Saturday, April 14, 2012

The Traveling Brass Musician

A few days ago, I came across this article on brassmusician.com.  The author offers some advice for brass musicians preparing for a tour.  Unlike rock/pop musicians, we probably won't spend our lives touring the world performing several shows a week.  Still, we will most likely travel somewhere to play a gig.  For me, most of my travel has been for auditions and conferences.  Traveling has the same effects regardless of what type of music we are playing.  Here are some things to consider:

Weather
 - Consider your clothing. Make sure you have layers for cold weather or breathable clothing for warm weather.
 - Will you be in the sun? Make sure to have sunscreen and sunglasses.
 - Will you be outside in the wind? Invest in a few clothespins.  You can also have someone cut a small sheet of clear plastic or plexiglass that can cover your music on your stand so it doesn't blow away.

Location and Climate
 - Consider the altitude. In a higher altitude, you may have difficulty breathing if you are not used to it.
 - What type of climate does the location of your gig have? Desert climates are very dry so make sure to have extra water on hand.

Pitch
 - Your location may affect your pitch.  Being inside or outside or in hot or cold air can affect your pitch so be ready to adjust.
 - If you are playing with a group (especially in another country), ask if they have any specific tuning.  For example, some groups tune to 442 to match the percussion instruments.

Gig Location/Venue
 - Consider the size of the hall/room.  How do you need to adjust your articulation and volume for the venue?
 - Will there be a place to practice or warm-up at the gig? Try to warm-up before you get there, just in case.

Musicians at the Gig
 - Consider their volume and dynamics.  You may have to play louder or softer than normal to match the other musicians.
 - Listen to their style and interpretation of the music and adjust. Be flexible with performance tempo, dynamic, and style.

Accommodations
 - Where are you staying? Make sure you plan enough time to travel from your hotel/lodging to the gig.
 - Can you practice there? Make sure to bring a practice mute or have a plan how you will practice and warm-up.  Hotel guests do not want to be awoken by a brass instrument in the next room.

Food
 - What will you eat? Don't use the meal before your performance as an opportunity to try something new.  Don't jeopardize your playing with a unsettled stomach.
 - No time to eat.  See if you can bring a snack and drink with you to have just in case.

Time
 - Plan the time zone change. Make sure to plan time to adjust to the time change, especially if it is large.
 - Make sure you have enough time to sleep and feel rested.  You may have to sleep on the plane or catch a few winks backstage.

Vehicle
 - How will you get there? Have your tickets organized and ready to go. Carry extra cash for cabs. Research places to park if you are driving.

Accessories
 - Bring it all with you, just in case.  Instrument, mouthpiece(s), mute(s), valve oil, slide grease, screwdriver, cork, music (extra copies are good), pencil(s), a stand. If there is any chance you'll need it, bring it.

Utilizing Your Travel Time
 - On a plane, train, or bus. Listen to your music. Look it over. Read about the music.
 - In a car. Here you can do more. Buzz on your mouthpiece. Listen to your music. Sing along.
 - Waiting at the airport, bus station, or even at an audition. Have something with you that will keep you calm (book, ipod, phone). Focus on your task and think positive!


All of the above ideas are things that I have noticed during my own traveling. What other tips do you have?

Music and Sports

Brass instruments have had a connection with sports since the ancient times.  For example, the Roman cornu was sounded at gladiator fights.
Today, it is very common in America for schools to have marching bands which perform at football games.  Although marching bands include a lot of brass instruments, this post is going to focus on the connection between sports and brass instruments.  There are many existing examples of brass instruments connected to sports.

In 2010, the FIFA World Cup was held in South Africa.  An instrument called the vuvuzela became the talk of the world.  People either loved it or hated it.  Although these instruments are not made of brass, they require lip buzzing to produce a sound.



Here is a video where you can hear the sound of the vuvuzela.



Brass instruments can also be used for sports like horse races.  Churchill Downs employs a bugler who plays for each race. Here is a link to an article about the bugler.  The bugler plays alone unless there is a special occassion with more players such as the race in this video:




In England, the band called the England Supporters plays for every football (soccer) game.  This brass band has traveled with the team around the world.  Here, they have a music video in support of the team. (It starts after about 30 seconds of silliness.)




Besides music played at sporting events, there are other connections between music and sports.  Musicians can create their own sporting events and groups.  For example, when I was working on my masters degree, I was on the horn studio hockey team, Tuckwell Attack. It was part of the school intramural sports program. When I was searching online for information about this topic, I came across this post about the International World Brass Band Ski Championship. 

