Absence

For those of you who read this website – apologies for the lack of content recently (also for the lack of content within my content, heh!).

I have a couple more transcriptions I will make available – maybe make YouTube videos of them so you can follow along.

I have some trumpet and guitar related materials to publish, as well as a handful of posts and photos etc…

I have been working on developing my lack of low register, working on reducing pressure, working on air etc etc… all those good fundamental things. I had somewhat of a breakthrough with a nice (somewhat flat) double C. Posting this in efforts to keep myself believing that I can play in that register when everything is working, and that frequency, stamina and accuracy are a work in progress.

I will publish a helpful warmup routine that my tutor has shown me; I have incorporated some other elements more focused at my own weaknesses, however, in use and with students these seem to be beneficial no matter your makeup.

I resolve to update before a year is up!

Here’s how a trumpet CAN sound… the incomparable Wayne Bergeron:

Merry Christmas!
Mike

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Terell Stafford – Daahoud (solo transcription)

Here is a transcription I did of the trumpet solo on “Daahoud” from Terell Stafford’s album “Centripetal Force” (1997).

Sorry – no chords yet.

http://www.box.net/shared/uji9hzpb2vk0lrr2ikj4

You can buy this on Amazon (like me), or check it out on Spotify – links below.

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Centripetal-Force/dp/B001LFDXNY

http://open.spotify.com/track/0zUFZIfnUEVPuA3h2PUEp1

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My Pianist, the Cat

I am finally getting around to the topic of aesthetics, opinion, and in fact (partly) how I classify music and what I personally think constitutes music. Caveat: it would be worth tempering the following article with the phrase “in my opinion”, as I may indeed disagree with what I write in some time, however, as it stands this is largely what I believe and how I observe music; this is not a sermon, just a collection of my personal thoughts.

Firstly, music is such an abstract notion that even my fairly abstract title does little to address; in a post-modern era that is. We are confronted by so many situations in which disparate sounds, programmed and sampled sounds are considered music, that we should wonder “what is music?” How can one argue for, or against the validity of any source sound which has been so-called music, no matter how it was created? Well, in order that we keep a measure of our standard and maintain critical faculties we really must be able to make this distinction, but it is about as abstract as the music itself. It is not good enough to say that anything is music, in my opinion, as this totally disrespects those who diligently learn, practice, perform and improve their art form.

To take the sound of a pneumatic drill and to class that as music would be absurd, yet worse things have been done! At the base of it I do not disagree with the principle that anything can be classed as music as we also produce the fundamental vibrations which make sound on our own instruments. What I argue is that for music to be so, it must have intent behind it. Intent greater than that of being modern or post-modern, as this is a total fallacy and disharmonious to what I believe music to be. To simply be contrary for the sake of creating something must be the most base form of art, yet one must argue that someone may indeed enjoy this creation. It then begs the question “Does the experience of the listener (observer) change what is and what is not music?” I know my opinions may create seeming contradiction in my own arguments, but ultimately the listener does not alter the idiom or the composition by observation, therefore simply enjoying a sound does not make it music; it then prompts the repetition of the question “what is music?”

I am afraid that I cannot answer this question acceptably for all people, but I can surely define what I believe music to be, and I shall point out a few flaws in the subject/object argument. If the people sitting beside me would talk more quietly that is; there is nothing like the spoken word to jam the process of writing.

Firstly, to bring perspective and a personal element to this debate (between myself and… my computer?) it should be agreed that everyone is different, and to enjoy music or an organised collection of sounds is not to be looked down upon for any reason (unless it is country “music”… I jest!). Enjoying sound and music is little to do with philosophy, and so it seems pointless to write this small article, however, it has been pestering me and like that fly which keeps me awake at night, for my own sake, I will kill it. Or try to. So to speak.

Personally, anything which calls itself “music” but is written without any intent, consideration or care (like half of my undergraduate compositions) is certainly not what I consider music. There is no intent from the conception of the composition; there is no attempt to be anything, there is nothing besides notes spattered on the page. This is nothing. This is not music. This could be heard to be music by anyone besides myself, and it invokes the subject/object clash, and however little I think of this composition, others may consider it music; maybe due to the fact that it is performed on instruments, maybe just due to an urge, or a lack of knowledge, but it is certainly not music. At the most it is an attempt to cover a decent, clean page with nonsense. Any time I think I hear this form of “music” I am instantly suspicious of the intent behind it. You sometimes can hear this in performers. You can sometimes hear when a performer is playing for the cheque. You can sometimes see when a teacher is clocking through for pay day. You can sometimes hear when a composer is writing nonsense, some of my thoughts on the reasons for this in a following article. Granted your opinion is not fool proof (hence my prostitution of the word “sometimes”), but you have nothing else to go on usually, which is a good reason to constantly improve our critical faculties.

