There will be tables and chairs…

Ξ January 30th, 2010 | → 0 Comments | ∇ Musician, Indie, Andrew Bird |

…with pony rides and dancing bears…

There will be tables and chairs, pony rides and dancing bears

…and yes, there will be snacks.

I was able to pick up the Andrew Bird iTunes Session EP last week and it has renewed the love I have for this man.  Some of the notable tracks on the album are “Skin is, My”, and “Opposite Day”. All of the tracks were recorded live and more than live up to the expectations I have for the Bird man: they are not at all like his other recordings or previous performances.  That’s what I’ve always loved about him.  That’s what music is; the true craft.  It’s a living, breathing, changing thing. To me, Andrew Bird keeps the spirit of performance alive.

I forgot which composer believed that music should never be recorded…that’s up for some googling later.  Regardless of who it was,  I understand where he’s coming from.  The true form of music lies in the performance, where things can change and mistakes can be made.  With a (studio) recording, you’re getting the same canned performance of the piece.  Listen to 5 different orchestras of the same ability play the same symphony.  You’ll find none of them play it quite like the other.  I don’t mean that you can just take a symphony and butcher it into some unrecognizable piece, but you can take it and make it your own within what the composer has set out for you. Andrew Bird definitely captures this feeling in his performances. He doesn’t strictly follow the map, he only uses it as a guide.

Don’t get me wrong, recordings definitely have their place (and ho ho, this post is about a recording).  I have tons of recordings of symphonies which I use for reference when performing orchestral repertoire, and I enjoy listening to recordings of my favorite artists on a daily basis.  But they aren’t the be-all, end-all way a piece should sound. That’s what’s great about this album. I don’t ever expect to hear Bird play these songs like this ever again, and he probably wont.

If you haven’t checked out Andrew Bird’s iTunes Sessions EP, or you’ve never listened to him at all, I definitely recommend listening to this album.  It is purchasable here:

So don’t you,
don’t you worry
about the atmosphere.

Original post by Sufjan


Radiohead and UCD

Ξ December 25th, 2009 | → 0 Comments | ∇ Musician, Recital |

So out of curiosity I googled myself, and something unexpected came up. Check it out:

I wasn’t aware of this! I never attended UC Davis nor have I ever discussed with anyone about performing my arrangement there. Weird! That’s pretty awesome. It was also listed on a Saxophonist’s web site under his list of repertoire. Even cooler! It’s been performed by 4 colleges now, the first performance was right after I wrote it…I was like 18. The UCD performance was a few years ago.

Original post by Sufjan


December…the season of shitty concerts

Ξ November 14th, 2009 | → 0 Comments | ∇ Musician |

As I feared, the program for December’s concert is made up entirely of Christmas music.

*shoots self*

It’s not like I’m some sort of scrooge, it’s just that playing (a lot) of Christmas music is not very enjoyable – mostly because it’s boring. We all know how Christmas music goes. We all know those stupid horn rips and shit they throw in to make it sound “cool”. What’s worse is we’re also playing a medley – which touches on over half of the rest of the program. Silent Night? Yeah we just played that, but now its got a Latin feel and we’re going to run it straight into Jingle Bells in a new key. Exciting! Pull out the drum kit!

*shoots self again*

What’s worse is we’re also playing some (painfully long and horribly scored) variations on Carol of the Bells which was written by the principal clarinet player. Not only is he creepy and awkward, but he also wrote some pain-in-the-ass horn part that doesn’t make sense (Three strikes, you’re out!). I’m pretty sure he took some staves, a shotgun, fired at random, added a few 16th note embellishments, made sure he outlined a B-flat (E-flat concert) major chord, repeated it for 50 measures and then called it a day. Thankfully it’s not the entire piece, he had time later to write the first and third horn’s parts half a beat off from the rest of the orchestra – not only is it awkward when playing with everyone, it just makes us sound like we’re terrible at keeping time.

We could have done Lieutenant Kije!

Original post by Sufjan



Ξ October 30th, 2009 | → 0 Comments | ∇ Musician, Recital |

Needless to say I’m looking forward to this recital.  Haha


Ignite your lightsabers and get ready to have your midichlorian count quadrupled, because BONE WARS is back and this time Red 5 will fly you on a sonic journey from the depths of the Sarlacc Beast’s bowels to the highest towers of Bespin’s shining Cloud City.

NO DROIDS PERMITTED. We don’t serve their kind here.

ALL WOMEN IN SLAVE LEIA COSTUMES GET IN FOR FREE. Actually everybody gets in for free. But still. Slave Leia.

Please keep all tauntauns, blasters, and cellphones silent. Failure to comply will result in some serious Vader-style force-choking.

The program will feature pieces by Bach, Bozza, Ewazen, Faure, Luther, and Robison.