Musicians can also use sports as an educational tool.  Here is a link to a programming guide developed by the Peachtree Brass Quintet. This is just one of their several programs developed to take into schools. This program includes pieces like "Take Me Out to the Ball Game" and the "Olympic Fanfare" to teach kids about music. 

It seems to me that there is a lot of talk about how music is being cut from schools but sports are thriving like always.  Maybe we can use the connections between the two to promote music and show its value.  Almost every sporting event from little league to professional plays the national anthem.  Why don't we play it and promote live music instead of recordings? This is a very short and easy gig that we can all do. Music at sporting events seems to be an untapped area to perform and promote music. 

Mario Parade

Here is a video that Professor Manning sent to me earlier in the semester.  It is a Super Mario-themed bloco (a marching band) during Carnival in Rio de Janeiro. They are playing the theme music, wearing costumes, and acting out the game (look for the star-man running through the crowd).  Video game music is both recognizable and popular.  How could we utilize it? Maybe we could play at the store on the night when a game is released or play at competitions or conventions (Comic-Con or something).  Or, we could always just put on our own parades! :)


Sunday, March 25, 2012

Chautauqua

At the beginning of the twentieth century in the United States, one of the most popular events was going to Chautauqua.  Founded in 1874, Chautauqua would develop into a circuit of touring shows that provided education, culture, and uplifting and moral entertainment.  The shows would include music, lectures, skits, speeches, readings, and novelty acts.  The University of Iowa library has a large collection of items from the Redpath Chautauqua (1890-1944).  Here is a general overview of Chautauqua provided by the library.

Before I took the class "American Musical Entertainments" last fall, I had never heard of Chautauqua.  It is a shame that its history has faded because it made a huge impact.  As the article linked above explains, "At its peak in the mid-1920s, circuit Chautauqua performers and lecturers appeared in more than 10,000 communities in 45 states to audiences totaling 45 million people."

One group that performed was the University of Iowa band, then called the State University of Iowa Military Band.  The band's tour is a great example of what it was like to perform on the Chautauqua circuit.  From June 17, 1918 through August 30, 1918, the band performed in 75 cities...one each night.  These cities and towns were in Minnesota, Wisconsin, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, and Iowa.  Back then, the performers would often tour by train.  Also, the performers were in charge of their own setup.  Whatever instruments/set/props/costumes/personal belongings they had, they had to carry them from the train station to the performance site by themselves.  The performances would often be outside or in large tents because small towns did not have concert halls or other venues.  Just think how our performance opportunities are different today.

Several brass musicians performed on the Chautauqua circuits as members of brass chamber groups.  Below, I'm going to list a few groups that I found while researching.  Each name is a link to a picture or program in the University of Iowa digital library.  The photos are copyrighted so they will not be included on this page. Please check out the links.

Edna White Quartette (a female group with 2 trumpets, trombone, euphonium)
Herbert Petrie and his White Hussars (2 trumpets and 2 trombones)
Lieurance Brass Choir (2 trumpets and 2 trombones)
The Orpheans (trumpet, valve trombone, horn, saxophone)
The Rondoliers (2 trumpets, trombone, saxophone)
The Parland Newhall Company Brass Quartet (trumpet, 2 trombones, horn)
The Brass Sextette of Quintano's Royal Italian Band of New York City (2 trumpets, 2 valve trombones, 2 euphoniums)
Alberta and Lorene Davis (trumpet and horn)

If you would like to learn more about brass in Chautauqua, check out "Brass Chamber Music in Lyceum and Chautauqua" by Raymond Burkhart.  This is his Ph.D. Dissertation from The Claremont Graduate University in 2010.  It is available in the Special Collections part of the library.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

The Ewald Brass Quintets

For ABEL class, we were asked to read André Smith's article "The History of the Four Quintets for Brass by Victor Ewald." We were then asked to answer a few questions, which I am including here:

What did you know about Ewald and his brass quintet before reading this article? 
Before I read this article (and Smith's other article specifically about Ewald), I knew little to no information about Ewald or his works. This semester, my brass quintet worked on Quintet No. 2 and it was my first experience playing or listening to one of his works. Perhaps the only idea I had of Ewald in my mind was that his brass quintet pieces are considered "the standards."

What did this article teach you about proper research?
This article does remind us to use as many primary sources as possible when we are doing research. Also, it implies the benefits of communicating with others about your research. It is important to seek out others with knowledge of your topic. This article makes me also think that since it is so difficult to obtain primary resources if you can't travel outside the country, why don't we do more research on American music?

