Sunday, April 09, 2006

following suit: proficiencies

So I saw that other people were doing this and thought it was a good idea.

Mozart-Concerto for Oboe in C Major, K314: Allegro Aperto
This is one of the powerhouse concertos for oboe; every orchestra audition has this. Perhaps the most terrifying moment in the entire movement is the first entrance: a C-D trill followed by a C sixteenth note scale rising to float upon a high C for 4 measures. One of my favorite things about this movement is the cadenza. Many oboists have written their own cadenzas, and I've heard a couple really good ones, in particular Nancy King, Berkhard Glaetzner, and John de Lancie.

Handel-Sonata for Oboe in C Minor, HWV366: Largo, Allegro
One of the most fun pieces to play on my program, these two sonata movements have greatly encouraged and improved my ornamentation and improvisation skills. Baroque ornamentation is something that I greatly enjoy but have struggled with due to my belief that I can't think on the spot when it comes to music. The Largo is majestic and dark, followed by a spunky yet troll-like Allegro.

Schumann-Three Romances for Oboe and Piano, Op.94: Nicht Schnell
This is the third of the Romances, all of which are amazingly musical. At first glance the Romances do not look at all difficult. But wait until you try to play them. The intense musical stamina needed to play any of these is unbelievable, yet the result is awe-inspiring. My favorite recording of the Romances is by oboist Allan Vogel, whose phrasing and playful time perception add even more character to the movements.

Martinu- Concerto for Oboe and Small Orchestra: Poco Allegro
Finishing off with a technical piece, Martinu was what I played for the concerto competition. I first started working on this piece last semester when I made the switch from the first to third movements in preparation for both concertos and proficiencies. I really think I made the right decision. This movement is so rhythmic and dance-like, with a creamy cadenza center. I wish I'd had time to prepare both cadenzas; I'll only be playing one of them. My favorite moment of the movement is the measures preceding the oboe entrance, consisting of incredibly syncopated and somewhat disorienting strings and piano. My preferred recording was done by Zbynck Muller, a czech oboist.

Well there you have it: my proficiency program.
This week I decided to listen to and write about "Songs for a New World." This a musical, but it doesn't have any cohesive plot line, just the general theme of people facing life in different ways. I love listening to and singing along with this album. I would never have thought that a musical without a plot line could work very well, but the music does such an excellent job of carrying the show, that I don't even miss having a linear story to follow. In my opinion, the composer shows a lot of versitility with his music. Each song has its own sound and style. He has written a couple of hillarious character pieces for this show, one of which is sung by a very fed up Mrs. Claus. He also has some very intensely dramatic music as well as some sweetly insightful songs. It all comes together very well. One of the things I enjoy about this recording is knowing tha the composer, who was in his early twenties when he wrote the show, is playing the piano for the entire show. I think it's even cooler to listen to something if you know that the composer is taking an active role performing the music.

Avenged Sevenfold!!!

I have fallen in love with a new rock/punk from New Orleans! Avenged Sevenfold has been around since the late nineties but their new album, City of Evil, is absolutely amazing. First off, just listening to some of the crap their drummer doe is intimidating. I can only imagine how fast his chops are, because this guy goes crazy throughout the cd. The first song that I heard, Bat Country, pretty much sold the album for me. The entire song is extremely fast and extremely busy. Seriously, the drummer switches up the style so much it's almost funny to think of the ideas that were going through his head when he was making up the part for it. Plus, flashback- the guitar solo sounds seriously like something out of the Nintendo game, F-Zero (that's right, old school Nintendo!) Beast and Harlot takes the same theme, and so does my other favorite song, Trashed and Scattered. I can only imagine what these guys are like live, I'm sure the crowd is an 'aggressive one' to say the least. The album isn't all hard rock stuff, the song Seize the Day is a little more low-key and is semi-balled-esque. I suggest if you like bands like AFI, Green Day, or 10 Years to download or buy this cd. Plus, if you have a cell phone where you can download ringtones to download the clip from Bat Country. I did and it makes me happy to get phone calls now because I get to hear a little of this awesome song.

