Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Brass Ensemble Music From Other Cultures

Fanfare Ciocărlia
As I mentioned in class today, we as musicians are often musical ambassadors for our culture, and listening to brass ensemble music from other cultures is an excellent way to learn about both the similarities and differences between cultures. Musicians also know and embrace the value of diversity, for it is the source of inspiration and variety that often leads to the creation of new genres. There are brass band traditions around the globe, each with its own heritage and style, including the Balkans, South and Central America, Polynesia and India. I hope you enjoyed listening to this diverse playlist and also hope it inspires you to do further exploration on your own. Here is the list of recordings we sampled today of brass ensemble music from other cultures: 

Rusasca De La Buzdug - Fanfare Ciocarlia (Balkan Brass Band)

Canchis Tierra Linda – Banda San Martin de Sicuani (Peruvian Festival Music)

Obassanthi – Jaipur Kawa Brass Band (Indian Brass Band)

Paayaliyaa - Jaipur Kawa Brass Band (Indian Brass Band with vocalist)

Te Presumo – Banda el Recodo (Mexican Banda Pop Music)

Ishq Bina Ishq Bina – The Bollywood Brass Band (Indian Film music of A.R. Rahman;mixture of funk and raga)

Dola Dola - The Bollywood Brass Band (Indian Film music of A.R. Rahman; Latin influenced)

Ta Ka E Sola (He was a stranger) – Mailefihi College Band from the nation of Tonga.

Tuitui Tamafa #1 (Sewing and Eating While Standing) - ) – Mailefihi College Band from the Nation of Tonga

Lavemalie (Touch Me Gently) ) – Mailefihi College Band from the nation of Tonga; Polynesian folk song with vocalists. The three selections above are on the CD: Ifi Palasa Tongan Brass

Siupeli Silver #3 (Silver Jubilee) by Vilami Tu’ipulotu – Maopa Band of Kolofu’ou

Concertino Para trompete-Finale by José Urscino da Silva “Duda” – Quintetto Brassil

Coletanea '93-os Monges De St. Thomas by José Urscino da Silva “Duda” – Quintetto Brassil

We also viewed this recording of the Trombones de Costa Rica performing Curubandeando, an original work written for them by Costa Rican composer Vinicio Meza.

Here is a bonus video from YouTube of Shyam Brass Band performing and many others from their website.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Rube Goldberg Variations for Brass Quintet and Prepared Piano by Dmitri Tymoczko

Today in class we heard the most recent Atlantic Brass Quintet recording of Rube Goldberg Variations for Brass Quintet and Prepared Piano by Dmitri Tymoczko. I didn't have the score at the time but will show it to you next week. Here is the Table of Preparations page from the score, which tells you about the different materials and objects used in the the preparation and their effects:


Dr. Tymoczko has added this recording to his website. Click on the links below to listen to each movement:
  1. http://dmitri.tymoczko.com/rubegoldbergm1.m4a
  2. http://dmitri.tymoczko.com/rubegoldbergm2.m4a
  3. http://dmitri.tymoczko.com/rubegoldbergm3.m4a
  4. http://dmitri.tymoczko.com/rubegoldbergm4.m4a


Tuesday, March 22, 2016

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.
Jim,
 .....
Jim,  
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, February 08, 2016

A Trio of Trios

Today in class we listened to three trios for brass by Poulenc, Nelhybel and Plog:

1. Sonata for Horn, Trumpet and Trombone by Francis Poulenc (1922) performed by the The Pro Musica Brass Trio from their album Voyages for Brass Trio.


2. Trio for Brass by Vaclav Nelhybel (1965) performed by the University of Maryland Brass Trio from their album Brass Trios. Below is an embedded YouTube video with a scrolling score (no performers credited):


3. We heard the first part of Anthony Plog's Trio for Brass from the same album.

Ethan mentioned having seen an excellent video of the Poulenc that had an introduction my a musicologist and the players were from London. I haven't yet tracked it down, but the musicologist was probably Rachel Leach and the musicians were probably from the London Philarmonic. See this link for more notes.  