What questions did this article raise? 
For me, I question Smith over-the-top concern for his research before releasing/publishing anything.  I appreciate his scholarly efforts to authenticate his findings and the music manuscripts. He states, "This quintet has been in hand for the past ten years but, considering the importance of the discovery, any move to release it before the present time seemed premature. Not only was it necessary to authenticate it, if possible, but its appearance yielded a thrust to speculation: If there was, indeed, a flourishing and growing brass field, was it likely that less than a handful of compositions for brass would have resulted?" I'm not suggesting that he should have released his finding immediately. I just think that if I was suddenly aware of a great piece of music, no matter who/what/when/where it came, I would share it with everyone so it could be played and enjoyed as soon as possible.

What are your thoughts on rotary vs. piston valve preferences mentioned in the article?
I think that unless someone is trying to do an exact reproduction of the premiere of a piece, or construct a performance based on the exact wishes of the composer, it is completely fine to play the piece with whatever instruments are available. The brass instruments which are more foreign to me, (rotary trumpet, valve trombone, tenor horn, etc.), seem so cool. I would not be opposed to trying other instruments any day. In Ewald's case, it may not be clear which type of valve he had in mind. Does the valve significantly affect the artistry of the music though? I doubt it.

Do you agree with Forsyth who wrote, "There is in general no true legato on the trombone."?
No. Legato is produced by your air and the buzz of the lips, not the instrument. If anything, it seems to me that a trombone is more capable of legato than valve instruments. The slide can actually aid in connecting two notes as opposed to the valve where there is potentially the smallest microtone of a pitch which is skipped between two notes.

What are your thoughts about Smith's ideas on instrumentation mentioned on page 13? 
This relates to my thoughts for the earlier question about valves. Smith states, "It is only since the so-called early music movement gained a widespread influence beginning in the mid-1950s that a self-conscious inhibition has prevented many otherwise adventurous musicians from adapting any music of their choice to their needs." I think this relates to the concept that has developed of the composer being the artist rather than the performer. Of course the composer was an artist but so is the performer. Reproducing the composer's wishes is great but it also lacks creativity, originality, and a unique experience. I don't think that we as musicians should limit ourselves or others with ideas of what we can't or are not supposed to play.

In regards to the modern revival of Ewald's brass quintets, what roles did the following people play? Froydis Werke, the American Brass Quintet, the Empire Brass Quintet? 
Froydis Werke received copies of the Ewald quintets while she was studying horn in Russia. The Empire Brass then received this music from her when they were in Norway.  Smith's article shares this information as if it were scandalous that they were not aware of that he was secretly in possession of the music for a decade. Smith also shares how he was the one who sent the music back to Russia where it was distributed to Froydis. Again, I don't find an issue with sharing great music so I don't blame Vitaly Buyanovsky for distributing it immediately. The American Brass Quintet was the first group to premiere the pieces in the west.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Brass Unbound


When I was searching for books in the library, I came across the book Brass Unbound: Secret Children of the Colonial Brass Band by Rob Boonzajer Flaes.  I haven't had a chance to read the whole book just yet but it seems really interesting. In the prologue, there is a paragraph that gives an overview of what the book is about:

"Beyond Europe too, legions of young men without a penny to their names used the music of army and church as a springboard to a career in the entertainment business. I have gone in search of these people and their bands and, to my joy, they really did exist. I travelled the world, mapping everything I came across; it has proved to be a rich, immensely varied spectrum of popular brass bands, locally famous but totally unknown anywhere else."

Perhaps the coolest part of the book is the accompanying CD. I had an opportunity to sample each track and it was beyond what I expected. The CD includes tracks from Nepal, India, Moluccas, Sumatra, Minahasa, Philippines, Thailand, Ghana, Germany, Malawi, Madagascar, Surinam, Tonga, Brazil, Bolivia, Peru, Macedonia, and Serbia. In each of these places, as well as many others around the world, the same brass instruments we play have been assimilated into the native musical style and culture.

If you want to learn more, check this book out! I highly recommend it.

Brass for a Dancing Audience - 3

The third group that I am sharing is the Boban and Marko Markovic Orchestra. This Serbian brass band has performed lively shows around the world for over twenty years.  With thirteen albums and numerous movie credits, the band has made a name for themselves but it is their talent and high level of skill which sets them apart.  Father and son trumpeters, Boban and Marko, have received prestigious awards for their musical prowess.  Perhaps their only competition is the Romanian brass band Fanfare Ciocarlia.  In fact, these two groups have developed a touring show called the Balkan Brass Battle.  The two groups share the stage "to see who blows the hottest and the hardest!" The winner is determined by the enthusiasm of the audience.

