Thursday, April 20, 2017

Brass Ensemble Music from Other Cultures

Jaipur Kawa Brass Band
On Wednesday I gave a listening presentation titled "Brass Ensemble Music from Other Cultures". Below is a table with the playlist, providing information on the selection, ensemble, recording and origin, as well as links to each ensemble. As I mentioned, this was not a comprehensive survey, as it did not include anything from the continents of Africa, Australia and Asia. I invite you to research other brass ensemble traditions outside of European/American genres and share with the class or in the comments below:

The details of each work are listed in this order:

Rusasca de la Buzdug
Fanfare Ciocarlia
Radio Pascani  
Romania (Balkan Brass Band)

Mundo Cocek
Boban I Marko Markovic Orkestar
Golden Horns - Best of Boban i Marko Markovic Orkestar
Serbia (Balkan Brass Band)

Soniya Dil Da Mamla
Jaipur Kawa Brass Band
Dance of the Cobra  

Tu Cheez Badi Hai Mast Mas
Bollywood Brass Band
Movie Masala
England (Indian)

El Carretero   
Pepe Gutiérrez & Mariachi De Pepe Villa
Vintage Mexico No. 158
Mexico (Mariachi)

Entierrenme Con La Banda   
Banda el Recodo
Del Pueblo
Mexico (Banda)

A Taste of Honey   
Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass
Whipped Cream & Other Delight
USA (Pop)

Beulah College Band
Ifi Palasa - Tongan Brass
Tonga (Traditional)

In your Garden Twenty Fecund Fruit Trees
Frank London's Klezmer Brass Allstars
Frank London's Klezmer Brass Allstars
USA (Klezmer)

Always Remember
The Tigers
Dancing with Daddy G
USA (Trombone Shout Band/Gospel)

Doghouse Polka
Kris and the Riverbend Dutchmen
Partners, Brothers, And Friends
USA (Polka)

I Am an Ape  
David Byrne & St. Vincent  
Love This Giant
USA (Alternative)

Monday, April 17, 2017

Alvin Etler and Pinky Lee

Pinky Lee
Today we studied Alvin Etler's Brass Quintet, which is considered one of the greatest works for brass quintet of the 20th Century. Some of the notable features of this work include:

1. The first three movements all end with a single voice (I. with a ppp trill in the 2nd trumpet, II. Horn statement (of the first three "dots" of S.O.S), III. 1st Trumpet on a ppp decrescendo. The fourth movement ends in one of the rare total homophonic statements of the S.O.S. theme - drawing even more attention to the conclusion.

2. Frequently, the music does not reflect the written meter and alludes to an alternate meter, much like the distorted reality in the artworks of of Dali and Escher. Like chromaticism, this may have been designed to disorient the listener.

3. Etler uses extended techniques (flutter tongue, half-valve, mutes) quite effectively.

4. Etler's rhythmic language is complex, and seems to be one of the central forces of the piece.

5. Like many modern composers, Etler utilized dissonant harmony, angular melodic material, and push the boundaries of range of the instruments, but to an effective end.

6. As I mentioned, there was a (very believable) rumor that the reason this piece sounds so angry and utilizes Morse Code is that Etler's son died in the Korean War. It's a fantastic story, but totally untrue, as this transcript of an email interchange between myself and Etler's grandson, Jim, confirms:

I am the grandson of Alvin Etler and I came across your blog mentioning him. I have a professional picture of him if you would like that i can e-mail to you. I am actually surprised there are no pictures of him on the web anywhere at all. Drop me a line if interested.
One thing I wanted to clear up - Alvin's Brass Quintet, a work I make all my students study, is for many reasons remarkable. Sometimes in the void of information, people invent details. Many have heard that part of that quintet, which seems riddled with quotations from morse code, alludes to Etlers son, "who died in the Korean war". I have never seen or heard any evidence to that fact, but it makes for a romantic story. Is there any truth to it? If not, do you know of any influences of morse code in his life/writing? Thank you for your insight.--
- John
lol funny, but I know that information started on a CD cover. Imagine
my uncle's surprise that he found out he was dead in the Korean war when he was only about 10 years old. I don't know how that started, but my uncle is alive and well on Cape Cod. It has become a big family joke. That piece you are talking about with the morse code, it is "S.O.S." Another unknown fact on my grandfather is that he used to ghost-write for commercials and the like. He told my uncle that he wrote the theme song to the 1950's childrens show "The Pinky Lee Show". I wondered why he would have done that until i looked it up on you-tube and saw that the show was sponsored by Tootsie Roll. That theme song showes his humor. From what my mother says he had a great sense of humor. He was also able to tap out 3 different rhythms at once, one on his left foot, another on his right and then a third on his hands. Its hard to do, I know I have tried and its pretty much impossible.