During my degree course we were taught that music isn’t about emotion, that emotion was a very small subset of what music was; it was an assault of post-modern ideology and fallacy. Granted we did learn valuable things, but that is not for discussion right now. If music affected nothing in our lives, what separates it from an angle grinder, besides sheer volume (sometimes)?

What can be affected by music?

Music is powerful, in my experience. Music can alter mood and emotion so powerfully, it can paint pictures, accompany scenes of opera, it can be wonderful! In my position I cannot fathom how someone would contrive to compose music which was not this! What else is there to be manipulated by music? Bowel movements? The notion that music has nothing to do with emotion and should be treated almost clinically is about the most offensive ideal that I can imagine concerning this subject, yet there are so many instances of this happening. It disgusts me! Besides the corporate side of music, which is inevitable, why have people decided to create nothingness for the sake of it? Is it a general lack of skill, a nationwide dumbing-down of the average “musician or composer”? It is this stage which I really get stuck at. I cannot see why people would do this to such a beautiful art form, but I also cannot understand the hatred and evil people hold for each other; the general willingness to do ill. Moving back from the precipice of comparing genuine evil to that of composers and musicians who don’t share my ideals; this is clearly not what I think, but a harsh comparison to hopefully illicit some response. I am going to write about why I think people compose and play nothingness, so without giving up the ghost I will say that we all have our separate motivations to do what we do, all I ask is that you think about what these are, and why they exist.

For those who are wondering how this is going to end, I am not going to compare intent VS. Post-modern accident music by referring to the title; we aren’t school children! No, I am going to inform you that my cat, Lily, is offering piano lessons at a competitive rate. Let me know.

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Chris Potter, all the things, a cappella

This is a fantastic solo performance of “All the things you are” by Chris Potter. It is completely captivating! I have little else to say about this; just listen!

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Charlie Parker interview

A good friend brought this interview to my attention, so I cleaned the audio up and added an image to put a face to the genius (if you are unfamiliar) and put it on youtube. It is a very inspiring clip and incredible to listen to this musical genius talk about music and practice.

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Know your limitations

Playing a brass instrument requires an air pressure to be generated, and when we tense up and over-blow it is inevitable that we invite the valsalva manoeuvre in which we essentially create such a high internal air pressure that we collapse.

It has happened to me, and it has happened to many others, and hopefully you don’t need to experience the same wake-up call (and repair bill) that myself and others have!

I have compiled a small collection of video clips of players who are clearly doing it wrong, and from these you can easily see how little it would matter to the performance if the “final note ending” was bailed on, or shortened. It really wouldn’t matter, but I understand how it can be the only thing in the player’s mind and sadly the floor claims a victim.

(3mins in)

Hopefully you can see that stress, over-blowing and a general mis-use of the brain will cause bad things to happen. To finish this post positively, here is an incredibly impressive performance. No amount of “arm-strong method” or BLH (blow like hell) will ever make this piece work.

Brandenburg 2 mvt. 1 (with Friedemann Immer as the Trumpet soloist)

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Am I Biased?

There is no slow way to answer this question as it is very simple; I am biased. Everyone is biased. However, the reasons and circumstances that bias us are worth investigating further. I cannot pretend to have a keen inside on the human psyche, but I do tend to analyse and think about what motivates and influences us to behave the way we behave and do what we do. I have therefore opened up a greater depth to a simple question; what biases us? We should all agree that we are biased; subconsciously, consciously even actively! If you want to disagree then please forward all of your ideas to my toaster. Actually, I am kidding; email me. I want to hear other viewpoints, but I will run it by my toaster for a second opinion.

A very obvious modifier to our minds is how we are brought up, what we are exposed to from an early age and how our peers regard our decisions and actions. There are some things, as with every decision, that needs to be kept in check. By which I mean you should analyse what you are thinking and try to understand why you have that opinion or thought, then see if you are willingly thinking this because it is of your own volition or is it through a conditioned response. Finally evaluate that condition; is the condition personally valid; does the condition make a form of sense to you, or is it born out of a modified behavior? To elucidate upon my points, and intending to further clarify my meaning I will pose a few scenarios.

