Wednesday, January 16, 2019

People and Places of Brass Ensemble Music History

From A History of the Wind Band by Dr. Stephen L. Rhodes
I. Principal Composers and Places of Brass Ensemble History:
Links to Critical Places and Traditions:

The Venetian school and the Extensions of the Polychoral Style - Iakos DemetriouVenetian School - article on Revolvy  Music in the Renaissance (Met Museum)
Franco-Flemish Composers

Band Music from the Civil War Era
- Library of Congress

A Brief History of Brass Quintets (Chamberlain Brass)
Trombone Choirs
Moravian Music Foundation

Irish Music for Brass
- The Contemporary Music Centre of Ireland
The Waits Website

Waits (Medieval Life and Times)
Stadtpfeifers - Groves Online
Wait - Groves Online

II. Course-related Reading Online:
They're With the Band, Speaking That Global Language: Brass
by Josh Kun, New York Times, 4/9/2006
A Short History of the Trombone by David Guion from the Online Trombone Journal
History and Heritage of the Trombone Choir by John Marcellus, Eastman School of Music
The American Brass Band Movement - Library of Congress 
Something About Trombones (Moravian) from the Bethlehem Digital History Project
Venitian Polychoral Style (Wikipedia entry)
Stadtpfeifers - Groves Online
Wait - Groves Online
Saxhorns (Wikipedia)

III. Significant Composers Throughout Brass Ensemble History:

A. Renaissance & Baroque

Andrea Gabrieli (1533-1585) Ricercari
Giovanni Gabrieli (c. 1557-1612) Sacrae Symphoniae; Canzoni
Giovanni Pierluigi de Palestrina (1525-1594)
Claudio Monteverdi (1567-1643) L'Orfeo (five trombones)
Gioseffo Guami (c. 1540-1611) Canzoni
Anthony Holborne (1584-1602) Consort Music, Pavans...
Matthew Locke (1622-1677) Consort Music
William Brade (1560-1630) Dance Suites
Tielman Susato (c. 1500- c.1562)
Samuel Scheidt (1587-1653)
Johann Schein (1586-1630)
Johann Pezel (1639-1694)
George Friederich Handel (1685-1759) Water Music, Royal Fireworks

B. Classic and Romantic

Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827) Drei Equali
Alexander Alyabiev [Aliabev] (1787-1851) Quintet in E-flat for Brass
Ludwig Maurer (1789-1878)
Hector Berlioz (1803-1869) Messe Solenelle (1824), Grande Messe des Morts (Requiem) [orch. + 4 antiphonal brass choirs]
Viktor Ewald (1860-1935) Brass Quintets Nos. 1-4
Wallingford Riegger (1885-1961) Music for Brass Choir, op. 45

C. Twentieth Century

Arnold Schoenberg (1874-1951) Fanfare on motifs of Die Gurre-Lieder for Brass and Percussion (1945)
Paul Hindemith (1895-1963 ) Brass Septet, Morgenmusik from "Ploner Musiktag"
Virgil Thompson (1896-1989) Family Portrait
Henri Tomasi (1901-1971) Fanfares Liturgiques
William Walton (1902-1983) Belshazzar's Feast (orchesrtra with two brass bands); Queen's Fanfare; Anniversary Fanfare; Numerous works for brass band and arrangements for brass.
Ingolf Dahl (1912-1970) Music for Brass Instruments (1944)
Alvin Etler (1913-1973)
Witold Lutoslawski (1913-1994) Mini Overture
Vincent Persichetti (1915-1987)
Vaclav Nehlybel (1919-1996)
Alfred Reed (b. 1921-2005)
Malcolm Arnold (1921-2006)
Iannis Xanakis (1922-2001) Eonta, Akrata, A la Mémoire de Witold Lutoslawski
Fisher Tull (1934-1994)

D. Significant Living Composers

Gunther Schuller (b. 1925)
Verne Reynolds (b. 1926)
Walter Hartley (b. 1927)
La Monte Young (b. 1935)
Jan Bach (b. 1937)
Joan Tower (b. 1938)
John Cheetham (b. 1939)
Tania Leon (b. 1943)
Edward Gregson (b. 1945)
Anthony Plog (b. 1947)
David Sampson (b. 1951)
David Felder (b. 1953)
Eric Ewazen (b. 1954)
James Grant (b. 1954)
Richard Danielpour (b. 1956)
Ira Taxin (b. 1957)
Marti Epstein (b. 1959)
David Dzubay (b. 1964)

Starting Your Blog
If you haven't already launched your blog, here are some basic instructions on how to go about it. To start your blog, go to Google's free blogging platform Blogger and follow the instructions to create a new blog.

1. Pick a theme that you might be interested in exploring, such as trumpet ensembles of South America; Brass Bands of Great Britain; or Collegiate Horn Choirs, etc. You will probably be prompted to name your blog, so base the name on your theme.

2. Not every post you create has to be related to your theme. They could be about the class, or another brass ensemble related idea, but in general think of your blog as public research and an online record of your exploration.

