A few months ago I posted a criticism of Arnold Jacobs pedagogy, specifically related to his dismissal of embouchure as an important factor of brass playing. I recently got a comment on that article that has some very common misconceptions to my brass embouchure research. I wanted to take a moment and address some of those now, using this comment as a launching point for further discussion. I hope that my commenter, Kaj Fagerberg, doesn’t feel singled out here, as his points echo many made by Jacobs himself. Due in part to Jacobs’ pervasive influence, these misconceptions are widespread among brass players.
I think what Jacobs is saying is that the embouchure must vibrate, that’s all it does. There is not a magic setting that one must find, it just produces vibration to produce sound. Our teachers spend so much time trying to get us produce a perfect textbook example of the embouchure, that they forget it’s goal is to vibrate. Yes, a functioning embouchure vibrates, just as a distorted one can. There is no difference. That is the point he is making.
The New York Times has put together a video collage of musicians who died in 2010. Included in this video are Johnny Maestro, Alex Chilton, General Johnson, Lena Horne, Abbey Lincoln, Gary “Diaperman” Shider, Marvin Isley, Bobby Hebb, Captain Beefheart, and others.
To this list I have to sadly add Dr. Billy Taylor, who passed away last Tuesday, December 28th.
The last semester of 2010 just wrapped up. Due to the nature of two of the lecture courses I just taught, I ended up with a lot of papers to grade during the last 3 weeks of the semester. While reading them I made note of some of the common traps that my students run into when writing about music. Even when I go over these mistakes in class, some of them are easy to make.
There are plenty of common writing issues that crop up regardless of the topic of the paper, such as grammar and proper form and style. Different teachers will have their own policies. Personally, I don’t care too much if the paper is done in MLA, APA, or Chicago style, as long as it is consistent (although I’m speaking here for mostly non-music majors taking elective courses). Don’t make up your own system of citing and such. Find out what your teacher wants you to use and make sure that you’re following it.
Last Friday’s annual Christmas Concert fundraiser was well attended and we managed to raise some good money on top of having a good time. I was particularly excited about this concert because I had written a brand new composition for last year’s show, but winter weather forced us to cancel it. We finally got to premier my composition for narrator and big band, music set to the poem A Visit From St. Nick. Rodney Hagans is the narrator, but unfortunately he’s out of the camera frame for the whole video. Still, you can get a good idea of how the chart sounds.
I’ve seen some of these RSA works before. They create neat animations set to public speeches and other events. This particular one’s soundtrack is a talk about education by Sir Ken Robinson on our standard education model. Some very interesting food for thought, as well as being a slick animation to boot.
I just spent a couple minutes poking around Sir Robinson’s web site and it looks like there’s some interesting things to explore, plus lots of bells and whistles (it might load poorly on slow connections).
Tomorrow night, Friday December 17th 2010, the Asheville Jazz Orchestra will be performing its annual Christmas Concert at Trinity United Methodist Church, in west Asheville, NC. We start at 7 PM and the concert is free and open to the public, but a goodwill offering will be collected for the Rathbun Center and Asheville Jazz Council.
The Rathbun Center is an organization that provides housing for family members of medical patients coming for treatment in Asheville. The Asheville Jazz Council is an organization that helps raise funds for events like this and helps bring professional jazz musicians to educational festivals.
This concert will be the premier performance for a composition I wrote for big band and narrator. It’s sort of cartoon music set to the poem A Visit From St. Nick, better known as “‘The Night Before Christmas.” If I get a good recording from the concert I’ll post an audio file here. If not, maybe I’ll post the MIDI demo I put together to help our narrator how his narration is to fit with the music.
We’ll also be playing some of the Stan Kenton Christmas charts, always fun, some other arrangements of mine, and plenty of other holiday songs. Come by if you’re in the area.
Tomorrow (Wednesday, December 15, 2010) I’ll be having a busy night. First, at 7:30 I’ll be joining Eddie LeShure’s Jazz Unlimited program on Main FM. We’ll be playing recordings of local musicians and also talking about the jazz scene in western North Carolina. If you’re in Asheville you can listen in at 103.5 FM, or you can stream online here.
Yesterday I mentioned Bruce Childester’s The Trumpet Blog as one of my recommendations for online brass resources. A short time ago he had a great post on “How to Mark Your Trumpet Music” that I wanted to recommend. He offers examples of several standard practices and other suggestions about how to mark music appropriately.
Some of his points I’d like to reiterate include only marking your music in pencil, so it can be erased. Also, circled music means “tacet” (lay out), not look carefully at this. Many music students will circle things they want to remember, but I encourage everyone to get used to only using circles to mean tacet. You never know when you’ll need a sub last minute. Your substitute may need to sight read a performance and might assume that circled parts mean lay out. On the flip side, you don’t want to be the only one barreling through something you were supposed to lay out on because you didn’t know what that circle means.
One piece of advice I’d like to add to Bruce’s is the use of a dash and number (e.g. “-2”) over notes to indicate exactly when the note is released. It’s common for students to release notes too early, so I often have them mark a whole note, for example, with a “-1” to remind them to release the note after all 4 beats (on the downbeat of the next measure, or off on 1). It’s also useful for effects like “doits” and fall offs (“-3” to mean fall until the 3rd beat, etc.).
While you’re at it, poke around a little at The Trumpet Blog. There’s lots of good stuff in there.
Rather than reproduce what those both say, I encourage you go over there and check their recommendations out. While I’m at it, here are, in no particular order, a few additional brass related sites that I enjoy looking at regularly. You’ll notice that many of them explore areas other than brass, but that’s one of the reasons I enjoy looking through them. Continue reading Web Resources For Brass Players
It’s a busy time for me, with the semester just starting to wrap up, and I’ve much grading to do. There has been an interesting discussion going around in the horn blogosphere lately, which I’d like to comment briefly on before I get back to work.
It seems to have started with Bruce Hembd’s series of articles on Horn Matters, which he calls “‘Radical’ Embouchure Experiments” (part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4). In this series Bruce explores some new embouchure ideas (and revisiting some older ones) that he’s been playing around with lately. They make for an interesting read and while I would argue that the exact procedures may not be the best for every player, it’s clear from the series that he’s just offering this for food for thought and not making recommendations for anyone else.
This series of posts led Julia Rose, the hornist behind Julia’s Horn Page blog, to begin thinking about how her attitude to analysis has changed over time with her post, “No more analyzing.” I think the key thing to keep in mind to understand the context of her post is when she writes, “I understand that this way may not be for everyone, and that some folks may feel the need to analyze. But that method is just not for me anymore” (my emphasis).