Just as a gymnast must adapt and constantly re-distribute her weight and energy in order to perform difficult choreographed routine on a 4 inch wide balance beam, freelance musicians must adapt to a wide variety of demands that are constantly changing.
Lots of projects keeping me busy lately. Until I can get some more original content posted, here are my weekend picks.
How many times does the chorus repeat in your favorite song? How many times have you listened to that chorus? Repetition in music isn’t just a feature of Western pop songs, either; it’s a global phenomenon. Why? Elizabeth Hellmuth Margulis walks us through the basic principles of the ‘exposure effect,’ detailing how repetition invites us into music as active participants, rather than passive listeners.
We put a Carnegie Hall orchestra in the middle of New York City and placed an empty podium in front of the musicians with a sign that read, “Conduct Us.” Random New Yorkers who accepted the challenge were given the opportunity to conduct this world-class orchestra. The orchestra responded to the conductors, altering their tempo and performance accordingly.
I just began working on a new project that is taking up much of my free time just now. It’s not ready for a public announcement, but it will be of particular interest to student jazz composers and involve the Asheville Jazz Orchestra. Details on the AJO web site and here when it’s ready to go live.
Speaking of the AJO, we played a private event for one of our trumpet players, Woody, and his wife, Becky. Their sons threw them a 40th anniversary party. Since it wasn’t a formal performance for us and there were a lot of musicians in the crowd to sit in, I got to go out front and listen for a change. I even moved around and took a bunch of photos. Too bad I didn’t think to bring a better camera.
At any rate, here are some music related links for you to surf this weekend. There’s a bit of a theme this weekend. Everything here is something I take with a grain of salt.
Researchers have discovered a universal property of scales. Until now it was assumed that the only thing scales throughout the world have in common is the octave. The many hundreds of scales, however, seem to possess a deeper commonality: if their tones are compared in a two- or three-dimensional way by means of a coordinate system, they form convex or star-convex structures. Convex structures are patterns without indentations or holes, such as a circle, square or oval.
Do you buy it? Assuming the math is sound, it’s probably just an interesting quirk. At least that’s my guess.
Speaking of the end, here is Frank Zappa explaining the decline of the music business. An interesting perspective from someone who experienced a changing music industry, but the business has changed quite a bit more since Zappa recorded this.
And finally, here is “Hans Groiner” discussing the music of Thelonious Monk. The comments on YouTube are hilarious.
I’m directing and performing with the Asheville Jazz Orchestra again tonight (Friday, August 8, 2014) at the White Horse in Black Mountain, NC. The show starts at 8 PM and we’ll play two sets of big band jazz. If you’re in the area looking for live music, please consider coming on out.
Here are some music related links for you to check out this weekend.
The first time I ever performed on the street (AKA “busking”) I had just graduated high school. A sax player heard me play and we talked for a while about a band he was playing in. A month later I went off to college and coincidentally I met another member of that band, eventually leading into me recording and playing some gigs with them. Recently I started busking again with some friends I play trad jazz with. We’ve found it to be a fun way to practice new material, essentially becoming a way to make a bit of money to rehearse. Sometimes if we’ve got some down time on an out of town tour we will go out and play on the street to not only pick up a few more bucks but also plug our gigs later. If you’re interested in trying out performing on the street, check out this advice on How to Busk.
One piece of advice I often give to my composition/arranging students is that they should show their parts to players that perform the instruments they are writing for. Even instruments in the same family will differ in terms of playability. For example, I sometimes get parts written by trumpet players that lay horribly for trombone because they took what they wrote for a trumpet and simply transposed it down an octave. Horn is a particularly challenging instrument for me to write well for because it has some idiosyncrasies that don’t translate from the other brass instruments. Fortunately, John Ericson has given us 9 Ways We Can Tell a Composer or Arranger Doesn’t Know How to Write for the Horn.
Although we are all now more culturally comfortable bathing in conversations about art and brain, are we making progress? Has looking into the brain helped us make sense of the arts? Here I will briefly explain why I believe we have made little progress. And then I will propose an alternative route to understanding art and its origins.
And an interesting article from Missy Mazzoli on composing classical music, Missy Mazzoli Defies Dogma, Demands Diversity. In discussing music composed by William Brittelle that includes electric guitar and drum set, Mazzoli asks:
Why is the classical music world not clambering to claim this excellent music for its own? Because its creators use repetition as a compositional tool? Because they write triads? Is it the electric guitars? The drums? Is it that the composers don’t look or act like the “composers” we read about in music history class? Let it go!