3. Be sure to send me the address (URL) of your blog so that I can link it to ABEL Central. In turn, you should add ABEL Central and your fellow students' blogs to your links list.

4. A post can be one or two paragraphs of opinion, review, or information about a course related issue, artist, or work. I encourage you to embed images, but remember to indicate photo credit to images that are not yours. It is also fairly easy to embed video from YouTube or Vimeo. Audio isn't always so easy, but depending on your provider, or a link to an audio hosting site, it is possible.

5. Hyperlinks are essential. If you are discussing the American Brass Quintet, it is more interactive to provide a link to the American Brass Quintet. It should be fairly easy to learn how to do this in your blog.

6. Be sure to post an average of once per week, plus two longer posts for a total of at least 15 posts.

7. Also read each other's blogs, as well as ABEL central and subscribe to them so that you are notified when a new post or comment is added.

8. You may opt to make your blog private through your settings, which is fine, but make sure that everyone and the class and I have access to view it.

9. I encourage you to peruse student blogs from the past (list to the right here) as well as older posts on ABEL central.

10. If you already have a blog or website, it is okay to use it for this purpose as long as it is clear and easy to find ABEL related posts.

Historic Brass Ensemble Listening

English Cornett and Sackbut Ensemble
Today in class we listened to a variety of recordings of brass ensemble music written prior to the twentieth century. They were:
  1. La Bignani by Giovanni Cavaccio recorded by the English Cornett and Sackbut Ensemble
  2. Canzona a 5 by Claudio Merula - recorded by the English Cornett and Sackbut Ensemble
  3. Battle Suite: II. Courant by Samuel Scheidt - recorded by the American Brass Quintet
  4. Marche Fur Die Arche by C.P.E. Bach - recorded by the U.S. Army Old Guard Fife and Drum Corps
  5. Canzona per sonare No. 27 by Giovanni Gabrieli - recorded by the Brass Sections of the Philadelphia, Cleveland and Chicago Symphony Orchestras.
  6. Minuetto from Brass Quintet No. 4 by Jean François Bellon - recorded by the Ewald Brass Quintet
  7. Sonata Pian e forte from Sacrae Symphonies by Giovanni Gabrieli - recorded by the brass section of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra
  8. Flensborger March by Jensen recorded by the Copenhagen Brass.
  9. Jaegermusik Af "Erik Menveds Barndom" by Frederik Frohlich recorded by the Copenhagen Brass
  10. Arie Per Il Balletto A Cavallo by Johann Heinrich Schmelzer - recorded by the Brass Ensemble of the Tonkuenstler Orchestra
  11. Grund - Richtiger Unterricht Sonata for three trombones by Daniel Speer - recorded by the Brass Ensemble of the Tonkuenstler Orchestra
  12. Fanfstimmige Blasende Musick by Johann Pezel - recorded by the Brass Ensemble of the Tonkuenstler Orchestra
  13. "A Due" Trompetenduette by Heinrich Ignaz Franz Biber
  14. Air for 2 Horns and Organ in F Major, HWV 410 by George Frideric handel - recorded by Deutsche Naturhorn Solisten & Franz Raml
  15. Les Honnerus de Pied - recorded by Le Rallye-Cor de Montmélian - Cor de Chasse 
  16. Brass Quartet, Op. 38, In Modo Religioso by Alexander Glazunov - Hermann Baumer & Brass Partout

Friday, January 11, 2019

Welcome Spring 2019 Students!

"Assorted Brass Instrument" by Samulis
Welcome to Advanced Brass Ensemble Literature (ABEL), Spring 2019! 

ABEL Central is the official course  blog, where you will find information about the class, as well as links to your own course-related blogs. On the right-hand side bar, you'll see the course number, syllabus, ways to follow, search and subscribe this blog, and links to the blogs of former students. Additionally, there are links to professional brass ensembles and other resources.

I have also activated the ICON site for this course. There you will find all of the scores for our Major Works listening presentations, as well as a copy of the syllabus and your grades.

I will be posting here, generally once a week, on things we cover in class, answers to questions that came up in class, and anything else that might be of interest to this course. This blog is over ten years old, so take advantage of perusing older posts, as well as blogs by former students for ideas for your own blog.

Monday, April 16, 2018

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 09, 2018


Today in class, we listened to two video recordings of Gagarará by Spanish composer
Brian Martínez. This composition was the winning entry for the 2012 Isla Verde Bronces Festival in Argentina. The work is inspired by the chants of the Santero Carnival Festivities, and includes a haunting trumpet solo at the beginning and the end, an intensifying layering of poly-rhythms, and a primitive aesthetic and harmonies inspired by Stravinsky.

