Helium and Pitch

Do you know why brass and woodwinds go sharp as the instruments get warmed up? It’s common for people to respond that it’s because as the temperature goes up objects expand (true), but if you think this through carefully you’ll realize that this would cause the opposite. The actual effect of the expansion of the instrument due to the temperature increase is pretty negligible, there’s another more dramatic effect that pulls the pitch in the opposite direction. Sound travels faster in a warmer temperature making the pitch go higher.

Many years ago I took a Brass Pedagogy class over to the Physics Department and we did some informal experiments filling up our instruments with helium and trying to play this way. Because sound travels dramatically faster in helium the pitch was quite a bit higher pitched. The woodwind and vocal students in my class had a lot of trouble playing a brass instrument this way, the brass majors found it a little easier. Trying it out myself I found it odd to feel the pitch I was playing but hearing a higher pitch but was able to ignore it and play a steady pitch. This suggested to me that the more experienced the brass player the more “muscle memory” they use to help them play with accuracy.

Here’s a video that demonstrates the same experiment filling up instruments and lungs with helium and showing the humorous results.

Musician Looking For Restaurant To Promote Their Work

Spotted on Craigslist, but already removed.

Craigslist Ad :We are a small & casual restaurant in downtown Vancouver and we are looking for solo musicians to play in our restaurant to promote their work and sell their CD. This is not a daily job, but only for special events which will eventually turn into a nightly event if we get positive response. More Jazz, Rock, & smooth type music, around the world and mixed cultural music. Are you interested to promote your work? Please reply back ASAP.

And the reply:

Happy new year! I am a musician with a big house looking for a restauranteur to promote their restaurant and come to my house to make dinner for my friends and I. This is not a daily job, but only for special events which will eventually turn into a nightly event if we get positive response. More fine dining & exotic meals and mixed Ethnic Fusion cuisine. Are you interested to promote your restaurant? Please reply back ASAP.

Gig Anecdotes

Gig Anecdotes is a web site devoted to exactly what you would expect, personal anecdotes about wacky experiences by gigging musicians.  For example, there’s the story about the highly experienced drummer who took a gig working with an amateur choreographer.

We all got a bunch of satisfaction out of this exchange, which took place immediately after another of her inane musical ‘directions’ —

Dancer: Have you ever even worked with dancers before?
Drummer: Sure I have.
Dancer (incredulously): Oh really? Where?
Drummer (nonchalant): Academy Awards.
Dancer: (silence)

The stories from most of my own gigs were either had-to-be-there moments or are mostly sad, rather than funny.  Like the time I showed up for a jazz gig at a venue that turned out not to be a country club, but a country bar (no, there wasn’t chicken wire).  The couple of patrons in there left as soon as we started playing, except for one drunk who pulled out a harmonica and proceeded to play along with us.  The bandleader mistakenly thought if he let him sit in on a blues he’d be satisfied and stop, but that just encouraged him.  This went on for an entire set.  Did I mention he was the only audience member at this point?  For a moment I thought the pianist was going to get in a fistfight with him.  Needless to say, that was my one and only gig at that club.

Have a gig story you want to share?  Go over to Gig Anecdotes and tell the world.

The Repentant Band Leader

Speaking of band leading, I’m directing the Asheville Jazz Orchestra tonight at 8 PM at the White Horse Black Mountain.  Cover charge is $12.  Stop by and say hello if you’re in the area.  Now, on to the Repentant Band Leader.

The Repentant Band Leader

And so it came to pass, during one date, that the Sidemen were assailed by Doubts, and Darkness descended upon the Bandstand. And the Leader turned to his quaking flock and saith, “My children, why Doest thou doubt me? Have I not led you through the Valley of the Loading Dock to the Great Land of Long Breaks, Hot Meals, and Undertime?

“Have I not banished the dreaded Macarena from the Set List and allowed thee to Blow on selected numbers? Do we not play the Correct Changes for the Bridge of  Girl From Ipanema? And do we not play Motown selections at the Proper Tempos? And do I not pay you all equitably, neither overpaying the Chick Singers, nor underpaying the Horn Players? And are there not Charts for the Horns, so that thou need no Fake Parts? So why doth thou protest when I call The Willie Nelson Song, or The Jack son 5 Ballad? Are they not preferable to Achey Breaky Heart or anything by Celine Dion? Wouldst thou rather suffer Flung Beverage Containers or Scowls and Hectoring by the Aunts and Uncles?”

And the Sidemen answered him. “But Father, we look out into the Dance Floor, and we see The Maelstrom. We fear the Youngsters with Pierced Body Parts, as well as the Ancient Ones with Canes and Walkers. Also do we fear the Bridesmaids with the Large Hair and the Groomsmen with Cigars and Dishevelled Tuxedos. Also do we fear the Relatives from the Great Southwest, as well as those from California , and from New York . Also do we regard with Fear and Loathing the Party Planner, and the Room Captain. But mostly do we fear the Bride and Her Mother, who ruleth the Earth, yea, even above you, our Leader.”

And the Leader looked and saw that this was true. And he took his Book and he flung it into the Buffet Heaters. And he took his Baton and he broke it over his knee. And he took his Red Bow Tie and he rent it asunder. And he turned to the Party Planner and he said, “Now you have no power over me, Minion of Evil!”

And he turned to the Room Captain and he said, “I will leave by the Lobby Entrance.”

And he turned to the Bride and said, “Take thy Whitney Houston CD and place it where thy Groom may find it during your Honeymoon.”

And he turned to the Bride’s Mother and said, “Thy Daughter is a Spoiled Brat and I hope that she soon Divorces her Callow Husband and returneth to live with thee with her three children for the rest of thy Natural Life.”

And he turned to the drummer and said, “The band is yours.” And he went home and slept deeply and soundly and arose the next day smiling and began making calls to find work as a Sideman.

How Important Is Soundtrack Music?

It’s a busy time for me just now, so I’m afraid updates will be a little longer between for a bit.  At any rate, here’s something interesting I just saw.

It’s a good demonstration of just how powerful an effect the music has on our perception of the action in a film or video project.  I’ve done something similar a few times with students by recording someone walking down a hallway and dubbing in different music  for the that exact same scene.  As the music changes, so does the feel you get of the person walking.  In the above video, the change in music makes the happy Sound of Music turn into a dark and terrifying drama.

Behavioral Violation for Symphony Orchestras

Orchestra season has started up again.  This Sunday I’ll be performing with the Brevard Philharmonic, with violinist Rachel Barton Pine performing a piece I wasn’t familiar with before, Scottish Fantasy for Violin and Orchestra, Op. 46 by Max Bruch.  We’ll also be performing Beethoven’s Overture to Fidelio and Mendelssohn’s Symphony No. 5.

In the spirit of the season, here is something everyone who performs with orchestras can take to your next rehearsal and hand out with abandon.  I should probably not be spreading this around, as I see that I am most recently in violation of the following: Continue reading Behavioral Violation for Symphony Orchestras