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.