PS - I had originally planned on playing:
Quintet for Brass by Alexander Alyabyev (Also spelled Aliabiev)
Ensemble:  Montanus Brass Quintet
This was written in1847, making it the first brass quintet known, predating Bellon and Ewald. 


Here is an Apple Music link



Monday, February 01, 2016

Beethoven - Drei Equali & Sorg - Voices in da Fan

Today in class we listened to Drei Equali, three short funereal movements for trombone quartet composed by Beethoven in 1812 in Linz, Austria for "All Souls Day". This recording is of Four of a Kind, a trombone quartet consisting of Joe Alessi, Scott Hartman, Mark Lawrence and Blair Bollinger. The piece is somber and was reworked and performed at Beethoven's own funeral. To see a painting of Beethoven's funeral, see my earlier post.

Here are few links related to the subject:

Will Kimball, Professor of Trombone at Brigham Young University, maintains an alto trombone history timeline his website. He added this about the Drei Equali:
Added the entry below to the Alto Trombone History Timeline. It includes information from a firsthand witness about Beethoven’s Drei Equali, arguably one of the most important works in the history of the trombone. Among the noteworthy observations about the alto trombone is Glöggl’s note that, although his father’s collection included soprano and quart trombones, the instruments commonly used in Austria were alto, tenor, and bass trombones. Son of the Linz kapellmeister who commissioned the work, the younger Glöggl stayed in the music field, eventually becoming a music publisher in Vienna. His recollections were made specifically for publication in Thayer’s Life of Beethoven (for source, see Alto Trombone Bibliography).
1812—Linz, Austria: Beethoven writes his Drei Equale for 4 trombones, a work commissioned by Kappelmeister Glöggl of the Linz cathedral. Glöggl’s son, who later becomes a music publisher in Vienna, verifies that alto, tenor and bass are the instruments commonly in use, mentioning that in his father’s “collection of old instruments he had a soprano and a quart trombone, whereas only alto, tenor and bass trombones were commonly used.” He continues, “Beethoven wanted to hear an Aequale such as was played at funerals in Linz, and one afternoon when Beethoven was expected to dine with us, my father appointed three trombone players and had them play an Aequale as desired…” (Thayer 541).


Since we had already heard the Bellon last week, I decided to play a recent recording the Atlantic Brass Quintet mad of "Voices in da Fan", by our trumpeter Andrew Sorg. We recorded it on a CD with a new work for brass quintet and wind ensemble by Kevin Walczyk entitled Quintet Matinee with the UConn wind ensemble as part of the Sackler Prize.

This is Andrew's second brass quintet composition, the first being "Mental Disorders". If you are interested in hearing this piece, I've embedded a video of live performance by a student quintet from the Atlantic Brass Quintet Seminar below:











Sunday, January 31, 2016

Historic Brass Ensemble Music Listening Session

Le Rallye-Cor de Montmélian
Here is the complete playlist from our listening session on Historic Brass Ensemble Music:

Title: Greyner, zanner 
Composer: Heinrich Finck
Ensemble: Piffaro
Album: Stadpfeiffer:Music of Renaissance Germany

Note: This particular ensemble is a mixed group of period instruments, including shawms, dulcians, sackbuts, recorders, krumhorns, bagpipes, lutes, guitars, harps, and a variety of percussion. Although it is not exclusively a brass ensemble, this track is a good example of the Stadtpfeifer tradition of civic musicians employed in Renaissance Germany who, among other ceremonial duties, would perform from towers, playing fanfares and serving as "human fire alert systems." For more information, see the post called Stadtpfeifer, Alto Capella and Waits.