There are many theories about Mozart’s death, ranging from poisoning to renal disease. If you’re into academic articles about medical problems that performing artists deal with, you can read another theory, Vitamin D deficiency contributed to Mozart’s death. Jazz musicians beware! Staying out all night and sleeping all day has consequences.
Lastly, Bob Pixley, Deputy Professor of Music and Substitute 3rd Trumpet for the Herrodsburg Volunteer Fire Department Brass Quintet, offers his trumpet tips on the “whisper key.”
I’ll be playing and directing the Asheville Jazz Orchestra again at our monthly show at the White Horse Black Mountain in Black Mountain, NC this Saturday. The first set of big band jazz starts at 8 PM. I’m excited about a couple of “subs” who will be playing with us. Visiting from Michigan State University, Joe Lulloff will be playing alto sax. Brad Jepson, one of the co-directors of the Greenville Jazz Collective Big Band, will be playing in our trombone section. It should be a particularly hard-swinging band this time around, so I’ve put a bunch of challenging charts in the set list. If you’re in the area, come on out.
At any rate, it’s Friday and here are some of my picks for your music-related surfing this weekend. Enjoy.
If the ensemble has to stop because of you, explain in detail why you got lost. Everyone will be very interested.
I had bookmarked this page with a black and white photograph of Louis Armstrong In Egypt. It talks a little bit about the United State’s “jazz diplomacy” during the Cold War. Coincidentally, I recently came across a very well done colorized version of the same photo (and 53 other colorized historical photos).
And to finish off this week, if you ever suffered from self-defeating thoughts about maybe not just having the natural ability to play music, watch this amazing horn player.
A sudden burst of music from the Guy Lombardo band
Here’s a photo of me doing my best to play schmalzando. I’m the trombonist on the far right here.
Do you have a tune that you just can’t get enough of? If you want to listen to an infinite, yet still ever changing version of that track you can upload it to The Infinite Jukebox. For fun I tried it with a 10 piece trombone choir composition I wrote. Not sure if this link will work, but you can always try out your own. It probably lends itself to certain styles. While the full results aren’t really all that exciting, some of those random moments are pretty interesting and could make for a composition exercise or method to come up with ideas.
Lastly, Mick sent me a video of Weird Al Yankovic’s tribute to Frank Zappa, Genius in France.
It’s Friday, so you might be looking for some music related web sites to browse this weekend. But first, if you’re around Hendersonville, NC tomorrow night (Saturday, June 21, 2014) come out to the Southern Appalachian Brewery for some local beer and traditional early jazz by the Low-Down Sires. The music goes from 8-10.
If you’re around Greenville, SC, you need to check out the Greenville Jazz Collective Big Band. The will be playing two sets on Monday, June 23, 2014 starting at 7:30 at the Mellow Mushroom in Greenville. Bassist Shannon Hoover and trombonist Brad Jepson co-lead the GJC Big Band, but Brad will be missing this show. That’s unfortunate, but Brad asked me to fill in for him, so I get to jam with them.
Here are my weekend picks for you.
The Greenville Jazz Collective web site. Start there and let the music play while you look at the rest. Live recording from the Altamont Theater in Asheville, NC.
Practicing a Difficult Passage Effectively is advice by hornist Jonathan West. He discusses several ways to make your practice time more efficient and there’s probably something new in there for almost everyone.
Writing for Slate, Jan Swafford gives a very nice summary on how our concept of intonation in western music has changed over the centuries. The Centuries-Old Struggle to Play In Tune starts in antiquity through the development of equal temperament.
And lastly, settle back to listen and watch the greatest 4th chair trumpet player who ever lived, Pete Barbuti.
How old are you? Did you know that your abilities to hear higher pitches are dependent on your age? Check it out and see how closely your high frequency hearing matches your expected age here.
If you’re a fan of the London Symphony Orchestra or Ravel’s Bolero go take a look at the LSO’s interactive video performance. You can change camera views to many different sections and view multiple camera angles at once. All I want to know is why Valery Gergiev using a toothpick to conduct?
And lastly, although this isn’t really very musical, check out coin magician David Roth performing his routine called “Tuning Fork.”