Take care, Jim Etler
Check out the clip below of an episode of the Pinky Lee show to hear Etler's silly song:

Monday, April 10, 2017

Gagarara, Pitch Black and Berio Call

Today in class, we listened to an eclectic mix of recordings including works by Brian Martinez, Luciano Berio and Jacob TV. First up was a YouTube video of the U.S. premiere of Gagarara by Spanish composer and winner of the Isla Verde Brass Festival composition competition, Brian Martinez. Below you can view both the Tritantic Brass Ensemble video as well as the world premiere in Argentina:


We spent the rest of the class time listening to a recent recording called "Pitch Black" by Brass United (Channel Classics CCS 38717). From it we heard Call (St. Louis Fanfare)
by Luciano Berio and the title track, Pitch Black by Jacob TV. Pitch Black uses an interview by Chet Baker as source material, which is then looped and manipulated to provide a rhythmic and contextual backdrop for the brass quintet, which was transcribed from the original saxophone quartet. 

Also on this recording is Pulcinella 2.0, which consists of ten arrangements for brass quintet and harpsichord of the original source music that Stravinsky used for his landmark work. Some of the pieces include works by Pergolesi, Gallo, Monza.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Carter and Tymoczko

Elliot Carter (1908-2012)
Today in class we heard two major works for brass quintet: Elliot Carter's Brass Quintet (1974), as recroded by the American Brass Quintet and Rube Goldberg Variations for Brass Quintet and Prepared Piano by Dmitri Tymoczko, as recorded by the Atlantic Brass Quintet. 

Both works are extremely unique, so I have asked you to blog about your thoughts on each piece by answering the following questions about each piece:
  1.  What is the overall affect of the piece? How does it make you feel? How does the composer achieve that?
  2. List three remarkable or noteable aspects of the piece. Include measure numbers or rehearsal numbers or letters and explain your answer.
  3. Comment on the harmonic, melodic and rhythmic language used. What are some of the challenges presented in the performances of this work created by these languages?
  4. Finally, compare and contrast both works. What are their similarities? What are their differences?
I look forward to reading your responses in your blogs and be sure to reach each others' blog post replies.

To listen to the Tymoczko again, click on the links below:

Monday, March 20, 2017

Arnold Symphony for Brass and Tomasi Fanfares Liturgiques

Tuesday we listened to two great original works for brass choir: Malcolm Arnold's Symphony for Brass and Henri Tomasi's Fanfares Liturgiques.

Sir Malcolm Arnold
The recording of Sir Malcom Arnold's Symphony for Brass was done by the Philip Jones Brass Ensemble. The piece was written in 1978 with the PJBE standard instrumentation of four trumpets, one horn, four trombones and one tuba. Arnold was born in Northampton, England in 1921 and after hearing Louis Armstrong play, he decided to learn the trumpet at age twelve. He attended the Royal College of Music and studied trumpet with Gordon Jacob. In 1957, Arnold won an Academy Award for the music to epic film The Bridge on the River Kwai. According to Music Academy Online: 

Malcolm Arnold moved to Ireland in 1972, where he reveled in the lush scenery and lively Celtic music. Here, however, his behavior became increasingly erratic and, in 1977, his second marriage collapsed and he returned to England, exhausted and unable to work for several years. Significant works eventually emerged during this unhappy period, such as the Trumpet Concerto, Symphony for Brass and the Eighth Symphony.

Oral history of Glyndebourne opera

Oral history of Glyndebourne opera
For more information about the PJBE, here is a link to the book The Odyssey of the Philip Jones Brass Ensemble by Donna McDonald available at Editions BIM.

Henri Tomasi
The recording of Fanfares Liturgique, by Henri Tomasi, was made by Grand Ensemble de Cuivres et Percussion des Hauts de France, with Alexis Malotchkine & Bernard Calmel. As you heard, it is a very powerful and well-crafted composition. The names of the movements are translated below, and as we discussed, the genre seems to be an "instrumental oratorio" - that is, a sacred brass choir version of a liturgical work. Of course there is no text sung, but the orator could be represented by the trombone solo of the second movement. Note also the return of the triumphant first theme, possibly a motif for the Christ figure, returns in the final movement. I also was reminded in several passages of the works Stravinsky, Respighi, Bach, and Dukas.
This work was originally called "Fanfares Concertantes" and was part of his opera Don Juan de Mañera. 