Also featured will be Dr. John Cozza, Joel Elias, Tony Portela, Uiliami Fihaki, Colin Matthewson, Rachel Wilens, and Stephen Bingen.

When: Monday, November 23rd, 8PM
Where: CSUS Capistrano Music Recital Hall
What else: Reception to follow recital
What else else: Birthday celebration at Bonnlair to follow that



Original post by Sufjan


The inner-thought of playing

Ξ August 28th, 2009 | → 0 Comments | ∇ Musician, Pedagogy |

Much to my dismay, one of the hornists in this off-campus orchestra only has maybe a year of experience.  In the middle of the rehearsal he asked me for tips, because he has a good grasp on the very, very basic fundamentals of brass playing but was still struggling.  It’s been a long time since I’ve had to answer any horn-specific questions about playing beyond fingerings or embouchure or air.  One of his biggest problems was stability, so I came up with a few more advanced points for him:

  1. Focus.
    Every musician has their belt of tools to use when it comes to playing music.  If you just take out the hammer and start swinging wildly, things aren’t going to sound very nice.  Focus helps keep us in tune, gives notes clarity and stability, and helps you project.  The best way to picture this is to picture a snow-cone.  The wide end is in the back near the throat and the tip of the cone is toward where the mouth opens.  The wide end is the energy, your air, or fuel (whatever you’d like to call it), and the tip of the cone is the focus where the energy goes into the horn.  Otherwise it’d be hard to fit the ball-end of that snow-cone into the horn, huh?   Haha.  Pushing to achieve this shape and keeping it in mind while playing will immensely help stability issues with the horn.
  2. Energy Flow.
    It’s important to be constantly aware of the energy flow while playing (or air, but I like this broader term since it’s really more than air, its also the mental awareness of where you’re going with the music and much more, but it’s hard to explain all of it).  Know where the energy is going, what you want to do with it, and where it should go.  Energy flow should be constant.  One of my professors used to compare constant energy flow to a speedboat gliding across a lake.  It’s the driving force behind a horn player’s sound, and if its wobbly, the sound will be wobbly too.  If there’s a fast, technical line, the energy is going to be fast and constant.  If there’s a slower, more melodic line, the energy will reflect that as well (but still be constant and firm).  Riding the energy flow helps get you through those things with more ease.  Another example is my (simplified) approach to energy flow between octaves.  Higher notes push the energy down, while lower notes push the energy up.  Imagine a seesaw.  When one end goes low, the other end must come up, and when one end goes high, the other end must come down.  For me, this helps a lot with managing the whopping 4 octaves the horn stretches to.  It takes a lot of time exploring energy flow on a personal basis to start understanding, being aware of, and letting go with it.
  3. The tonal “sweet-spot”.
    Many brass teachers commonly believe that the sweet spot is in the center of the note.  Perhaps it may be true for other parts of the brass family, but for the horn this isn’t the case.  It’s a common mistake and the main problem for a lot of horn players stability of trying to find the “center” of the note.  For the horn, the sweet spot of the note is always going to be toward the top.  This is where things are most secure, and some might be worried about this pushing notes sharp, but don’t be.  Picture a balloon gently pushing up against a ceiling.  It’s not forced, its just gently sitting there, secure and in place.  This is the best approach to take for notes on the horn.  Let the notes settle at the top, don’t push them or they will go sharp (and in the balloon’s case it will pop!).

There’s so much more to touch on these subjects (and tons more on the subject of focus), but the big parts covered here should help any hornist, or any musician for that matter, in their playing.

Original post by Sufjan



Ξ August 25th, 2009 | → 0 Comments | ∇ Musician |

At school, the horn seats in the orchestra were always heated with competition.  It was everyone’s first pick for a large performance ensemble not only because of the repertoire, but because of the atmosphere that differentiates it from band.  There’s always a more significant feeling roaring through a Mahler Symphony rather than pecking the off-beats of a Sousa march (okay, that may be a bit drastic of a comparison, but still).  Overall it just has a more serious atmosphere.  Being that I was always free during the band rehearsal time and not during the orchestra rehearsal time, every semester I got stuck in band.  Terrible, I know.  Not that there isn’t good band literature out there, I’m just tired of saxophones (unless you throw some Prokofiev my way). :p

So, this semester I’m going to be playing in an orchestra off-campus.  It’s scary, because who knows who awesome (or painful) it will be.  It could be full of a lot of skilled players, but there’s equal chance of a majority of the players being….casual, I guess you could say.  Flashbacks of community orchestra with Brandy and Rhys make me shiver; there’s nothing more disappointing than being one of the strongest players in a group.  On the flip-side, it can also be seen as an opportunity to help others on their musical path…but if you know me, you know my glass is half-empty, hehe.


We’ll see this Wednesday, it’ll be an adventure!

Original post by Sufjan


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