I’ve had a bit of a gap between posts due a very interesting but intense April schedule, including – in the space of about ten days, a trip to the Cincinnati Conservatory (giving some workshops at the behest of the ever-gracious and amazing Randy Gardner) and Iowa Brass Quintet concerts and workshops in Okoboji, IA, Sioux Falls, SD, Wayne State NE, and Madison, WI. Jolly good fun and lots of frequent driver miles, but greatly diminished times to do much else, greatly increased work for my wife (who, besides working all day is in the final stages of music directing an opera as well as taking care of our daughter, who is slowly recovering from a lingering virus), with make-up lessons galore coming up, plus recital hearings, eight grad recitals to attend, finish reading comps and turn them in, horn studio recital. Typical end of semester: never a dull moment, but I promise to resume posts as soon as I can. The long stretches in the van were good for rumination, and I did get some ideas that can percolate and turn into posts anon.
Valves have certainly made our lives as horn players easier in many ways, but their presence has also unfortunately engendered a gap in contemporary horn education. Here’s an example. Hand over heart: if I called out a number or several numbers of overtone series notes, could you, without looking at the illustration above and without hesitation
1) Know what notes the numbers refer to
2) Play them – i.e. be able to find them quickly on the overtone series
3) Make up an exercise with them, and perhaps extrapolate a series of exercises with them
4) Know pitch tendencies for each note (flat/sharp) vs the tempered scale
Piet [pron. “peet”] Swerts is a Belgian composer/pianist who is a giant among composers for saxophone music, and our [i.e. U of Iowa] sax prof Kenneth Tse invited him to be a guest artist at UI: for masterclasses and solo piano and chamber music recitals of his music. He hasn’t written much for horn, but I was tapped to perform his “Signals” for horn and piano on the chamber music concert. We hit it off immediately and talked about all sorts of things before settling down to rehearse. At one point I was telling him about my classical improv class and Latitude Ensemble [improvised chamber music], and got a better idea: instead of telling, show.
“Let’s make up some music,” I said. “I’ll start, you come in.” He’s a pianist and composer, but hasn’t improvised before with anyone. But he was game. Continue reading