned into great listening experiences for me. It is always fun to discover pieces you had no idea existed. Here is last Wednesday's account our ABEL class produced.

Anna's offering

Fugue in D minor (Original in G) Arr. Mexi Budapest Festival Horn Quartet

Miklos Nagy
Laszio Rakos
Laszio Gal
Tibor Maruzsa

The horn quartet is a really nice vehicle for these Bach Fugue pieces because of the different colors and the size of tessatura available to the instrument. I have heard this piece played by trombone quartet (the Puerto Rican trombone quartet does this piece from memory.) This groups arrangement really exploited the potential of the horn in terms of registers and dynamics. Also the trills were great.

Kenken's choices 

Victory Fanfare by Benhamin Blasko

Tromba Mundi- group

This was an interesting piece for trumpet ensemble playing in front of a wind ensemble. This composer sounds like he has borrowed liberally from John Williams, and at times things sounded pretty Star Warsish (Warsy... Warsyish?). There were also some minimalist element sections such as an ostinado played by a mallet instrument and later going to the clarinets. This music was very exciting to listen to, and well orchestrated. It also at times had a western vibe. I liked the variety of styles and the overall tonal atmosphere of the piece.

Mark's offereings

Divertimento for Brass and Percussion

Karel Husa 4-3-3-1 (2)

I. Overture
II. Scerzo
III Song
IV Slovak Dance

UNT Brass choir

E.M Corporan- conductor

Nice overture

Second movement start with muted brass. This piece sounds like a typical Husa composition. I think the tempo could have been a little faster for a scherzo.

III. I really liked this movement titled song. It reminded me of the second movement of the Plog Octet in the static harmonies in the beginning, and than the introduction of the lyrical trumpet solo. Beautiful piece of music here.

Evan Fowler's offering

Clarino Quartet

Ellen Taffe Zwillich

Thiery Gervias

I. Maestoso

This piece had a really unique sound. Utilizing piccolo and E flat trumpet and having two C trumpets on the bottom. This is a contemporary work and not exactly easy listening. The trumpet is great for virtuosic passages as well as playing high notes. This ensemble executed this piece very admirably.

Komsun's Piece
Jazz Suite for Four horns
Harpischord, guitar Bass, and Drum

1. Horns o plenty

This piece has is an interesting pairing of horns, jazz, and harpsichord. Not the most obvious choices, but I thought it worked well. I don't know if I would want to to hear a whole concert of this music but it was definitely interesting experience.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Post Recital Decompression

Warning, this post has little if nothing to do with brass ensembles or beer. Apologies. We will get back to those later.

          This post is about a recital that I gave three days ago at the University of Iowa as part of my degree program. The last time I had presented a solo recital was as a student at Roosevelt University in 2012. I remember after I had performed at Roosevelt that I should write down some things to remember for "next time" to help make the process easier. That thought came and went and those thoughts were never written down. This morning I was watching recital video,  and I thought what the hell, this could be a good post. (Some of these are more specific for trombone players and people who tend to sweat when nervous.)

Here are 10 thoughts you might consider as you plan a recital

1. The date and time of your recital should be picked with great consideration to your schedule, and how busy you will be the week(s) leading into it. The less distractions leading into your recital the better.

2. Think about your body movements on stage and how it is perceived by the audience. I am so use to sitting in the back row and counting rests on my fingers, that I actually did this at my recital... MULTIPLE TIMES!!! I also moved my horn around like I was shadow conducting my accompanist.

3. Find out if there will be stage hands at the venue, or if you need to ask your friends a favor. The University of Iowa does not provide stage help.

4. Liberal use of vibrato does not a musical phrase make.

5. Try to get the best accompanist you can, this is not the time or place to be cheap.

6. When switching instruments,  remember to play a few notes on the new instrument backstage before walking out.

7. Consider putting the alto trombone piece right before intermission so that you have the most amount of time to reacquaint yourself with the tenor/euph. Going from alto to tenor takes more time than you think.

8.Bring a towel onstage or wear a sweat band.

9. Wear contacts or tighter fitting glasses.

10. Looking at this list, they can almost all be boiled down into the phrase: plan out every last detail with more thought and effort, you will appreciate it in the moment.

My beer of choice after my recital was ............

Image result for pbr

What can I say.... I love this stuff. For all those judging me now,

I offer the contents of my recent trip to Davenport, where an amazing place called Endless Brews is showing the world of beer service how it is done.