It’s no secret that the mother of all horn blogs is Horn Matters by John Ericson and Bruce Hembd. It’s really a spectacular achievement that should be a regular destination of any serious horn player. But you should not live by horn alone any more than you should eat steak and potatoes every meal. Variety is a good thing to help give you a rich educational compost rather than a monoculture. There are a lot of other arts blogs worth visiting to this end. The central gathering point for a slew of such blogs is
More notes from long ago….
The two sides of the brain interfere with each other. Therefore, a real artist (in sports or music or dance etc) has no thought because he is totally focused on the thing he is doing and the feeling of it, all of its subtle requirements, to let it be fulfilled. Left side partisans regard this ‘no-mind’ state required to produce the art as a negative thing.
You learn technique from basic exercises, not from etudes, especially complicated etudes. Unless you break the etude down into its basic components and make an etude out of each basic component.
One of my favorite blogs is Greg Sandow on the Future of Classical Music. He always has a fresh look at classical music. He looks its problems in the eye and comes up with ways to deal with them. I like his post from 11-21-11 entitled “Not So Refined” about the Baroque era – what it was really like (he defends Rene Jacobs’ “rough and explosive” Handel recordings). You should of course read the original, but here’s a summary. The common stereotype of the Baroque era is one of refinement and elegance. Au contraire. If you were to watch, say, a Handel opera, you might find them anything but: “The nobility sat upstairs in the theater, their servants stood downstairs. Everybody talked, all through the performance; people shouted things at the stage. The emphasis was on… spectacle…. flying chariot pulled by fire-breathing dragons. Singers ornamented their music wildly. … The musicians in the orchestra improvised. Of the stage effects… didn’t quite work.” There’s more. Read it – it’s wonderful; you will imagine that era differently from now on. Does anyone know if there is a book that details concert life like this in the 17th-19th centuries?
Time for some summer beachcombing through some interesting music-related links:
Does music help you work better? Check out “The Power of Music, Tapped in a Cubicle“. “Melodious sounds help encourage the release of dopamine in the reward area of the brain, as would eating a delicacy, looking at something appealing or smelling a pleasant aroma.” “People’s minds tend to wander… [and] a wandering mind is unhappy.” Music helps improve your mood, which helps you make good decisions. “The older people are, the less time they spend listening to music at work.”
When Practicing Along Isn’t Enough, WSJ article by Corinna da Fonseca-Wollheim about performance psychologist Noa Kageyama whose ProMind Coaching teaches all kinds of clients the principles of sports psychology. But Mr. Kageyama specializes in applying it to music; he has a blog called The Bulletproof Musician; he just joined the faculty of Juilliard. In days of old, everybody talked scales and arpeggios; nobody talked about performance anxiety. Music is finally catching up to the rest of the world in using the tools and exercises of sports psychology to deal with performance anxiety. U of Oklahoma performance psychologist Bill Moore has published a book called “Playing Your Best When It Counts”; Moore notes how athletes (who have used these techniques for years) differ from musicians. “Moore coaxes teachers and musicians to incorporate performancelike play time into each practice session and lesson. For teachers… the hardest part is learning to bite their tongues when their instinct is to correct.” Moore focuses on building up “mental skills needed in a performance, like courage, trust and … artistry and expression for musicians, strategy for athletes.”
I just played in an orchestra concert that was devoted to the vocal talents of Steve Lippia. The music was bouncy, joyous, delightful swing and standard tunes that were the core of the late Frank Sinatra’s repertoire. Steve Lippia’s vocal channeling of Ol’ Blue Eyes is so dead on that were Frank alive, he could have a case for aural identity theft. I loved every minute of it. I had played the same concert a year or two earlier with a different orchestra and loved it then, too, but this time I got to thinking…
Thinking about master jazz vocalists like Steve Lippia or his source, Frank Sinatra – what they do and and how they do it. While I was sous-chef-ing for a splendid Thanksgiving repast yesterday, I used the laptop to tune in to Pandora to a newly-created Frank Sinatra channel (as I am doing at this moment). As I’m sure you already know, a Pandora channel takes your general selection for a theme and then, like a radio station that your wealthy parents own and dedicate to your personal whims and tastes, plays only pieces in that genre (more or less; it occasionally explores the outer limits of what might reasonably be included in that style). So as I chopped, diced, sliced, stirred, and cleaned-up, I got to listen to another assorted stream of that style. Most of it was Frank, but there were appearances of others, including Ella, Mel, Tony, Louis, Dino, Bobby, Nat, Bing, Ray (even), Michael (B.), and more.
The education of musicians (maybe other arts as well, but I only know about musicians) has a number of Mount Rushmore-sized gaps in it that are neither easy to see (tradition and habit blind us) nor easy to fix (Ocean Liner Curricula, i.e. tradition, habit, vested interest, etc).
One gap is the lack of sufficient and useful training (especially early on) in the aural side of musicianship: sound before sign (or symbol) learning, improvisation & composition (thinking in music), and so on, which contain powerful motivators, learning tools, and build adaptability into the musical DNA of the musician to be able to survive and even thrive in this century (instead of being ready for the 19th as our current education prepares us, mostly). This part is a matter of ossification of attitudes and the status quo – just try to squeeze a new course into the curriculum no matter what the merits – no time, no room(s), it’s not what we’ve done before, the excuses go on and on. The climate is getting colder, but the dinosaurs see no reason to change anything, we’ll have a committee study the matter and then forget about it.
Why Compose? I’m a performer. Why should I?
They once asked a world famous ski jumper if there was a maximum age at which one start learning to ski jump. He answered, “Yes. Three.” There are many activities and skills where it is a definite advantage to start early, and composing is one of them. Current music education is not renowned for exposing anyone early to the creation of music, but unlike ski jumping, you can still begin later – even much later – and not risk death, even though it may feel a bit scary in making the transition from consumer to producer if it’s your first ‘jump’. What awaits you for the effort?
-Extending your practical knowledge of music
-Knowing music ‘from the inside out’
-A new relationship to music and to your instrument
-The ability to compose for yourself, your family, your students – and not having wait for someone far away to come up with something just right for you
But I’m not Beethoven! Why bother?
I’ve been back from horn camp for a couple weeks now. KBHC was wonderful – small bits of sleep sandwiching large amounts of all kinds of horn, playing, listening, teaching. My only regret is because I teach I can’t go to hear all my colleagues deliver their wisdom, though catching up in off hours makes up a good bit of that. It’s possible that the high point for me (although it was all a high point) was when the Moose Drool Quartet (me, Doug Hill, Lin Foulk, Jesse McCormick) did some improvised quartets on faculty night (well-received, but they should have heard us during our one ‘rehearsal’ the night before…). KBHC was a wonderful, exhausting-in-the-head time, and I can’t wait for next year.
Most of the rest of the summer is taken up with fitting the countless pieces of that jigsaw known as a New Course together. “Creativity in Music” will be about how music is created – improvisation and composition. How do you generate ideas? How do you translate those ideas into music? Lots of reading, note taking, audio listening, video watching. Lots of work, but fascinating. I suspect that bits of it will show up here after I’ve had a chance to chew on them a while.
As counterpoint to all the reading for that course, I make forays into the links suggested by the ArtsJournal, that sterling compendium of ideation that appears magically in my inbox every day (like beachcombing, sometimes nothing catches your eye, but sometimes there are real finds), but which I only get around to catching up on about as often as I do all my ironing, say, every three months or so – and then: a marathon. For those of you innocent of ArtsJournal experience, hie thee to the site posthaste and anon.