Monday, April 24, 2017

Renegade Brass Band

The Renegade Brass Band is a group originally from the United Kingdom who put a new twist on the traditional brass band. The group features 8 horns including, trumpets, trombones, saxophone, tuba, two percussionists, a scratch DJ, and a rapper. They plays music the combines aspects from a variety of genres including, rap, hiphop, EDM, funk, latin, and jazz.

They have mainly been playing shows in Europe and have opened for artists such as Busta Rhymes, Grandmaster Flash, De La Soul, among others. RBB released 3 albums including Totems, RBB: Rhymes Beats & Brass, RBB: Rhymes Beats & Brass (Remixed).
RBB has a unique sound, and I think they effectively feature all the different sections of the band, which could be difficult with such a large ensemble. I also really enjoy the use of the scratch DJ. In EDM, many DJ's don't know how to scratch or choose not to, so it's fun to hear. Here's one of their tracks, Folding Money.

EBM Equipment: The Looper Pedal

In an effort to create more brass music, I thought it would be a good idea to bring up some equipment that can be used for the creation of EDM. This first, and in my opinion one of the most enjoyable to play with, is the looper pedal.

Originally used by guitar players, this is a fun gadget that allows you to essentially play music on top of motives you create. In the most simple way, a player can hit the looper foot switch to record a loop, play a note or a series of notes, and hit the foot switch again to close the loop.

When first using a looper pedal, the part that takes the most practice is getting the timing right. Starting and stopping the loop at the right time is important so the loop syncs correctly, but once you are able to get that coordination lined up the musical possibilities are endless.

The loops can have extreme variance in length, from one quarter note to a whole 12 bar blues progression.

Other effects you can use depending on the type of looper pedal you have include...
  • Overdubbing- recording more tracks on top of the existing loops
  • Quantization- automatically syncing the loop rhythmically
  • Delay- having the entrance of the loop delayed a specific amount of time
  • Filtering- altering the timbre of the recorded sound
In the link here, there are a list of 5 reputable looper pedals you can purchase and a break down of specs of each pedal. Pedals can vary in price depending upon their features, with some including only the basics and others including multiple pedals and effects.

Here is an example of a horn player using a looper to perform Viva La Vida by Coldplay

Cupcake: My Commissioned Work

So while researching about EBM, I have noticed that the biggest problem surrounding electronic brass music is the extreme lack of options. There are not a lot of pieces written for this type of ensemble, and the works that are written are not well publicized.

In an effort to improve this, I recently commissioned a work from Zach Meier for Horn and Electronics called Cupcake. Probably my favorite part of the piece is its name, but besides that I wanted a work that was melodic and included a section inspired by EDM.

Zach did just that by creating a piece that was a fusion of academic and popular use of electronics. The beginning and end feature abstract soundscapes while the horn does some extended techniques and plays drones that compliment the electronics. In the middle, there is a more upbeat EDM inspired section, where the horn takes center stage improving melodically over the electronic accompaniment.

This work has yet to be recorded, but will be premiering this Friday at 7:30pm in 2451 Voxman!

Sunday, April 23, 2017

The Timmy Trumpet Deception

Originally I was looking forward to blogging about the music of an EDM artist named Timmy Trumpet. However upon discovering his music, I noticed one very important thing... he rarely ever plays trumpet in any of his music, and when does play trumpet it is prerecorded and altered with filters.
This brings up the point that although the majority of brass players are honest about their abilities and playing, there are some that use an instrument as a gimmick. These artists try to find a way to set themselves apart from the rest, even if it means lying about their abilities.

Below is one of his most famous tracks, Freaks by Timmy Trumpet and Savage. This has about 30,000,000 views on youtube, and is quite discouraging because it features a "trumpet" midi that doesn't even sound like a trumpet.

It goes to show you that just because your DJ name includes an instrument does not necessarily mean you can play it...

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Elliott Carter's Brass Quintet

Originally written in 1974, Elliot Carter's Brass Quintet is a modern work originally commissioned by the American Brass Quintet. Because of the Carter's choices involving rhythm, harmony, and the layering of parts, it is a exceedingly difficult piece to rehearse and perform. Below is a recording and answers to some guided questions based on my opinions of the piece.

