Thursday, April 30, 2009

Listening Session 4/28/09; "Old and New"

Wednesday's listening presentation was based on the theme of "Old and New." Naturally, we started by listening to the classic recording of some of the earliest music know for brass ensembles, the Gabrieli recording made by the combined brass sections of the Philadelphia Cleveland Chicago Symphony Orchestras. If you own one brass ensemble recording, this is a must. The title of this Sony CD "The Antiphonal Music of Gabrieli", and the composition we heard was Canzon septimi toni No. 2.

We then heard a different Telarc recording, made by the Empire Brass in 1985 along with some other Boston brass musicians. Despite being recorded in 1968, the digital remastered CD sounds remarkably clear. One thing we noticed between the two groups, was the the Empire Brass observed different tempo relationships at the meter changes, and had a deeper sound due to the tubas playing in the lower octaves. The Empire Brass has also released a second Gabrieli recording (re-issue?) , "The Glory of Gabrieli" with the New York Philharmonic and Boston Symphony brass sections.

We then heard both old and new music from the American Brass Quintet. Battle Suite, by Samuel Scheidt (1587-1654) is from the Delos recording "American Brass Quintet plays Renaissance, Elizabethan, and Baroque Music." Everything on that CD was composed prior to 1750.
In contrast, the works on their recording "American Premiers" featured works written between 1989 and 1993, and includes works by Shculler, Sampson, Welcher, and Jan Bach. We heard the Gunther Schuller Brass Quintet No. 2 and David Sampson's Distant Voices. Desite the chronological gap between the compositinal eras and styles of both of these recordings, it is noteable that there are some similarities, such as the use of alternating textures, dynamics through orchestration, and the exploitation of both the ability for brasses to sound loud and majestic, as well as delicate and mysterious or solemn.

[Image above from the new website for the Los Angeles Brass Ensemble. Give them a listen]

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Non-Traditional Brass Ensembles

On Monday, we listened to several groups that fall under the category of "non-traditional" or "crossover" brass ensembles. Among them was Metalofonico, which is comprised of members of the Atlantic Brass Quintet, the Meridian Arts Ensemble, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the Mexico City Symphony, and percussion from the University of Buffalo. The piece we heard is an original composition by Jon Nelson, professor of trumpet at the University of Buffalo, and founding member of the MAE, called Insomnio. In it, you may have heard influences of Ives, Tomasi, and Frank Zappa. You can hear Metalofonico on their myspace page here.

From the CD "Brassil plays Brazil", we heard track six, Gonzagueando, by José Ursicino da Silva ("Duda"). Duda combines typical Brasilian folk/pop music, but in a well crafted way, and the Quinteto Brassil plays brilliantly. You can order this CD here.

Ryhthm and Brass, from their recording Sitting in An English Garden." We heard track fifteen, Money/Lollipop Guild/Eclipse, which combines elements of the Pink Floyd and the Wizard of Oz. Rhythm and brass are best known for the fine playing, but also presenting the brass quintet in a new light, with the addition of percussion, keyboards, synthesizers, and elements of jazz and rock. You can read about and listen to Rhythm and Brass at their myspace page here.

One of my favorite Balkan Brass Bands is the Kocani Orkestar, from Macedonia. We heard Solo Tapan from their recording "Kocani Orkestar; Gypsy Brass Band." Kocani Orkestar is non only a Balkan Brass band, but they combine elements of "Western" popular music. I recommend listening to Romani Kaj on their myspace page here.

Finally, representing both "non-traditional" and "crossover", we heard the Bollywood Brass Band. They have combined the Indian Raga style of music used in films from "Bollywood", with elements of funk, jazz, and perhaps a bit of the British Brass Band tradition. We heard Mere Yaara Dildara from their recording "Rahmania; the music of A.R. Rahman" What, or where is "Bollywood"? It is the nickname for the film industry in Mumbai India (the Hollywood of India). The nickname combines the "B" (from Bombay, the former name of Mumbai) with the term "Hollywood".

The most exciting when you combine disparate elements, especially in music, is that you end up with a very interesting and appealing new genre. We have talked a lot about our history and traditions in brass ensemble literature, but never forget that there is a future - one that we all may potentially be part of creating.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

New Orleans Brass Bands; An American Original

Blaine's presentation today included selections by the Americus Brass Band, the Eastern Iowa Brass Band, Symphonia and the Rebirth Brass Band. As I mentioned in class, we must be sure to include the tradition of New Orleans style brass bands in our study of Brass Ensemble Literature, despite the fact that it falls under the category of "non-classical" music. Firstly, it is the only brass ensemble tradition that originated in the United States. Secondly, like all brass ensembles, it is interesting to note how they take on the challenge of repertoire with a combination of original compositions, treatments of standard jazz and dixieland tunes, and "covers" of popular music genres such as Motown, R & B, pop, and even latin jazz. This style of brass ensemble was instrumental in the development and spread of American jazz, and the fact that this genre still thrives today (with the likes of the Dirty Dozen Brass Band, Rebirth, and many others) is a testament to its staying power and helps secure the future of this style. Here are some concepts and links you will find valuable for further research: