Large institutions, certainly including schools of music, favor policies that make it easier for them to function smoothly, even if some of the policies aren’t much good. The pernicious trend in education in recent years is to bean count everything, i.e. come up with standardized tests or other measuring for as much as possible.
OK: here we are, a bunch of horn players sitting around the campfire (e.g.), sharing war stories on the Craziest Thing I Ever Played. My turn. I toss a stick into the fire and my eyes glaze over.
“Had to be “Turnarounds” for horn and tape by Israel Neuman. Somehow he got ahold of Doug Hill’s book on extended techniques. It’s a wonderful, comprehensive book on the subject that every horn player should own, but I believe it is illegal in most states leave a composer alone in a room (i.e. without a hornist present) with this book lest they try to make a whole piece out of nothing but. Turnarounds is an 8 minute encyclopedia of weird, a catalogue of crazy.
It was back in 2007 or 08. Israel was a bass player doing grad studies at the University of Iowa who apparently decided that there were more opportunities as a composer, so he made the switch, getting into a PhD program in composition.
One day he appeared at my doorstep. He told me his ideas for the piece. I was intrigued, although I should have called the police or escaped to Ulan Bator right then. What was I thinking?
If you learn scales as separate entire entities, then every kind of scale in every key is one more thing you have to learn. If you learn scales by their constituent parts, there are fewer things to learn and they are shorter and you can learn them faster, the same as it’s more effective to learn single words in a foreign language and then string them together to make meaning rather than memorize sentences by rote.
Our next tech project is the natural minor scale. This should go relatively quickly because (assuming you have worked your way through our previous tech projects) you already can whiz through the 1) minor Power Scales in all keys and 2) Phrygian Power Scale. The natural minor scale is simply the latter stacked on top of the former.
When your young horn student has braces, it’s a good idea to find ways to keep them playing that are easy on the inside of the lip. It’s not easy for such tender tissue to be trapped between a cookie cutter metal ring and razor-wire teeth decorations.
Creativity loves obstacles. You, me, people don’t tend to change anything unless something happens that keeps us from doing it the old way. Trying new stuff is uncomfortable, uncertain, strange. And we might make a mistake or look foolish! But this is how new stuff gets discovered. We should actually seek out obstacles more often, just to see what happens. Hence the zen koan: The obstacle is the path. The challenge wakes us up. Makes us think. Invites experimentation. Edward DeBono relates in Lateral Thinking how one day on the way to work there was a detour and he was forced to find an alternate route. He did, and it was 20 minutes shorter than his usual way. Nothing wrong with the old way – that’s why he didn’t go looking for anything new – but being forced to look saved him a couple days of time each month.