1. What's the overall affect of the piece? How does the music make you feel and why?

This piece is interesting to listen to because of its complexity. However, because it sounds avant-garde both rhythmically and melodically, I am left unsatisfied with the final product. I can appreciate the high level of playing ability needed by the ensemble in order to effectively perform this work, but because of its expanded tonality, lack of melody, and unclear pulse, it is not very impressionable to me.

I am very much a believer in composing and performing music that is accessible to a broad range of audiences. Although I am all for playing pieces that stretch the listener's ear, this seems to be a work written in such a complex manner that the music itself suffers.

2. What are 2 or 3 unique characteristics of the piece? Mention measure numbers.

The amount and type of muting is a unique characteristic. For example, in m. 72-95 and m. 194-210 the muted horn has to imitate the nasal quality of the 2nd trumpet.

The difficult stopped passages in the horn is also a unique feature. Often the horn will have to go from open to stopped or stopped to open in the span of less than a beat like in m. 110. This takes great skill and a lot of practice to play successfully.

Carter makes use of interesting rhythms and layers rhythms in unique ways. For example in m. 133, He has dotted 32nd notes, along with five-tuplet dotted rhythms, and 16th notes all playing at the same time.

3. Comment on the harmonic, melodic, and rhythmic language. What are some of the challenges?

In my opinion, the most challenging and complex part of the piece is the use of rhythms and the layering of the different rhythms within the parts. Each player has a very individualized rhythmic part that involves a lot of awkward and varied rhythms. On top of that, there is never a clear sense of pulse because of the way in which the rhythms are written, so this makes lining up the individual parts even more difficult within the ensemble.

Both the melodies and harmony add to the challenge of the work. Melodically, the music is very disjunct. There are a lot of difficult leaps, and there does not seem to be much repetition of motivic or melodic ideas. Harmonically, the work mainly sounds atonal. There are not many instances where the key area is clear, and Carter seems to purposely avoid any cadential progressions and favors a lot of chromatic motion instead.

Friday, April 21, 2017

EDM and Brass Midi's

There is a lot of EDM music today that features brass, but sadly they use midi tracks instead of the real instruments. Here's a pretty popular EDM tune that does just that...

Higher Ground by TNGHT

This brings to question the issue of why do these artists use midi's instead of the real thing?

I think the main reasoning has to do with accessibility, time, and cost.

Midi's are now easily accessible, and the brass sounds are continually being improved upon. Brass midi instruments sound more realistic than ever before. Although they do not sound real by any means, for an EDM artist the fact that they can use something "close" to the actual sound at the push of a button seems more logical than hiring someone to play the music. There also isn't a stigma behind using things such as midi, autotune, among others to alter the music because it is normal for EDM music to sound completely digital.

Time and cost factor in because hiring the musicians, setting up the recording session, and paying all the fees behind creating recording take time and money. Again, when EDM artists do not have the pressure to use live recordings, the don't see the need to go to all the trouble to create them. Also, it's important to note that typically EDM music only features short riffs or motives with the brass instruments, so it's debatable whether its worth it to record brass when the music used is so short in length.

Although in some cases midi's are replacing brass instruments in EDM music, there are still some artists using actual brass instruments. This means there's hope for us yet! Although it's unlikely the use of brass ensembles will be the new big thing in EDM music, it's encouraging to see artists making use of the actual instruments in their songs.

Higher by XXTRAKT

Mercy Me by XVII

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Terminus Horns

The Terminus Horns are not a typical bass band, but is a group worth noting because they work heavily with pop and EDM artists. The group consists of Justin Powell on trumpet, Richard Sherrington on trombone, and Umoclisi Terrell on saxophone.

They have worked with a large number of musicians, and although they have yet to write a lot of their own music, they have been very successful accompanying and arranging songs by other artists.

Here's a video where they covered a portion of Love, Sex, and Fancy Things by The Floozies

Here's a live performance where they played with Sam Burchfield for the song, Accidentally Cute.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Steve Bryant's Electroacoustic Music

Steve Bryant is a notable composer in the music world today and has composed works for a variety of ensembles including wind ensembles, orchestras, and brass bands. He studied composition at Juilliard, University of North Texas, and Ouachita University.

As of now he has composed approximately 7 works in the realm of electroacoustic music, and although he has not written anything specifically for a brass ensemble and electronics, he has heavily used winds and brass within his electroacoustic works. I personally appreciate that he maintains sense melody and tonality when working with electronics. I also enjoy the way he blends the electronics in with the acoustic instruments, which can often be difficult to balance.