Brent Mason: Hot Wired

This week I listened to a CD created by a studio guitarist who works out of nashville. He is actually good friends with Sandy Williams, which is how I was originnally introduced to him.
The CD starts out with a bang with a track called Hot Wired. It is bluegrass oriented song, playing off the I and IV chord throughout the entirety of the piece. It actually sounds very country-esque but is very technical in nature. The artists on this track (especially the piano and guitar) have incredible technical facility.
The second track is a jazzy version of a 12 bar blues with a I VI ii V turnaround and a few other alterations. It's a great track and really displays Brent's incredible facility and knowledge of the neck. He is very quick and definitely can play jazz. I especially like the piano solo, which is very up beat and makes me think that I am in some pub down south listening to jazz oriented bluegrass (with a little country influence). I can't put a finger on the exact style of this music, but I like it.
The CD definitely shows off Brent's incredible talent and versatility throughout different styles of jazz/country. The Fifth track is a very hip swing with a sound similar to "you've got a friend like me" from the movie toy story, except without the vocals.
The rest of the CD consists of more instrumental guitar-based songs ranging from smooth jazz to nifty renditions of old folk songs. Overall I was quite pleased and hope to actually steal some licks from Brent, as he is an incredible musician. As a guitarist I am quite impressed with the CD and most likely will be listening to the CD for awhile. If others were to listen to the CD, they may not find as much interest but to me this was defnintely my bag.

Tuba and Horn Pieces brought to you by the CSO

My friend reminded me about this CD that I had after he went and heard the CSO this past week. The CD I have is of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s principal wind players playing some of the most famous solo repertoire for their respective instruments. The CD is called The Chicago Principal First Chair Soloists Play Famous Concertos. The piece that I guess you could say intrigued me most was Vaughan Williams’ Concerto for Bass Tuba in F minor. It is performed by Arnold Jacobs who played with the CSO for 45 years. He is widely known for his breathing techniques and teachings in addition to his performing career. All of the movements are virtuosic, however the third movement is played brilliantly. The concerto is considered one of the most challenging in the repertoire and Jacobs has mastered it in this recording (we wouldn’t expect anything less from Jacobs though). I think that the first movement would be an interesting topic of conversation with Vaughan Williams just to see what he was thinking about while composing this piece. I know that he originally looking to compose the piece for a vocalist before writing it for tuba, but it would be interesting to know what he was imagining during this movement. Although I enjoyed listening to this movement again, my favorite part of this movement is definitely his cadenza. It really seemed to sum up the mood of this movement very well in a way that was, for lack of a better word, very tuba-esque. It was perfect. My favorite movement would have to be the second movement. It was very much in the style that I think of when I think of the other works that Vaughan Williams composed. The melody, despite its low range, seems to float over the orchestras sound. The tessitura of the tuba never seems to be a problem in terms of balance for the soloist and orchestra. With such a low tessitura, it can easily become problematic for the soloist to get over the orchestra, but I think that a quality recording team and an unsurpassed tuba player in combination with the CSO have made every phrase balance perfectly.

Although this recording has two CDs and all of the pieces are truly extraordinary enough to do an entire blog on, the other piece I wanted to write on was Schumann’s Konzertstuck in F Major for Four Horns and Orchestra (you could probably see that selection coming from a mile away). While at the Interlochen Arts Camp, three other horn player friends and I would meet and try to play this piece at 8:00 in the morning. Needless to say, it is relatively hard on the chops, especially of the high player, at anytime of the day much less at 8:00 in the morning. It is an incredibly demanding and yet invigorating piece. Although I would not recommend trying to play it at 8:00 am (especially when you should be sitting in Theory or Musicianship class with Spiegelberg that time anyways), we had a blast trying to play it. Anyways, even upon first listening, the composer can quickly be identified as Schumann, for it has the flowing melodies (usually in the top horn) and the natural energy of Schumann. The accompaniment that he composed provides a huge amount of energy that would otherwise be hard to maintain for the horn players in a piece like this. The horn part alone is exciting, but the accompaniment really makes this piece both realistic to perform and a joy to listen to. Even Schumann said himself that “It seems to be one of my best pieces.” I would just like to put it out there that I second that.

Byron Stripling...

I went to indy today to hear one of the greatest trumpeters alive today: Byron Stripling. He played with ensembles from purdue, the concert was a tribute to new orleans, they did mostly american songbook and louis armstrong tunes. I don't know what im going to write because his playing made me speechless. His attack, tone, charisma, flexibilty, technique, and his singing isn't half bad either. He played louis armstrong on broadway in the show "satchmo" and so he has his louis impression and trumpet playing down perfectly. There was a portion of the 2 hour concert that just the choir and the glee club sang doing old show tunes and I couldn't sit still because there were a bunch of squares on stage that probably have never heard frank sinatras version of "I've got you under my skin" before they did the concert this afternoon....and if they did, then they didn't listen very closely because it was way too stiff and almost operatic. Once byron got back on the stage, I couldn't do anything but sit in awe of his performance; I couldn't move a muscle in my body. There was a point during the louis armstrong medley (during "what a wonderful world") That I almost started tearing up. I couldn't believe it. I haven't been so inspired and in awe at a concert in a very, very long time. Sorry I have to cut this blog short, but I was so inspired to practice after this concert that I can't sit here any longer, I have to go play.