Title: Canzon per sonar in echo duodecimi toni a 10
Composer: Giovanni Gabrieli
Ensemble: National Brass Ensemble

Title: Canzon a 5 
Composer: Claudio Merula
Ensemble: English Cornett and Sackbut Ensemble
Album: Accendo - Music from the Time of Claudio Monteverdi

Title: La Bignani
Composer: Giovanni Cavaccio
Ensemble: English Cornett and Sackbut Ensemble
Album: Accendo - Music from the Time of Claudio Monteverdi

Title: Intrada and Courant from "Battle Suite"
Composer: Samuel Scheidt
Ensemble: American Brass Quintet
Album: ABQ Plays Renaissance/Elizabethan

Title: Dovehouse Pavan
Composer: Ferrabosco
Ensemble: American Brass Quintet
Album: ABQ Plays Renaissance/Elizabethan

Title: Les Plasirs de la Chasse
Composer: (traditional)
Ensemble: Le Rallye de Montmelian
Album: Cor de Chasse

Title: Ellen Bayne Quickstep
Composer: G. W. E. Freiderich
Ensemble: Empire Brass and Friends
Album: American Brass Band Journal

Title: Canzona Bergamasca
Composer: Scheidt
Ensemble: Eastman Brass Quintet
Album: Renaissance Brass Music

Title: Brass Quintet No. 1
Composer: Jean Francois Bellon
Ensemble: Ewald Brass Quintet
Album: Four Brass Quintets

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Stadtpfeifer, Alto Capella and Waits

Last week in class I mentioned a tradition from Renaissance and Baroque Germany of Stadpfeifer, or civic wind bands who were employed by the city or town which had various duties, including playing from towers, for festivals and proclamations. Below is an excerpt from on online article by Dr. Steve Rhodes of Lipscomb University entitled The Baroque Wind Band:

STADTPFEIFER AND MUSIC IN LEIPZIG

Municipal wind bands played a significant role in the cultural life of German cities during the Baroque. Most of these town musicians came under the jurisdiction of the town council and were known as Ratsmusik--Rat being the German word for council. The Stadtpfeifer were the paid musicians whose primary duty was to play concerts from the town hall tower at various times of day (thus the name "tower music"). They also participated in religious and civic ceremonies, played for dances, and alerted the town to the approach of an enemy or an outbreak of fire.
The reasons for this particular German practice were at least twofold. First, the public held wind music in high esteem, deeming it a particularly noble sound. Second, Germany was still a fragmented country with many smaller kingdoms and city-states, each responsible for the social, cultural, and physical life of its people. So the Ratsmusik provided a public relations opportunity to enhance the cultural life of the community.

Winds vs. Strings
Into the middle Baroque, wind playing was still held in the highest regard. The music of brass instruments reminded the Baroque citizen of royal splendor, processions, and promotions, while string music was indicative of the dance floor or the private home
The city of Leipzig retained records of various practices of the Ratsmusiker that provide insight into the music practice of the time. By 1650, the devastating toll of the Thirty Years' War was at an end, and Germany was finally able to return to the cultivation of commerce and artistic pursuits. Leipzig was about to enjoy the greatest century of its music history. Initially four Stadtpfeifer were employed as Ratsmusiker, serving primarily as wind players.
In time three more musicians, referred to as Kunstgeiger, were hired to play the violin. Surviving records reveal much squabbling between the two groups, mostly due to the perceived inconsistencies felt by the Kunstgeiger who were subordinate to the Stadtpfeifer. The Kunstgeiger were considered apprentices to the Stadtpfeifer and were often exploited for the sake of money, having to endure an income below that of their superiors. Jealousy was the common denominator as the Stadtpfeifer, being the privileged group, received first choice for engagements outside their required duties. On occasion these two groups would band together to fight the competition presented by the Bierfiedler (fiddle players employed by beer halls). During this time string players were often considered second class citizens when compared to wind players. By 1700, another class of musician, the NeuKirchenmusiker (new church musicians) made the situation even more complicated for the city council.
Since the Stadpfiefer and Kunstgeiger were trained simply as craftsmen, the Ratsmusik lacked the respect that organists and cantors enjoyed due to their liberal arts education. Kuhnau wrote that among one hundred Kunstgeiger, there could hardly be one who could write ten words without making a mistake, and Mattheson also had little regard for them, noting their perceived conceit and lack of education.


In Leipzig the four Stadtpfeifers' most important regular function was to play daily from the tower at city hall at 10:00 a.m. and at various times during the evening. This function was known as Abblasen or Turmblasen. Johann Pezel, perhaps the most famous of these Stadtpfeifer, noted in the dedication of his Hora Decima that this custom was of Turkish or Persian origin, then hastily confirmed that it had now become a Christian tradition. Gottfried Reiche noted that this tower music was a symbol of joy and peace--no doubt a reference to the peace enjoyed due to the end of the Thirty Years' War. Since the brass instruments were provided for this function by the city, both the instruments and the music were stored in the tower. For outside employment, musicians had to provide their own instruments.
In addition to the provision of music and instruments, the Ratsmusiker enjoyed other privileges, including weekly salaries, occasional extra money, and clothing. Also, until 1717, the Stadtpfeifer paid no taxes and were given free living quarters in the Stadtpfeifergäszlein (little city musician street) where they and their families all lived together in one house. While the rank of Stadtpfeifer was a lifetime position, the downside was that upon the player's death, the surviving family could be left without means of support. Also, income was precarious during times of mourning or pestilence, as music for celebrations such as weddings was curtailed for a prescribed period of time.

On occasion, if not regularly, the Stadtpfeifer joined with the Kunstgeiger under the direction of the Cantor for church performances. Because of their versatility in playing both wind and string instruments, the combination of the two groups of musicians, coupled with student players, allowed the Cantor a respectable orchestra with which to work.

When a musician applied for a position as a Stadtpfeifer, a complete knowledge of the Stadtpfeifer instruments was usually required. These could include trumpet, cornett, trombone, French horn (in time), bombart [German for shawm], dulcian [early bassoon], flute, oboe, plus strings. Little is available today as to textbooks or written instructions concerning the craft of the Stadtpfeifer due to the secrecy surrounding the guild. Indeed, it was most difficult to reach a high level of maturity, unless fellow musicians provided the training. Not until the Ratsmusiker tradition began to die did the first known text appear, written by Johann Ernst Altenburg.

The eventual decline of the Ratsmusiker movement can be attributed to a couple of factors:

1. The steady influx of free and independent musicians gradually took its toll. These "strolling musicians", as represented by the Bierfiedler (violinists playing in beer halls and taverns, Dorfmusikunsten (village musicians), Schallmeyer (shawm players), and Hümpler und Stümpler ("bunglers and blunderers", a reference from their guild-slang), played at weddings, parties, and christening feasts. They were not subject to the limitations of the municipal prohibitions and could earn a salary throughout the whole year.

2. There was an influx of concerts and opera performances into the city. At first, the Ratsmusiker would supplement the ranks of musicians in local concerts and the nucleus of the traveling opera company. However, in the local concerts, their honored position was gradually lost as they associated professionally with the very people whom they formerly had ignored. Also, in the opera, it became awkward to expect to augment the traveling orchestra, which had already perfected the playing of increasingly demanding scores. In time only the tower playing carried on.
Examples of repertoire performed in Leipzig no doubt included Pezel's Hora decima musicorum Lipsiensium (1670) written for five-part cornett and trombone ensemble, and Reiche's Vier und zwantzig neue Quatricinia (1696), written for four-part cornett and trombones. There was certainly a wealth of other literature written during the time as evidenced by the inventory lists from 1747 which included five chorale books and 122 wind pieces written by Gottfried Reiche which are now lost.

For more information, visit the parent page A History of the Wind Band also by Dr. Rhodes.

Also see these Wikipedia entries on Alta Capella and Waits.