Two of my favorites include...
Hummingbrrd (2012) for Euphonium and Electronics

Ecstatic Waters (2008) for Wind Ensemble and Electronics

Thursday, April 13, 2017

JacobTV and his works for brass

One student in our class presented a trombone quartet titled "Jesus is Coming" by JacobTV and it made me want to look more into this composer's bio and works.

JacobTV is definitely a person of notoriety in the realm of electronics and music. Considered to be a dutch "avant pop" composer, he started as a rock musician and studied electronic music and composition at the Gronignen Conservatoire.

JacobTV has a collection of works that he has labeled as boombox repertoire. These works are written for live instruments and a groove based back track. They often incorporate speech and have the vocals create a rhythmic groove that the ensemble plays along with.

He has written for all sorts of ensembles and instruments ranging anywhere from voice to harp. Below is one of his works for trombone and tape titled, "I was like wow!" performed by Jorgen van Rijen.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Listening Party: Part 3

Today in class we had another listening party! Here is a sampling of some of the works played...

Symphony for Brass and Percussion by Alfred Reed

Alfred Reed (1921-2005) was a prominent American composer, who approximately 250 works in his life time including many notable works for band and chamber ensemble.  His Symphony for Brass and Percussion is a staple work in the realm of brass ensemble literature and a pleasure to listen to.

Shadowcatcher by Eric Ewazen

This is a four movement work for brass quintet and wind ensemble. This piece in particular is special to me in because I was able to be part of the recording for the cd, Shadowcatcher (2013) with the Western Brass Quintet and Western Michigan University Wind Ensemble.

Madding Crowd by Lansing McLoskey

This is a piece where each movement features a different instrument and was commissioned for the Triton Brass. It's a new age piece featuring a lot of variety and unique use of rhythm and improvisation. The video below is of the third movement, which features the horn.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Listening Party: Part 2

Today we had our second listening party. Below are some of the pieces that we brought to play for eachother...

Fugue in D minor by Bach, arranged by Mexi

This famous work was reinvented and performed by the Budapest Festival Horn Quartet as part of a CD, Cornologia featuring transcriptions of works by Bach, Handel, Rossini, and Monti.

Victory Fanfare by Benjamin Blasko

The recording features the Tromba Mundi trumpet ensemble accompanied by wind ensemble. The trumpet ensemble was founded in 2007 and features prominent professors and perfromers in the United States. Their current personel includes Dr. Jean-Christophe Dobrzelewski, Dr. John Marchiando, Dr. William Stowman, Dr. Scott Belck, Joey Tartell, Dr. Bryan Appleby-Wineberg.

Divertimento for Brass and Percussion by Karel Husa

This is a four movement work for an ensemble of 4 horns, 3 trumpets, 3 trombones, tuba and 2 percussion. The recording we listened to was done by the University of North Texas Brass Choir. He also scored the piece for brass quintet which you can listen to below...

Clarino Quartet by Ellen Taaffe Zwilich

This three movement work is scored for Piccolo Trumpet, Eb Trumpet and 2 Bb Trumpets. This piece is more moderns sounding with a lot of canonic call and response and interesting tonalities and dissonances.

Quidditch by John Williams

The recording we listened to was of the Boston Symphony Brass conducted by John Williams. It's a wonderful encore piece because it only last a minute and a half and feature a medley of music from the Harry Potter movies.

Jazz Suite for Four Horns by Alec Wilder

This composition includes and interesting combination of instruments including harpsichord, guitar, bass, and drums. This is part of a four movement work.

Friday, March 31, 2017

Brass Bands in Kalamazoo

Branching off of the post I did earlier in the month about Brass Bands, I wanted to write a little bit about the history of Brass Bands in my hometown in Kalamazoo!

I originally stumbled upon the article while looking for photos of brass bands and found the one below. I noticed it had a drum with "Kalamazoo" printed on it which spurred my curiosity. The article I'm referencing was compiled by Keith Howard, a staff member for the Kalamazoo Public Library originally in 2010.

Here are some highlights from the article...

Kalamazoo's earliest brass band dated back to 1837 and was called the Village Brass Band. The founder of the band, John Everard, moved from New Jersey and soon put together the band which performed for celebratory occasions such as weddings and holidays.

