Monday, April 23, 2012

The Evolution of New Orleans Brass Bands

Inspired by Matt Driscoll's DMA Thesis, New Orleans Brass Band Traditions and Popular Music: Elements of Style in the music of Mama Digown's Brass Band and the Youngblood Brass Band we listened to a variety of recordings of New Orleans Brass Bands. Here is the list:

1. Dirty Dozen Brass Band - L'il Liza Jane

2. Maryland My Maryland - Preservation Hall Jazz Band

3. Panama Rag (on piano) - Listen to a version on YouTube

4. Mississippi Rag, with Kid Ory. Here is a link to a cover of the sheet music from "the first Ragtime Two-Step every written"

5. Rebirth Brass Band - Do Watcha Wanna

6. Soul Rebels - 504, No Place Like Home, We Be Rollin'

No Place Like Home (2009)
Unlock Your Mind (2011)
No More Parades (2006) - listen to this on LastFM

Mama Diggowns Brass Band website. Listen to them on their MySpace page.

We heard parts of:

7-9. St. James Infirmary (Traditional tune, but with a Reggae feel)
Mojito (Bounce Remix)

10. Brooklyn by Youngblood Brass Band website.

Fanfare for Fenway - John Williams

On Friday, 4/20/12, members of the Boston Pops Orchestra premiered a new work for brass and percussion called "Fanfare for Fenway". This is a clip of the performance.

Monday, April 16, 2012

On Innovation: Are there any truely new ideas?

Edgard Varèse
Today in class, as we discussed new directions for brass ensemble literature, I brought up the question of how to determine truly new ideas. Often, new ideas and new genres in music are inspired by, or are derived from a combination of older ideas or genres.

Here are some interesting links related to innovation in classical music:

The eMusic Dozen: Classical Innovators

Top Ten Most Innovative Composers by William C. White

The Birth of the New: Reflections On Innovation in Music by Thomas May and the San Francisco Symphony

Innovation: Inspiration from Reinventions of Classical Music by Olin Hide

Music’s Greatest Innovator: Celebrating Haydn on the 200th anniversary of his death by David Hurwitz from Listen

Aaron Copeland: About the Composer from PBS

Visionaries: Musical Innovator Tod Machover from WBUR

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

More About Bernstein

On Monday, we studied Leonard Bernstein's Dance Suite for Brass Quintet. In our discussion, we pondered Bernstein's compositional style, and if it changed over the years. I also wanted to find out how he felt about his reputation as a composer of "popular" music (West Side Story) as opposed to his more serious reputation, and his composition MASS came up in the conversation as well. It was apparent that all of us should do some digging on the subject. Here is something interesting I found:

His daughter, Jamie Bernstein offers some very valuable insight into the contradictions in her father's life and compositions. The excerpt below, from her website, is from a speech entitled A Talk Before MASS, which she gave in Salt Lake City in May of 2009:

Looking back on my father’s creative life, I see two main engines driving my father forward: the contradictions in his personality, and his perpetual confrontations with figures of authority. Of all Leonard Bernstein’s works, none demonstrates a grander synthesis of all these creative cross-currents than MASS.  As a result, MASS is his most deeply personal work.
Let me start with the contradictions. On the one hand, he was the most extroverted guy you could ever meet. How he loved people! All kinds of people. He loved playing the piano at parties till the wee hours; all-night talk sessions with students; noisy dinners with family and friends.  This was the Lenny that became a conductor and a teacher, the communicator extraordinaire, on the podium and on television.

On the other hand, Leonard Bernstein was a composer: an introverted, lonely dreamer who stayed up all night working, chain-smoking cigarettes and staring down his demons.

Within Bernstein the composer, there were yet more contradictions. He wrote for the concert hall, but he also wrote for the Broadway stage. He was a classically trained musician, but he loved the popular music he heard on the radio as he grew up in the 1920’s, 30’ and 40’s. His conducting mentor, Serge Koussevitsky, strongly advised his young pupil to stop writing for the Broadway stage; Koussevitsky thought it was low-class, insignificant music. Luckily, Leonard Bernstein didn’t follow his teacher’s advice – an early example of his lifelong impulse to buck authority.

Eventually, my father found ways to cross-pollenate the two kinds of music he loved best, creating a perfect bridge between the concert stage and the Broadway pit. Leonard Bernstein's orchestral music is joyous, full of tunes, and bursting with catchy rhythms -- while his Broadway scores are as elegantly constructed as a Beethoven symphony. MASS combines all of these elements, and more, into a single, passionate expression of my father’s own multifarious personality.
Here is a link to NPR's article Revisiting Bernstein's Immodest 'MASS' where you can read about a revival of the work and listen to excerpts. The brass is most prominent in the second selection, Prefatory Prayers.