Proficiencies- everyone's favorite word

I'm playing Chopin's second Ballade along with Beethoven's Pastoral Sonata (Op. 28) and have listened to a recording of each every day for the last week. The Ballade is the most technically difficult piece that I have ever played. I can best describe it in one word- schizophrenic. It begins in F major with a very flowing melody and continues in this adagio for a number of phrases. After a pianissimo, arpeggiated F chord, the piece break into a frantic, presto section that uses a solid 6 octaves of the keyboard. Presto continues for a little over two pages before transitioning easily back into the flowing melody from the beginning. The melody does a little fake out before breaking into two lines that push the tempo but then returns immediately to the adagio. This adagio section repeats the first, in two different keys and then retransitions into the presto section once again. The presto this time modulates into a minor and moves directly into the coda. The coda is very flashy and has 5 different motives that move through it before ending on a... FRENCH +6 chord (ab, f, and d#) this resolves to a i6/4 V i to end the piece in a minor.

While we were discussing sonata form I had a good time trying to analyze the sonata from memory. This sonata is nicknamed "Pastoral" for a good reason. It paints a very moving line and the listener can very well hear the nature that is expressed throughout the piece. The exposition begins in D major (there is no introduction) There are two themes before moving into the development, which is in G major. The first theme is developed and then retransitions into D major through a pattern played first in B major, then in B minor. a vii07 chord leads to the recapitulation. There is also a two line coda that meanders around in the first theme in D major.

These two pieces are each challenging in their own way and the recordings that I listened to are all amazing. Listening to different recordings of these pieces always gives me many different ideas about how to perform them. My favorite recording of the Chopin ballade was played by Esther Park (Van Cliburn winner in, I believe 2004?). The best recording of the Beethoven that I found was on Naxos- played by Anton Kuerti.

"I'm gonna fight you, Steve"

This week's listening theme was the soundtrack to the movie "The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou." If you haven't seen this movie than my title has no meaning to you, but the movie is absolutely hilarious so you should probably go watch it. I really enjoy this soundtrack because the CD pretty much contains songs by David Bowie, covers of Bowie songs rewritten into Brazilian Portuguese by one of the actors in the movie (Seu Jorge), and J.S. Bach. The other artists on the CD are wild card tracks containing a little bit of everything from Iggy Pop to Sigur Ros to Mark Mothersbaugh.

Wes Anderson, who directed "The Life Aquatic" I well know for the detail he puts into scoring his movies. When asked about music in an interview with The Onion, Anderson stated "That’s just always key stuff for me. Some of the ideas are kind of inspired by the songs, and I always want to use music to tell the story and give the movie a certain kind of mood. That’s always essential to me. "

Probably the greatest accomplishment of this soundtrack is that the mix of music really captures the fine line this movie walks between a "mockumentary" and a flat out cartoon. All of the aquatic life in the film is not only animated, but also completely made up in general with species like the "Hermes Eel" named so because it's animation was based off an Hermes scarf pattern. The mix of classic rock music, music altered to catch the Jacques Cousteau feel of the movie (the movie parodies Cousteau's documentaries), and music specifically composed for the movie gives a perfect balance of mood between comical, what the audience expects, and completely off the wall...just like the movie.

Overall, I find this soundtrack to be completely enjoyable both when it is in the movie and when it stands alone.

The Alma Mater, "A Toast To DePauw," performed by Dr. Stanley Irwin and the DePauw University Band

This past Saturday was a very busy day for me, and it was a day where I couldn't help but be drenched in school spirit. Among the things I did were to represent the Tiger Pep Band at the Organizations Fair, to represent the school in an admissions panel, play with the University Band, and socialize with a mass amount of alumni at our annual Frank Norris Pig Dinner at Phi Gamma Delta. At the Organizations Fair, I listened to both the recording of the Alma Mater, "A Toast To DePauw," and and the Fight Song, "Here's To DePauw," on endless repeat. These recordings, both made by the University Band on the Timepieces album, document the beginnings of the Tiger Pep Band.

This year, the Tiger Pep Band celebrated it's 10th year anniversary. Before the pep band existed, the University Band was required to play at football and basketball games. This requirement existed because the DePauw Marching Band was no longer present. Dr. Craig Pare', who was the new the director of bands, prestigiously took the band to games, and did so in great numbers. All of the alumni that I have met from this period, and every period after, speak very proudly of their fondness to Dr. Pare'. Eventually, Dr. Pare', along with alumnus Jason Dibbler, founded the student-run Tiger Pep Band, and it still runs to this day proudly under the direction of yours truly.