Here is a video advertising the show.


The next video is the most recent video from the Boban and Marko Markovic Orchestra.  The inspirations of young Marko Markovic have brought the traditional music of this brass band onto the current music scene.  I was unable to find any type of translation but the video suggests partying and  having a great time. Who couldn't have a good time with this brass playing?

Brass for a Dancing Audience - 2

Another group that I found which plays in clubs and other venues where people are dancing is Slavic Soul Party! This brass band from New York describes their style as "BalkanSoul GypsyFunk." On the Slavic Soul Party! website, a quote from the New York Times describes them:

"Fiery Balkan brass, throbbing funk grooves, Gypsy accordion wizardry, and virtuoso jazz chops: Slavic Soul Party! is just what it says. These nine musicians have created an acoustic mash-up of Balkan and Gypsy sounds with North American music, weaving the gospel, funk, dub, jazz, and Latin influences of New York's neighborhoods seamlessly into a Balkan brass setting and always "delivering a great time.""

Slavic Soul Party! has given exciting performances around the world at festivals, clubs, and even a pool at the Russian Baths. Every Tuesday, the band performs at Barbes in Brooklyn. In addition, they have made 5 cds.

Here is a video of a live performance complete with a dancing audience.



WNYC, the public radio station in New York City, interviewed the group and listened to a live performance. Here is a link to the interview:

http://www.wnyc.org/shows/soundcheck/2009/oct/02/brass-blast-from-the-boroughs/ 

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

William Westney Presentations on Music and Movement

This past Saturday, I attended a day long workshop by Ida Beam guest professor, William Westney.  He is a teacher and pianist with interesting ideas about music, teaching, and practicing.  He is the author of a book entitled The Perfect Wrong Note - Learning to Trust Your Musical Self.  During his visit, Westney gave three different sessions and each was interesting and valuable.  The first event was a philosophical discussion about music, meaning, and the body in motion. During this lecture, Westney discussed the connection of music and the body.  He explained how music is more than organized sound in that it has meaning; in addition, we often determine the music most meaningful to us by its effect on our body and feelings.  He also discussed how our mood can be seen in the way we carry our bodies and how we move; thus, mood can affect how we make music.  We ended this morning session with a preview of the afternoon session.  We paired up and mirrored each other's movements in reaction to the music being played.  Westney suggested that we move/dance to the music we are working on so we can actually feel where the tempo and dynamic changes should be.

In the afternoon, Westney gave his "un-masterclass." This was different than a masterclass where a professional musician listens to a student and then tells them what to do better. In the "un-masterclass," everyone participates. First, Westney's focus was on the relationship between music and movement. Everyone stood in a large circle. As music played, we had to move to the beat, style, and emotion of the piece.  Westney explained how he had the music specifically composed for this presentation so we wouldn't know it. The movement was simple at first; we passed a little ball around the circle, handing it off only on a beat or cadence.  Then, Westney stood in the middle of the circle and moved/danced to the music. We had to mirror his movements. Next, we each took a turn in the middle of the circle. Our movement didn't need to be spectacular, it just needed to reflect what we were hearing. Waltz-like music tended to inspire sweeping fluid movement and atonal computer music inspired jerky motions.  This part of the session continued for about an hour.  Not only was it fun to move to the music but it was interesting to see how other people moved to the same music.  Everyone had a different interpretation and meaning for their movement.
The second part of the session included five performances by students.  The audience was asked to tell what they got out of the performance; what message/meaning did they receive from the performer?  Meaning and musicality were the focus rather than technical issues.  Here are few ideas that were discussed which I found particularly helpful:
 - Think about your audience and what you can communicate and give to them rather than how the performance benefits you individually or how the audience might be judging you.
 - Pretend you are at a competition/audition and play your piece as if you were all the various contestants. Try every style and interpretation...even ones you consider "wrong."
 - Memorizing your music can help make a stronger connection to the audience because you do not have the barrier of the music stand.  Although the stand is not large, not having it can make a big difference.
 - If you are singing, decide whether you are singing the text from your heart or that of a character you will portray.  The same goes for instrumentalists. Give every line meaning and purpose just as if it had text.
 - Play for people. Have them stand or sit right in front of you as you perform and communicate just as if you were in a conversation. The audience comes for this interaction so don't close them off.

Westney's evening session was titled "The Value of Juicy Mistakes in Music, Learning, and Life."  The lecture was full of amusing stories.  Westney explained how musicians can get into a rut by focusing on the concept of perfection.  The phrases like "Practice makes perfect" and "Practice makes permanent" are poorly worded statements that instill a sense of dread in our playing. Mistakes become an opportunity for self degradation rather than learning and growth. Westney proposed revisiting the excitement and vitality of our youth. As babies we moved our bodies freely to the music we heard without concern of looking silly. When learning to walk, we didn't say all sorts of negative things to ourselves when we fell down.  Just like learning to walk or ride a bike, music requires a learning process were the only way to grow is to accept the possibility of falling/crashing/mistakes.  Mistakes should be observed without emotional attachment.  They are something that happens which, contrary to what we might tell ourselves, reflects nothing about us.  Westney suggested being like a detective and try to find out the cause for the mistakes that are happening outside yourself in your playing. His main points for the session included the following:
Remember how fun and enjoyable music can be.
Music can be an oasis for learning and self acceptance.
People who reach virtuosity are those who embrace and take risks.
Observe your mistakes rather than try to manage them.
Don't worry about playing musical at all times. There is a time to focus on technique.
One of the main questions to yourself should be, "How can I make everything I am playing feel great?"

I enjoyed the William Westney's workshop and I highly recommend you attend one if you have the chance. Here are links to his website and his book.

http://www.williamwestney.com/
http://www.amazon.com/Perfect-Wrong-Note-Learning-Softcover/dp/1574671456/ref=tmm_pap_title_0

Monday, March 5, 2012

Brass for a Dancing Audience - 1

In the next few posts, I would like to share a type of connection between brass and movement which I haven't discussed yet.  We have already looked at brass musicians who dance and brass musicians who play for professional dancers.  Today we are going to look at brass musicians who play for social dancing.  This post one of three that will feature a specific group.

 The first group is the Molotow Brass Orkestar.  This group from Berne, Switzerland, describes their music as "Balkan Brass meets Swiss Folk music with a little bit of klezmer and ska on the side."  This group has performed in a variety of settings. In addition to their recordings, they make music for public and private shows and parties.  They have also participated at festivals such as the Emergenza Festival, the Buskers Festival, and the Brass Durham International Festival.

The Molotow Brass Orkestar gives lively performances which almost demand dancing. In this video, you can see people dancing in a club/bar setting.

 

One interesting thing, as you will see, is the instrumentation.  The group includes two rotary valve trumpets, baritone, helicon, tuba, and drums. In this particular video, someone plays the alphorn as well.    I personally haven't been to very many clubs/bars but it seems that here in the US, most places with dancing seem to use recorded music or a live rock band.  I wish more groups like this played in the United States.

Websites to Check Out:
http://www.brassorkestar.ch/?lang=english&changelang=yes
http://www.emergenza.net/home.asp
http://www.brassfestival.co.uk/about.html

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Indian Wedding Barat

In the Indian culture, wedding ceremonies include a procession called the barat which includes music and dance.  Outside of Indian, bands have been developed to perform at this specific ceremony.

In Europe, there are two groups that I found available for hire for Indian weddings. The Bollywood Brass Band is "the UK's pioneering Indian-style wedding band."  They have played for the wedding barat in hundreds of ceremonies around the world. They also perform other gigs. Here is a video of them playing for a parade with costumed dancers.



The Bombay Baja Brass Band is another Indian Brass Band in Europe.  They have performed for high profile weddings, processions for dignitaries, movies, and tv.  The following video link includes clips of people dancing to the band's music, the band playing for the Queen, and the band playing for a barat (0:53).

http://youtu.be/65WdcQvYP4k

The first barat band in North America was the Band Bajha Brass.  Their website includes audio samples of the music the music they play for the barat.  Once you are on their site, you will have to click on where it says "Band Bajha Brass" to access the audio recordings.

Jericho - Trumpets on the Go

In the Bible, the story of the battle at Jericho is an example of musicians on the go. Whether or not the Bible is part of your beliefs, this passage gives us historical information about how ancient instruments were used. Here is the verse that explains the role of the instruments.

Joshua 6:3-5, 20

New International Version (NIV)
3 March around the city once with all the armed men. Do this for six days. 4 Have seven priests carry trumpets of rams’ horns in front of the ark. On the seventh day, march around the city seven times, with the priests blowing the trumpets. 5 When you hear them sound a long blast on the trumpets, have the whole army give a loud shout; then the wall of the city will collapse and the army will go up, everyone straight in.
20 When the trumpets sounded, the army shouted, and at the sound of the trumpet, when the men gave a loud shout, the wall collapsed; so everyone charged straight in, and they took the city.


The trumpet/ram's horn that the priests were playing while marching around Jericho is also known as a shofar. This instrument is similar to our brass instruments because sound is created by buzzing the lips. The shofar, however, can only play a few notes of the harmonic series.  Here is a video that shows calls on the shofar. 






Since the traditions of the shofar have been preserved by the Jewish people, we can assume that the sounds in this video are very much like those made at the battle of Jericho.  

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Brass for a Funeral

In the United States, brass musicians are commonly associated with two types of funerals, the New Orleans jazz funeral and military funerals.

The jazz funeral is an interesting part of New Orleans culture that developed from traditions in Africa.  At a funeral, all of the guests will parade with the coffin to the graveyard.  On the way to the gravesite, a brass band will play somber music or a spiritual.  Following the funeral, the brass band leads the parade in celebration of life.  As part of the jazz funeral, brass musicians use music to mourn the dead, celebrate life, accompany the procession and parade, and guide the deceased to their eternal rest.

Here is a video from from a jazz funeral as the coffin is being transported from the church to the gravesite. The band is playing "Just a Closer Walk with Thee."



This next video is of a funeral procession that is more solemn.  The video is supposedly the Tongan Brass Band who I assume are from Tonga. Thus, they obviously don't represent a New Orleans tradition. Still, the video can give us insight into cultural practices around the world and interesting uses of brass instruments.



The link below will connect you to a video of the group the Dirty Dozen Brass Band. Formed in New Orleans in 1977, this band has helped define and celebrate New Orleans culture for over 30 years.  In this video, the group is leading the joyful parade after a funeral.

http://www.facebook.com/video/video.php?v=722301974188

Military funerals are very solemn ceremonies.  Most often, a solo trumpet or bugle will play Taps.  For funerals at the national cemeteries, an entire band will often play.  The music mostly consists of hymns or sacred tunes and patriotic music. The music at a military funeral can accompany a procession or march to the gravesite but mostly serves to honor the deceased as they are being interred. Here are two videos which demonstrate the type of brass music played for military funerals.

Here is a version of Taps with two trumpets echoing each other.


Here is a full band playing for a military funeral.


On a personal note....
A few weeks ago, I played for a funeral for the first time and it was an incredibly emotional experience for me, even though I did not personally know the deceased or any of the guests. It got me thinking about how music can affect people.  Funerals require music that will bring comfort and sympathy.  The musician can either remain distant and disconnected or they can be emotionally involved. I personally strive for emotional connection because musicians are then capable of significantly impacting people. It is a great opportunity to go beyond bringing art and talent to the listener but to bring comfort, peace, or even just a momentary distraction from grief. Perhaps the music even serves as an outlet for the pain. Playing for a funeral really changed my perspective on how I can use music and what I want my goals to be.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Circus Brass

In America, the circus dates back to the late 18th century.  Still touring today, the circus has had an interesting and important role in our history.  Before modern recording technology, musicians would travel with circuses to provide live music. Bands, and especially brass instruments, were suited for this type of show because of the tone and loud volume.


Karl King, notable march composer, played the baritone in a circus band when he was young. Here is a picture of his group. He is the baritone on the left of the tuba.


These musicians were on the go as they traveled around the country. Some groups performed with other circus acts in parades. They would either march or use other means of travel. Here are some pictures of brass players on top of elephants as they traveled.



The history of circus musicians has been neglected. It would be a great topic for further research.  Here is a video of a brass group playing the piece most often associated with circuses, the Thunder and Blazes March (aka Entrance of the Gladiators).



The pictures on this post were found on the following websites:
http://karlking.us/kkingbio.htm
http://thecircusblog.wordpress.com/

For more information about circuses, please see the following websites:
http://www.circusinamerica.org/public/
http://circusworld.wisconsinhistory.org/Library/AboutResearchCenter.aspx
http://www.circushistory.org/index.htm

Drum and Bugle Corps for the Stage

A few weeks ago, I looked at drum and bugle corps. The Blast show and the Crazy Angel Company are two examples of groups based on drum and bugle corps that perform inside on a stage.

Blast is a show that is currently touring the United States. They perform with the same elements as the outdoor drum corps.  They have brass instruments, percussionists, and a color guard with flags, rifles, sabers, and other objects. Together, they use their movement with the music to make an exciting show. Here is a video of Blast.



