Sunday, March 30, 2014

Idea 24 and Blend

Terry Everson performing Idea Number 24 for Trumpets

North Texas performing Idea Number 24 at NTC 2010 (with wicked post-production!)

So, there's no such thing as a perfect run-through except on a CD. Assuredly Everson's cut has some editing going on. I figure quite a bit of balance and maybe it's made up of a couple different cuts. Contrast that with a live-run of UNT in 2010. Firstly, they're on the page, which we haven't seen much of, but that's not the most important thing, in my opinion.

What about blend? The Everson version is so perfectly blended (as far as timbre is concerned) that if I didn't know better I would think he played every part with a click track and put them together. That's not inherently bad but UNT is really laying this chart out but I can tell the difference between each trumpet player. Is that better? I often wonder if seeking perfect timbral blend is both possible and even worthwhile. The instrument is possible of creating a wide swath of sound shapes even before non-homogenous trumpets are thrown into the mix. Idea 24 is pretty popular in the trumpet ensemble scene, gets a lot of play, and has a lot of opportunities to contrast style between the larger sections of the piece and between melody and harmony. So if we think about how each individual trumpet sounds compared to the others, is it sometimes better to let individuals poke out of the texture?

Saturday, March 22, 2014

BOOww! googwip-bow boogogwip BWWOOOwwwww!

Pretty sure that's a flange. The whole thing is pretty excellent, but the distorted tuba laying it down for over 5 minutes is just honey. No more London posts. Promise.

The London (Brass Instrument) Sound

Sing Sing Sing!

This is from the London Trumpet Sound CD and its one of many CDs from the London <Brass Instrument> Sound series. I think this all started with the London Horn Sound, but I could be wrong. That said, what a killer marketing move by the classical players in the London area. I know CSO Brass has a CD and of course everyone has a chamber group, but I think there's a future in Symphony-sponsored albums showing off the talents of their individual sections.

And if the Youtube comments are to be believed, people love arguing about which instrument is better, and arguments sell CDs.

Natural trumpets are known to be very camera shy

This is a super cool find. We've got a small assembly of London locals playing some Bach in a mixed trumpet ensemble, check it out:

What's really awesome? There's 3 natural trumpets chilling in the back. These are the modern take on the natural trumpet, I believe they have a single valve/rotor. The ensemble itself is, I think, 7 trumpets, 3 natural trumpets, 1 picc, and four flugelhorns. The mixed sound is absolutely stunning. What I found especially surprising is the natural trumpets have the timbre closer to the piccolo trumpet than the rest of the crew so there's a really pretty timbre stew in the middle range of this piece made up of trumpet, flugel, and natural horn and glazed with some piccolo trumpet to taste.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

The Most Expensive Trumpet Octet

With 24 total trumpets valued at between $2,500 to $4,000 (we'll call it $3,500 each) I'd say this performance requires about $84,000 in gear, or about the cost of one Bassoon Quintet.

Why didn't they win! I think they traded substance for pageantry. That's fantastic and was probably shocking to everyone there just how cool and different this performance was from all the other trumpet ensembles at NTC 2012. They played awesomely and sold the whole thing, which got them to the finals. The arrangement itself leans really heavily on trumpet tropes and half of the piece, "How Many Trumpets Does it Take" is mostly jazz. Not that jazz is invalid, but I imagine in an adjudicated academic contest setting, the direction they went was very risky. It's a testament to their execution that they got as far as they did on such an unorthodox arrangement.

Baylor 2011 NTC Winners' Clinic on Ensemble Sound

Trumpets sound terrible when recorded except in controlled settings. Really, most of the posts on this blog are okay for recording quality, but nearly anything in an auditorium is just not as good as the real thing. Pretty sure this one from 2011 was done by a handheld Flipvideo, maybe a good smartphone. - Baylor Trumpet ensemble 2011 Russell Abstract no. 2 (arr. Wiff Rudd)

Their ensemble sound isn't just good, it's spectacular. This is the kind of sound it must take years to foster. I imagine at least some members of the ensemble have been playing together for quite awhile, but wow even the 2012 winners didn't come close to this crew.

So how did they do it? I'm noticing a couple things: First, there's two permanent flugels holding up the low end. Having a conical sound to float on top of is a trumpet player's dream. Second, their tuning is immaculate. They've got one slightly grindy entrance right around the four minute mark when one of them (can't even tell who) doesn't spread a major second wide enough right away. That's the only intonation error I noticed. Timbre and tone are completely dependent on each other. You can't blend without being in tune, and you can't tune without blending. Third, I think the arrangement helps by supplying a key switch to flugel in the middle section for the top two players. I imagine that's probably a pretty relaxing part for them compared to some of the material they have to contend with in the outer sections. Finally, they're memorized. I don't know how they digested that whole piece, it's a scorcher, but they know the book and can spend their energy listening to each other.