For the remainder of the 1800's the band tradition grew and by the 1860's there were civilian bands in over 23 counties throughout southwest Michigan, Kalamazoo being one of the more popular.

The Bronson Family, who is highly regarded as one of the founding families of Kalamazoo, were very invested in the brass band tradition with a couple of the family members playing instruments and acting as bandleaders. C.Z. Bronson was a clarinetist, who know Patrick Gilmore and studied clarinet with a member of Gilmore's band. Today the Bronson family is mostly known because the city hospital, Bronson Hospital was funded by them.

Today the most notable Brass Band in the area is the Brass Band of Battle Creek.  This group was established about 25 years ago and has produced over 10 CD's since it's creation. The members currently include members Jens Lindeman, Chris Jaudes, Rich Kelly, Amy McCabe, Scott Thornburg, John Daniel, Lenny Foy, Steve Jones, Ken Bauman, Ed Zentera, Rex Richardson, Mark Armstrong, Phil Randell, Lisa Bontrager, Gail Robertson, Demondrae Thurman, Scott Hartman, Mark Frost, Steven Mead, Ben Pierce, Marty Erickson, Les Neish, Phil Sinder, David Zerkel, David Coash, John Beck, David Hardman, and Alison Shaw.

Here's a video of a crowd favorite, Carnival of Venice.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Vigilante Brass

The Vigilante Brass are a more pop/edm centered brass band featuring 3 trumpet players, horn, trombone, bass trombone, tuba, and drum kit. Many of the members are currently studying and gigging in the United Kingdom.

Their remix titled "Doin' it Wrong" is a neat blend of three pop tunes including
"Doin' It Right" by Daft Punk
"If I Were A Boy" by Beyonce
"Snow" by Red Hot Chili Peppers

Sunday, March 26, 2017

The History and Repertoire of the Brass Band

A couple weeks ago, we had the opportunity to listen to a lecture by Arfon Owen. As a tenor horn player, he is well versed in brass band tradition and gave a interesting lecture on the history and repertoire of British brass bands.

Before sampling some of the major repertoire, here is brief overview of British Brass Band history...
Brass bands developed as a part of the industrial revolution in the United Kingdom starting in the 1800's. The United Kingdom saw a large increase in the working class and companies used brass bands as a way to keep workers busy and stop them from unionizing.

Many workers wanted to be a part of these brass bands because instead of working in the mines or in factories, the musicians got paid to practice and perform. The instruments themselves also became cheaper and easier to manufacture so many more working class people were able to afford instruments.

The brass band tradition grew and was very competitive in nature. Different companies would want the top players for their band, so the best players would often move form band to band depending on who would pay more. This tradition has continued into the modern day and brass bands are now a staple in British Tradition.


The literature for brass bands has greatly expanded throughout the years and because this ensemble isn't rooted in classical tradition, composers often try to move away from traditional and classical compositions. Here's a list of some of the more prominent pieces written for the ensemble...

Labour and Love (1913) by Percy Fletcher
Fletcher was a conductor and composer. He wanted to make an inspiring piece for the working class.

Moorside Suite (1928) by Gustav Holst
Holst was one of the first major conductors to write for brass band. His Moorside Suite is written in a classical style with three movements.

Fireworks (1971) by Elgar Howarth
This piece was written as a competition piece and should be performed with a narrator.

Extreme Makeover (2005) by Johan de Meij
This is also a competition piece that is very technically advanced. He does hint and reference other composers within his work including Tchaikovsky.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Caleb Lambert's Listening Presentation

Today in class we had another listening presentation by Caleb. He focused on presenting pieces with a larger instrumentation ranging from a sextet to a full brass ensemble. Here are some of the pieces from his presentation that I wanted to highlight...

Fanfare for Brass Sextet by Morten Lauridsen

This fanfare is quick, only lasting about two minutes, but is an enjoyable piece. I would consider it to be a modern take on a traditional fanfare. Lauridsen uses some traditional techniques along with adding interesting rhythms and chordal structures. One of the unique qualities of the work is that the ensemble often sounds offset when beginning a phrase because most players do not start on the downbeat.

Divertimento by Raymond Premru

This is a work containing five movements for an ensemble consisting of four trumpets, horn, three tenor trombones, bass trombone, tuba. Each of the movements have a lighter quality, and although this is a larger ensemble, the texture never sounds too dense. Many of the movements feature some nice lyrical melodies and a more traditional style. The movement I enjoyed the most was movement two, "A Tale from Long Ago."