In Japan, the Crazy Angel Company has a similar type of show.  They combine their brass playing with movement such as dance, color guard, juggling, and sword fighting. Their goal is to "create a new musical culture." This group adds a few other instruments such as saxophone but they are mostly brass. Here is a video of them.




Check out their websites for more information:
http://blasttheshow.com/
http://translate.google.com/translate?hl=en&sl=ja&tl=en&u=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.crazy-angel.com%2F

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Brass Liberation Orchestra

At the beginning of the semester, Professor Manning gave me a link to the group the Brass Liberation Orchestra.  This brass group is on the go in a few different ways. They go to places and move around while they play. The main thing, however, is that the BLO uses their music to support their views on various subjects.  They are using their brass playing to start a movement. The pieces they play are specifically chosen because of the meaning of the lyrics or the context in which they were composed. On their website, you can find recordings and sheet music. You can also read the BLO's views on gentrification and immigrant rights.
Here is a video from an event where they participated

Saturday, February 11, 2012

History of Brass and England's Royalty

Brass instruments have been used by the British Royalty since at least the 16th century. When King Henry VIII was ruling, he organized a tournament in celebration of his new born son. A painting of this event shows six trumpet players on horseback. This photo shows three of the trumpet players.


The man in the middle is most likely John Blanke, a black trumpeter who served as a musician for both Henry VII and Henry VIII. Perhaps before this time, and surely after, brass instruments have been used for many royal celebrations. These include births, weddings, and coronations. We don't know exactly what these trumpeters played, but we know that the royalty like to uphold traditions. The following two videos are examples of trumpet fanfares at recent Royal Weddings.

Start at 0:53.




For this next one, start at 1:00.



To me, it does not seem out of the question to think that the trumpeters depicted in the painting from Henry VIII's time would have played something similar to the fanfares in these videos.

As I was searching for information, I came across the Westminster Abbey website. They explain how during a coronation service a fanfare is sounded just after the crown has been placed on the head of the Sovereign. In addition, every coronation ceremony since that of George II in 1727 has used Handel's "Zadok the Priest." This piece includes 3 trumpets. Isn't is possible that these same trumpets played a fanfare? Also, this is Handel's version of the piece. According to the Westminster Abbey website, the words have been sung at every coronation sing King Edgar in 973. Perhaps Handel wasn't the first to use trumpets along with this text. As for now, I haven't found any other information but it would be interesting to study. Although this is not a brass ensemble piece, we can still listen and imagine how the trumpet was used in the history of British royalty.

Here is a link to a video with the piece. It is not able to embed on this blog. Also, the trumpets at the beginning are not part of the actual piece.

http://youtu.be/lW9Uudkx42g

See also:
http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/pathways/blackhistory/early_times/blanke.htm
http://www.westminster-abbey.org/our-history/royals

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Brass for Today's Royalty

Today, we can find musicians on the go working for royalty around the world.  Most of these groups serve as pomp and circumstance. Although there is the history of mounted bands from years past, the groups today mostly perform for parades and exhibitions.

In England, the Household Cavalry includes musicians who perform both on horseback and by marching. Here is a picture of them on horseback.



Here are their trumpets playing during a pageant performance.


In Belgium, the Royal Mounted Escort includes a Drum and Trumpet Corps. This groups plays to "herald the arrival of the monarchs."


 In the country of Oman, the Sultan organizes the Royal Equestrian and Camel Festival.  The show in 2006 included 1000 horses, 500 camels, and 1500 musicians. Here is a picture of a group performing.



The following video doesn't have any great footage of a musician on a horse or camel, but it can give us an idea of what the festival is about.



Finally, I saved the best for last. In the past, there was such a thing as a bicycle infantry. Clearly, our military forces no longer use bicycles for travel. In the Netherlands, however, they have maintained the tradition. This includes musicians. Here is a video of the Royal Netherlands Mounted Bicycle Band. :)





Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Silly Post

Brass groups can even use movement to enhance their hairstyle! Perhaps moving your hair helps with trills? (see 0:56)

 

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Drum and Bugle Corps

For today's example of brass and movement, I'm looking at the Drum and Bugle Corps. For this post, we will only be discussing the present....we will discuss history at a later time. Here in the US, drum and bugle corps are the summer activity for many high school and college musicians. The groups work on a show and then compete throughout the summer as they travel around the country. These groups differ from marching bands in that they are only brass, percussion, and color guard. What does the movement do for this type of group?