The recording of the Alma Mater stirs up feelings of spirit, pride, gratitude, and respect. And what better performers than the University Band and longtime voice professor, Dr. Stanley Irwin. The music contains a consistent, unison rhythmic pattern played by all instruments. Unlike the Fight Song, the only percussion part is for bells. The Fight Song is driven by the percussion section. The brass and woodwinds move in dense control, like a Bach chorale for organ. Dr. Irwin's bass-baritone voice sublimely fits into the texture, and his operatic vibrato gives the piece an almost tearful spirit. It makes the listener understand why DePauw alumni are so proud of their school. This is especially apparent when Dr. Irwin utters the words "Hail Old Gold throughout the land." The harmony works from the bass function up. The sustained horn notes at the ends of phrases also adds to the dominating sense of pride. The band emulates the sound of a brass choir. The bells, which double the melody, give a sense of happiness to the tune. The Alma Mater is very special to all DePauw alumni, and that emotive quality is preserved in the recording.

A Toast To DePauw
Written by Vivien N. Bard '17

To Old DePauw we toast today,
And raise our voices high
We'll honor thee and loyal be
And praise thee to the sky.

Let ev'ry son and daughter stand
United e'er for thee,
And hail Old Gold throughout the land,
Here's to you, Old DePauw.

Kelly Clarkson- Breakaway

Upon first listening to this album, it reminded me a lot like Avril Lavigne. Looking in the cd insert, I noticed that the first song on the album, “Breakaway” was actually written by Avril. Most of the songs on the album have more a rock/pop feel compared to prior Kelly Clarkson songs.

Most of her songs are ABABCB and then fade out in the end. For example “Walk Away” consists of a verse, chorus, verse, chorus, bridge, and then final chorus. In “Walk Away” the verses are each binary.
Overall, the album is pretty good. All of the songs have a catchy melody and to have so many hits on one cd is pretty impressive for artists nowadays.

Nigel Kennedy

So today, while doing my Italian homework (so oggi, mentre faccio io Italiano compiti) I listed to Nigel Kennedy's greatest hits cd. (io ho ascolato di Nigel Kennedy's il piu grande 'hits' cd.) He is a violinst whom I really like. He plays alot of arragements, include Satie's Gymnopedie's and Debussy's "La fille avec les cheveux de lin." My favorite piece on his cd is an orginal called "Melody in the Wind." It has an incredibly catchy tune. My favorite part about it are the ambient sounds thrown in about half way through. I really like ambient sounds in music. It makes it more aplicable to life, and still simultaneous, highly sureal. Maybe that's why Radiohead and Badly Drawn Boy are two of my favorite artists.
Anyway, check out "Melody in the Wind," sometime, it's beautiful, and highly catchy.

Justin Avery-Future Father of my children!

So, I found a Justin Avery CD that I've had but never listen to so during Spring Break I popped it in the CD player and gave a I can't stop listening to it! It is AMAZING! He is a genius! Every song is so catchy and different that you can't help but sing along.

I've known Justin a long time. He graduated from my high school in like '98 I believe and attended Western Michigan University where he graduated in Jazz studies. He was apart of Gold Company there and the Gold Company Sextet. He's been working professionally as a singer, dancer, musician since he was 14. He's been writing and performing his own music since high school. His senior year, he released his first CD, "Undecided". Since then, he's released 4 other CDs with his newest released last year, (the one I've been listening to) "Whatever Comes to Mind"

His musical influences for his music have been artists such as Stevie Wonder, Prince, the Beatles, Earth Wind and Fire, and Steely Dan. You can definitly hear these influences in his songs.

He has a great variety on this CD, from Jazz to Rock to R & B to Ballad. He is a very versatile performer. His lyrics are also great and at times, funny. Some of my favorites are "Mr. Amnesia", "Man in a Business Suit", "Cell City Mode", "Love on You" and "Far too Young for Me". He does all his own vocals, including background, plays piano and some guitar. His voice is to die for and so incredible! He has an amazing falsetto! He can sing higher than me!

Justin Avery is definitly the next best thing to Jazz and to contempary music today! He has such a fresh sound and wide range, you wouldn't know where to place him. He is also a huge local celebrity in my hometown of Traverse City where he grew up. Everyone knows of him. I've even worked with him a couple of times through the high school! I definitly want to have his babies! :P

I highly recommend checking out his website! They have sound clips of songs and a video of the last concert he just did called "Icons"! Check it out!