While listening to this, I knew I had heard that melody in some form before. I then recalled hearing this as a main theme in the Shrek soundtrack. Given that Divertimento was composed in 1976 and Shrek came out in 2001, I wouldn't be surprised if the composer was inspired by this song when writing the soundtrack. Below is one of the tracks from the Shrek soundtrack that pretty clearly uses the theme.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Kenken Gorder's Listening Presentation

Yesterday one of the students in our Brass Literature class had a listening presentation featuring a variety of pieces composed for ensembles ranging from brass ensemble to tuba and euphonium quartet. Here are some of the pieces I enjoyed most from the presentation...

Written for brass ensemble and percussion. This piece has a heroic sound with some beautiful melodic writing.

This is a quote from the composer detailing more about his intentions...
"The Messiah College Brass Choir commissioned me to compose a work for the grand opening of The Calvin and Janet High Center for Worship and the Performing Arts.  The music is meant to be vibrant and energetic as it mimics a distant Pulsar emitting bursts of light and energy. The star can illuminate the most wondrous display of beauty and color showing off its magnificent power and nobility."

Poopy Pants Blues by Adam Rapa

A very unique piece, Rapa claims to have written this in a couple hours after being inspired by his two year old niece. In the original recording he used a multitrack set up to record the various parts and employs a variety of extended techniques to depict the conversation between him and his niece. The video below shows a live performance with Adam Rapa and Frank Sullivan.

This is technical powerhouse of piece written for brass band. This composition seems to have everything but the kitchen sink thrown in. It employs a number of themes stemming from various sources such as Russian folk songs and Tchaikovsky.

Monday, February 27, 2017

History of the Four Quintets for Brass by Victor Ewald

For part of our class, we were asked to read, "History of the Four Quintets for Brass by Victor Ewald" by Andre Smith and answer some questions regarding the article. Below are my responses...

What did you know about Ewald and his brass quintets before reading this article? 

I honestly did not know much about Ewald and his brass quintets before reading this article. Having never played the pieces themselves, I only knew of their popularity and that the Ewald quintets are a staple in brass quintet literature.

What did this article teach you about proper research?

This article further emphasized that it is important to know and research your source material. Although a reasoning is given and may make sense, it might not be the correct reason. For example, Smith debunks a claim that brass ensembles were first built on the ideal of creating a unified tone with five rotary instruments. He explains this to be false because of Russia’s long standing tradition of having a diverse grouping of instruments mainly chosen based on who was available to play. 

What questions did this article raise?

I first want to explore Smith’s sources and wonder about the validity of some of his claims? He quite openly disregarded the thoughts of others on topics such as the origins of the quintets and the idea behind the creating ensembles based on the development of a homogenous sound. I’m not necessarily in disbelief of his ideas, but want to explore his sources in some depth before thinking of them as pure fact.

I also would like to read more and am curious about the “rediscovery” of the quintets? Because Smith has such a personal opinion on the matter, I would like to see others thoughts about Smith taking the time to authenticate them. I also would like to hear more from Froides about how she obtained them and whether she knew of Smith’s copies.

What are your thoughts on rotary vs. piston valve preferences mentioned in the article?

I am a strong advocate for playing music that sounds good, however that may be achieved. I believe it should be a decision of the performer on whether or not to use rotary or piston valved instruments. For most this will be determined based on availability. I doubt that many groups have a full set of rotary and piston trumpets and tubas at their disposal, so playing what’s available will be an obvious choice. The idea that a fully rotary valved ensemble may blend better makes sense, however nowadays, we are so used to hearing a brass quintet with piston trumpets and a rotary horn that I think deviating from that would have to be done so with purposeful intentions.
Do you agree with Forsyth who wrote, "There is in general no true legato on the trombone?”

I do agree to some extent, but only when editing the phrase to say, “There is in general no true ‘valved’ legato on the trombone.” Because of the valveless nature of the trombone, notes can not be slotted. Thus the instrument can not perfectly recreate the sound of a valved instrument playing legato. A trombone can, however, imitate ‘valved’ legato very effectively.

What are your thoughts about Smith's ideas on instrumentation mentioned on page 13.