*The musicians march (also run and dance) around the field to create a non-stop visual treat. With all sorts of lines, patterns, and images, the group can make moving-art with people. The uniforms and the color guard add color and variety to the shapes.
*The music that is being played is aiding the color guard and dancers with their movement.
*The movement is so continuous and strenuous that it gives the musicians a "performance rush." This is a side effect that makes the performance more enjoyable for the performers. It is like an adrenaline high.
*All of the aspects of this performance provide entertainment for the audience. Movement is a major component of the entertainment value. You don't go to see a drum corps stand there.

Here is a video of a US drum corps called the Blue Devils.



Drum and bugle corps also exists in other countries. Here is a video that I believe is from Japan.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

What can movement add to a performance? - Example 3

One of the best things that movement can add to a performance is audience interaction/participation.

Here is in an example. This is the Main Street Philharmonic from Disney World. They sometimes march while playing the parades at the theme park. However, they also stop for performances as well. In this video, there are in one area. There is a little bit of dancing and grooving with the music but no special choreographed routine. The part that I would like to emphasize is the movement for pictures.  While playing, the members of the group pose for pictures with people.  I think this helps keep the audience engaged and it makes the performance interactive. In concert hall performances, those onstage may come across as cold and indifferent to the audience.  These players are the exact opposite.  Their goal is to entertain and literally reach the people.


Saturday, January 28, 2012

What can movement add to a performance? - Example 2

The next example of a music and movement relationship is brass ensemble playing for dancers.  In this example, I am specifically talking about professional dancers and choreographed works.  I was able to find two excellent examples online. The first is example is the San Antonio Brass.  This brass quintet collaborated with the Guadalupe Dance Company, "one of the leading Folkl√≥rico and Flamenco dance groups."1  


In this performance, dance and music are combined to create art, celebrate culture, and share a traditional Spanish and Mexican dance style.


Another example of dancers with brass is the Music in Motion project. It is a collaboration (in progress, I believe) between the Atlantic Brass Quintet and the kerPlunk Dance Company.  The performers include the 5 brass musicians and 5 dancers.  Here is a link to the Atlantic Brass Quintet website which includes a promotional video and a press release with information about the collaboration. 


http://www.atlanticbrassquintet.com/v.php?pg=77



Hopefully there will be an opportunity to see a performance! Working with other artists is inspiring and educational. I hope to do something like this in the future. 


See also:
http://www.sabrass.org/index.php

Footnotes:
1 -http://www.guadalupeculturalarts.org/dance/company.htm

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

What can movement add to a performance? - Example 1

One of the first questions that came to mind when I started this blog was, "Are there any brass musicians who do a routine while they play?" Yes! Here is a great video of the Canadian Brass doing their "Tribute to the Ballet."




Movement and dance play a huge role in this performance.  If you were only listening to this piece, you would have a different reaction. With this specific recording, you would be confused about the laughter. If it was a studio recording, the music would sound much more serious and dramatic. Although, there are a few humorous moments in the music.  For example there are a couple of big tuba notes/splats. Yet, it is the dancing that makes this performance humorous.  Clearly, these men are not dancers and it is funny to watch them try. Still, they do quite a good job.  The choreography and music are memorized and the music still sounds fantastic. The Canadian Brass are an excellent example of how to use movement in a performance effectively. Their website describes them perfectly:

 "Masters of concert presentations — from formal classical concerts to music served up with lively dialogue and theatrical effects — Canadian Brass has developed a uniquely engaging stage presence and rapport with audiences. Whatever the style, the music is central and performed with utmost dedication, skill and excellence. The hallmark of any Canadian Brass performance is entertainment, spontaneity, virtuosity and, most of all, fun."


I especially like the part "Music is central and performed with utmost dedication, skill and excellence." Movement does not detract from their art.  The members of the Canadian Brass are highly respected by musicians and they can entertain the masses. Movement in this case, made the performance humorous and accessible. 

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Ready, Set, Blog!

Hello! This is my first post for my blog as part of the Advanced Brass Ensemble Literature course.  When I was thinking about a topic, my first idea was to search for a connection between brass and dance. Are there any choreographed dance works set to brass music? Are there any specific brass groups that play for dancers (either for choreography or at a club)? Are there any brass musicians who do a routine while they play? As I started researching I decided to change my idea from dance to movement in general. The goal is to learn about any brass ensemble music where either the performers or the audience is in motion. This can include dancing, walking, running, marching, swimming, traveling by automobile, etc.  I've already found several examples and I can't wait to learn more! I hope this blog can help me, and anyone who wants to read it, learn about various brass ensembles and their cultural significance throughout history.  Also, I hope to inspire new ideas for brass performance.