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 GutiƩrrez & 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.