In regards to Smith’s ideas on instrumentation, I think that “adventurous musicians,” as he stated, should continue to adapt music for their needs. The early music movement has it’s place in helping to determine the most accurate representation of music and assisting in denoting the authenticity of music from a certain period. 

Nevertheless, I believe music should change and evolve, and it is necessary for performers to breathe new life into old works to keep them relevant. Performers should make new musical decisions from time to time. They can use historical context as a guide, but shouldn’t confine themselves to only focusing on how it would have been played.

In regards to the modern revival of Ewald's brass quintets, what roles did the following people play? Froides Werke, the American Brass Quintet, the Empire Brass Quintet?
The Ewald quintets were difficult to find for a while starting in the 1950’s due to the poor relations between the United States and the USSR. Froides Werke obtained copies of the quintets while in Russia. She then passed them on to the Empire Brass Quintet while they were in Norway in exchange for a medley of Gershwin tunes. Although supposedly Smith had obtained a copy of the quintets much earlier. The American Brass Quintet were the first to premier the quintets at Carniege Hall with Smith writing some of the program note for the production. 

What has been your experience both playing and listening to the Ewald quintets?

Like I said prior, I have sadly never played one of the Ewald quintets. Ironically, out of the handful of quintets I have been in, none have wanted to play the Ewald because the other members already had experience playing one if not more of them. 

While listening to them, I always notice that they seem to be very methodically created and do a great job of featuring each instrument within the quintet. They all have a lot of character and each movement contains new thematic material and moods. To my ear at least, the Ewald quintets are what comes to mind when thinking of “the sound" of a standard brass quintet, much like how the Mozart horn concerto’s comes to mind when I think of a standard horn concerto.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Get Lucky: Brass Band Remix

The Soul Rebels are a New Orlean's style brass band, who do covers of pop, rock, and EDM tunes. Their remix of Get Lucky by Daft Punk is a great interpretation of the EDM song, where they blend some of the basic melodies and rhythmic lines from the original with additional harmonies, chord progressions, and some improv in the middle.

Like in a few brass bands I've discovered, they add saxophone to the classic instrumentation of trumpet, trombone, tuba, and drum set. A neat addition to the mix that has a nice contrast in timbre and the ability to play some more technically demanding passages.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Breakaway by David Sampson

Breakaway by David Sampson was piece originally recorded by the trumpet players, Kevin Cobb and Raymond Mase as part of the American Brass Quintet CD, Chesapeake: The Music of David Sampson. The work has a total of three movements and all movements include the use of a tape track.

The first movement, Carving the Stone, has some interesting electronic sounds ranging from very percussion-based to more classic synthized sounds. The most impressive part of this track is the coordination between the trumpet players and electronics. Anytime a player uses a tape track, they quickly learn how unforgiving the recording is in regards to time and tempo. Their precision is wonderfully exact and makes for an impressively clean recording.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Listening Party: Part 1

Today for our Brass Literature class we had a listening party. Although these pieces don't strictly fit in the realm of EBM, I thought you would enjoy a sampling of some of the pieces that were featured...

Breakaway by David Sampson
I: The Carving Stone

This features two trumpets and was originally recorded by the trumpets in the American Brass Quintet,  Kevin Cobb and Raymond Mase. I will be expanding on this piece in a later blog post. Get excited!

Music for Brass Instruments by Ingolf Dahl
I: Christ lay in the Bonds of Death

This was performed by the New World Symphony Brass. The instrumentation is unique in that it includes two trumpets, tenor and bass trombone, horn, and has an optional tuba part. The recording we listened to included tuba, and I think it is a good addition to the ensemble because it does really help to fill out the section. It includes some very pleasant slow choral sections with a contrasting fast section in the middle.

by John Rutter
III: Vivace e Ritmico

The recording we listened to was recored by the Philip Jones Brass Ensemble. The instrumentation included organ, three trumpets, three trombones, tuba, percussion, and choir. The piece has a sacred feel mainly because of the instrumentation and the text in vocal lines. The third movement includes a lot of polyphony and canon. It sounds very celebratory and this recording does a great job of balancing the singers and brass section. I can even hear the altos.

Concerto for Brass Quintet by Mark Rheaume
III: Atto Terzo

This was performed by the Eastern Illinois University Brass Quintet and orchestral winds. The piece is based on an opera. Each brass player is thought of as a character in the opera whereas the winds act as the orchestra. The movement has very old sound reminiscent of the old opera buffa style.