  • I. Annonciation (Annunciation is the term describing the moment when the angel Gabriel declared Mary to be the mother of God)
  • II. Evangile (Gospel, or the word of God)
  • III. Apocalypse (Apocolypse, or revelation?) Four Horsemen who are listed as Pestilence (disease epidemic), War, Famine, Death
  • IV. Procession du Vendredi-Saint (Good Friday Procession, a Christian celebration commemorating the crucifixion of Jesus)
For more information about Tomasi, go to the Tomasi page and for more listening, go to Tomasi on Naxos.

Wednesday, March 01, 2017

Arfen Owen Lecture

Today, we had the great pleasure of hearing famous Tenor Horn solosit Arfen Owen speak about the history of the British Brass Band tradition. It was a very enlightening lecture, especially when we learned that the origins of the British Brass Band included keeping mill workers out of trouble and to discourage unionization. 

Here are the YouTube videos we listened to:


I encouraged each of you to blog about your notes on the lecture, so I look forward to reading your impressions online. Check out this brief article on Four Bars Rest about Mr. Owen.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Bohme Sextet

Today we will be listening to and studying the score of Oskar Böhme's Trompeten-Sextett in E-flat minor Op. 30 for cornet, two trumpets, bass trumpet (or alto horn), baritone horn (or trombone) and euphonium coposed in 1907. It is a romantic work for six brass players in four movements. We will listen to the Atlantic Brass Quintet recording, "Five Chairs" on Summit Records from 2004. There are also excellent recordings by the Center City Brass Quintet, the Empire Brass Quintet,  and the NewYork Brass Quintet.

From Wikipedia:

Oskar Böhme, a son of Wilhelm Böhme, also a trumpeter, was born in Potschappel, a small town near Dresden, Germany, which is now part of Freital. For much of his early career, after studying trumpet and composition in the Leipzig Conservatory of Music until graduating in 1888, it is unknown what Böhme's musical activities were, though it is probable he concertized, playing in smaller orchestras around Germany.

From 1894-1896 he played in the Budapest Opera Orchestra and then moved to St. Petersburg, Russia, in 1897. Böhme played cornet for 24 years in the Mariinsky Theatre, turned to teaching at a music school on Vasilievsky Island in St. Petersburg for nine further years, from 1921-1930, and then returned to opera with the Leningrad Drama Theatre until 1934.

In 1934, however, the Great Terror began under Joseph Stalin and in 1936 a committee was established to oversee the arts in Soviet Russia. According to its anti-foreign policies, Böhme was exiled to Orenburg on account of his German heritage. It is said that he died there in 1938, though he was also said to be seen working on the Turkmenistan Canal in 1941. 

New Information about Bohme's death:

Dear Friends,

Here in a letter to the editor I wish to inform you and our readers that a Russian historian has recently discovered how the cornetist Oskar Böhme came to an end. In a chapter about Böhme in my book East Meets West I had written: “The exact date and the circumstances of his death will probably never be known.” In the wake of Stalin’s “Great Terror” (1928-54) more than four million people were deported and/or executed. Especially after Central Committee Secretary Sergey M. Kirov had been assassinated on December 1, 1934, Stalin initiated a great series of purges of artists and scientists, also banishing many persons of German origin, including Böhme, to distant places. Böhme was arrested on April 13, 1935 because of supposed – i.e. trumped-up – anti-Soviet propaganda and agitation and sentenced to three years of banishment from St. Petersburg to Orenburg (Stalinist name: Chkalov), a traditionally German city at the foot of the southern Ural mountains. Until 1938 he was teaching at a music school there, without the right of correspondence. Historian Anatoly Jakovlevich Rasumov, with access to the KGB archive, has since 1995 been publishing the names and short biographies of those who were assassinated by Stalin’s henchmen; his Leningrad Martyrologium has reached 14 volumes so far. He has discovered that in October 1938 (probably on the 23rd) Oskar Böhme was shot. See Christian Neef, “Archivar des Terrors”, Der Spiegel 53 (December 2015), 94-97, here 96.

- Edward H. Tarr