The premiere recording below was made in 2012 and the personnel included: Trumpets: Ron Rom, Paul Archibauld, Juan Pablo Mayor, Agustina Guidoli and Ivan Chunga; Horns: Frank Lloyd, César Ahumada; Trombones: Jacque Mauger, Carlos Ovejero, Ivan Barrios and Tuba: John Manning

The U.S. premier occured later that year at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology during the Atlantic Brass Quintet Seminar. Members of the Triton Brass Quintet and the Atlantic Brass Quintet combine to form the Tritanic Brass Ensemble. The personnel included: Trumpets: Stephen Banzaert, Andrew Sorg, Louis Hanzlik, David Wharton; Horns: Shelagh Abate, Seth Orgel; Trombones: Tim Albright, Wes Hopper, Angel Subero and Tuba: John Manning

Monday, April 02, 2018

Brass Ensembles in Popular Music Genres

Since the earliest days of brass instruments, brass ensembles of some type have often been involved in popular music in some way. Whether they were part of Renaissance dance music, Civil War regimental brass bands, dixieland bands, part of big bands of the Swing Era, or rock and roll, brass ensembles have proven to be a versatile and sometimes unique addition to popular music.

Today in class we watched numerous videos for this YouTube playlist. Ranging from Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass to Pink Floyd and Germany's LaBrassBanda. Please share links to any videos or recordings of brass ensembles that fit withing this category. 

Finally, here is a link to a video of the 1970 premiere of Atom Heart Mother for comparison

Monday, March 26, 2018

Rube Goldberg Variations

Today in class we listened to Rube Goldberg Variations for brass quintet and prepared piano by Dmitri Tymoczko. This recording is of the Atlantic Brass Quintet with John Blacklow on piano. I mentioned that it was one of the most challenging projects that I had ever taken part in. The piece is incredible; often complex, frequently beautiful and occasionally humorous.

Dr. Tymoczko's biography from his website is below:

Dmitri Tymoczko was born in 1969 in Northampton, Massachusetts. He studied music and philosophy at Harvard University, and philosophy at Oxford University. He received his Ph.D in music composition from the University of California, Berkeley. He is currently a Professor of Music at Princeton, where he has taught composition and  theory since 2002. He lives in Philadelphia with his wife, Elisabeth Camp, who teaches philosophy at Rutgers University, their son Lukas, who was born in 2008, and their daughter Katya, born 2012.
Dmitri            Tymoczko. Photo credit: <a            href=''>Peter            Murphy</a>
Dmitri Tymoczko, Photo credit: Peter Murphy

His compositions are polystylistic and mercurial, drawing on genres from the Renaissance to rock. His music has been commissioned and performed by groups including the Amernet Quartet, the Atlantic Brass Quintet, the Brentano Quartet, the Corigliano Quartet, Flexible Music, Gallicantus, the Gregg Smith Singers, the Illinois Modern Ensemble, Janus Trio, the Kitchener/Waterloo symphony, Network for New Music, Newspeak, Pacifica Quartet, Synergy Vocal Ensemble, Third Coast Percussion Quartet, and Ursula Oppens. Among his awards are a Guggenheim fellowship, a Rhodes Scholarship, the Leonard Bernstein fellowship from Tanglewood, a fewllowship from the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, and the Block lecturship from the Society of Industrial and Applied Mathematics.
His book A Geometry of Music (Oxford) has been described as "a tour de force" (The Times Literary Supplement), a "monumental achievement" (Music Theory Online), and, potentially, a modern analogue to Schoenberg’s Harmonielehre (The Musical Times). His three CDs, Beat Therapy ("far reaching yet utterly entertaining," Newmusicbox), Crackpot Hymnal ("ebullient … polystylistic … kinetic … vividly orchestrated and vibrantly paced," Sequenza21), and Rube Goldberg Variations ("foot tapping," "sassy," the product of "an intriguing musical voice that should interest anyone in search of a new auditory experience," Limelight), are available from Bridge Records. He is completing an album of rock-inspired pieces that mix electronics with acoustic instruments.
In addition to composing concert music, Dmitri enjoys playing rock and jazz and writing words. His articles have appeared in the American Mathematical Monthly, the Atlantic Monthly, Berfrois, Boston Review, Civilization, Integral, Journal of Music Theory, Lingua Franca, Music Analysis, Music Theory Online, Music Theory Spectrum, Science, Seed, and Transition. His article "The Geometry of Musical Chords" was the first music-theory article published in the 130-year history of Science magazine. He has been invited to speak to audiences of musicians, philosophers, cognitive scientists, mathematicians, physicists, and the general public; articles about his work have appeared in a variety of newspapers and magazines, including Time, Nature, and Physics Today.

Monday, March 05, 2018

Tomasi - Fanfares Liturgiques

Today we listened to recording of Fanfares Liturgique, by Henri Tomasi. As you heard, it is a very powerful, challenging, 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. 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. (See earlier post Tomasi and his Contemporaries)

This work was originally called Fanfares Concertantes and was part of his opera Don Juan de Mañera. This is the version which includes soprano soloists and choir. Here is a YouTube link to this scene from the opera.
  • 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)

* Note: Location of image above is from

 Amazon incorrectly describes this product as a "Plaid double knit novelty suiting jacket"?!

Henri Tomasi: Don Juan de Manara
Price: $22.63 + $3.99 shipping
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