Corpendium 1 by Richard Bissill

Originally written for six horns, this recording featured the Guildhall Horn Ensemble. This piece has a number of fast moving and intricate parts. It's features a lot of dense textures and this recording in particular is extremely clean.

Konzertmusik fur Brass, Two Harps, and Piano op. 49 by Paul Hindemith
III: Massig, schnell, kravtvoll

Performed by the Philip Jones Brass Ensemble, it features four trumpets, three horns, three trombones, tuba, two harps, and piano. This piece has the characteristic Hindemith tonality, but is still pleasant to listen to, given that I am not the biggest fan of his music. The two harps and piano really add a nice contrast in timbre and lighten up certain segments of the movement.

Monday, February 20, 2017

The Uncluttered Path

Much of my work for this blog mainly deals with digging through various sites just to find music that is available for electronics and brass ensemble. I finally had some luck in discovering a piece titled, The Uncluttered Path by Jeff Beal.

Jeff Beal
is known best for his more commercial work and has written scores for notable shows such as House Of Cards, Rome, and Monk. He started out as a jazz trumpet player and recording artist, but quickly shifted towards composing during his studies at Eastman School of Music.

The Uncluttered Path (2001) was commissioned by the Corning Corporation for their 150th Anniversary and was premiered by the Prism Brass. It has four movements:
I. Dawn of The New Day
II. Permanence of Change
III. Fathers And Sons
IV. Illumination

There aren't any youtube recordings, but you can listen to the whole movements here by scrolling through the page to where the piece is located.

The first two movements are just brass alone, and the electronics are introduced near the end of the third. In my personal opinion, the electronic music isn't the most compelling, sounding very reminiscent to some of T.V. theme songs from the 1990's. Reading Rainbow is one of the first that comes to mind. Nevertheless, it is nice to see that music has been composed for this type of ensemble!

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Tim Souster: An Innovator of EBM

Tim Souster (1943-1994) was a highly regarded composer known to create pieces with the aid of electronics. Souster also was heavily influenced by the genre of art rock, which was a avant-garde style of rock music that often included experimental, and modernist elements (David Bowie is a great example of a musician that would often experiment with this genre). 

Along with his more academic work, he has a successful career as a commercial composer and wrote music for both television shows and commercials. One of his more famous claims to fame is that he wrote the soundtrack on BBC's The Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy (1981).

He focused more on the use of brass in his pieces starting in the 1980's. Souster wrote electronic based music for a variety of different ensembles including solo trumpet, solo flugelhorn, and brass quintet. Souster even wrote the first piece for brass band and electronics titled, Echoes (1990).

Although he wrote a large amount of works for brass and electronics, many of the recordings are difficult to track down. I was able to find one recording of his brass quintet piece, Equalisation for Brass Quintet and Live Electronics (1980), which can be found here.

In Equalisation, Souster mainly used two electronic devices. He applied a digital delay line to alter the acoustics of the room and a pitch transposer to add parallel intervals to the live music be played. If you would like to learn more about the piece itself, detailed information provided by the composer can be found here.


While randomly scrolling through videos on Youtube, I came across a band called BEAUTY SLAP. They are a funk band that mixes brass with EDM. They have some of there own music, but their most popular videos are their covers of EDM songs.

Their band consists of two trumpet players, two trombone players, and one member playing synthesizer and live mixing the tracks.

Although BEAUTY SLAP is a lesser known group, it's fun to see how they are able to meld EDM and brass playing so cohesively. They also show how the traditional funk band can be modernized when combined with EDM.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Canadian Brass take on Deadmau5

In 2013, the Canadian Brass recorded an arrangement of STROBE by Deadmau5.

Deadmau5, also known as Joel Thomas Zimmerman is highly regarded as one of the grandfather's of modern EDM,  releasing his debut album back in 2005.  Joel has a unique sound characterized by his use synthesizers, pointillistic melodies, and his trance-like progression of sound.

The success of this arrangement is due to its simplicity. Many times, classical musicians try to include unnecessary additional harmonies and overly densify the texture. The beauty of EDM is not found in it chordal structures and complex progressions, but rather in the changes in texture, timbre, and rhythm.

This arrangement is a wonderful meshing of electro and acoustic elements, using much of the source's melodic material and maintaining the minimalistic quality of the original work.