Growing up, playing an instrument was not cool; especially playing a brass instrument that smelled like moldy floor-boards. Some would say that growing up and playing the trumpet is a contradiction of terms… I digest. For quite some time I gingerly brought my trumpet into primary school and disowned it in the instrument store before my lessons. In the lesson it felt like I was at home, there were other “outcasts” playing, and while I had no great desire to play it felt like I was safe from mockery. Finally I thought the instrument was so uncool that I wanted to quit in year 6, I was probably 11. What stopped me quitting was my mother’s intervention. I don’t remember specifically, but the impression of that memory is that I was not allowed even the option of quitting or moving onto trombone (which at the time I thought was cooler because one of the “cooler” kids was playing one… WOW dodged a bullet there!) Thanks mom! A similar situation presented itself in high school, however, I started playing the guitar which was “cool” and then started to see musicians being appreciated for what they were. In my final year of high school I started having the guts to play the horn, and playing what I wanted to; jazz. To analyse this; my decisions and fears were from peer groups and at this stage it is something that the teacher could have addressed (by encouraging me and showing that the instrument was in fact a great choice!) however this was not the case. Now, and maybe for the best, and as a result of general berating and put-dowenery from players who “could have been” or from those with such low self-esteem that they had to put others down, I have a somewhat defiant attitude. It is perhaps a self-protecting mechanism, but it is simple; I know my flaws, but I work hard and so I will listen to your criticism, but if it flags the BS detector I will pass it along to my toaster. There are teachers and players that you want criticism from and they offer this criticism genuinely, but there are also those that do so to boost their own ego. That is where the line gets drawn. At what stage does music require or benefit from attitude problems?

Another example: listening to classical music was definitely not “cool”, however, it was always played at home; so again due to my nature as a child I did not listen to much classical music around schools, however, I was exposed to it and now it is one of my favorite forms of music to listen to. Granted that using such wide terms of genre includes a lot of music that I would very much prefer not to listen to, but on the whole the music within has a lot of thought and intelligence behind it. It has a lot of depth and it does require an invested listening to appreciate fully, as with all “quality” music (for the sake of a general discussion-avoiding term).  One person I am exceptionally proud of is my young brother, Andy, who almost exclusively listens to classical music as this is the music he loves. Today it is no cooler for 12 year olds to listen to that music as it was for me, 11 years ago!

The argument for the validity of certain music types is one to look at another time and for now we can agree that certain types of music are more complex than others. Some appeal to us on different levels and we all listen to music for a variety of reasons. What I try to hear in music is sincerity and intention behind what is played, which is why it is very hard for me to appreciate the huge quantities of mass produced, money grabbing, soul-less pop music (which too has a place)!

So many encounters can shape us which leave every one of us biased and I could continue to list more examples of events which have shaped me as a musician, but I think that I have conveyed my point. Being biased is not necessarily a bad thing as it is part of who we are, but we must question everything (internally and externally).

Through study and listening we can teach ourselves discernment, vocabulary and much more; this, as with the topic of validity, is for another time. For now I would like to outline the issue of how we strongly subconsciously guide and bias our minds through listening. It is very much the case of what you put in is directly related to what you get out, in some form or other. In this respect it is important that we positively bias our mind. The idea of positive bias seems a little contradictory to some of my other writing, as it is very much arguable that everything is equal, and that as a sound (the fundamental element of our music) everything has no more meaning than anything else. It is obviously not the case; this model exists hypothetically, and mainly to arouse debate much like the infinite monkeys, typewriters and time scenario… I will gladly accept that we are rational and will agree that there are certain precepts and constructs within music which can be learned and improved upon, in much the same way these issues can be poorly taught and learned.

It is now the time to see the role of respected peers, lecturers, teachers, family members, band members, gigging buddies etc… Those people with whom you place respect, you do so hopefully based upon musical or personal merit rather than the Neolithic playground social model in which respect often goes to someone who is considered “cool” or even to the school bully. If we have respected people in our lives, people whose opinions and thoughts matter, we are likely to adopt or at the least, appreciate their opinions on music in this instance. This is a great opportunity to learn, and to guide your listening. Why are your peers listening to a certain composer or musician? Why are more than one of your friends doing so? Start to question, and to listen. Without meaning to stray into another topic, a learned bias in this example is a good thing, however, it must always be held to your own standards and questions; in order for this particular bias to mean anything to you, you must make its meaning personal to you, otherwise you are following the leader.

I have just realized how I have used the phrase “learned bias”. To clarify; this is how I would describe any form of modification to your behavior and thinking which is either consciously or subconsciously learned. It does not mean a study and mental implication of this precept as you would an essay; this would be rather difficult, as you would probably forget, unlike the subconscious which is powerful in its capacity for memory and thought processing.

As a biased writer, who sometimes struggles to find the correct words to convey his thoughts, I enjoy these new opportunities to learn, and to question why things are as they are. I enjoy analyzing music; how and why it makes me feel the way it makes me feel but importantly I enjoy playing music. I would like to stress how the most important concept in this article is how we can believe so strongly in something, but not understand why and it is at this stage where you realize that you are acting on a culmination and combination of many other people’s thoughts subconsciously combined in your own mind; this is why the power of self-interrogation is paramount to arriving at personal conclusions. Without this we easily run the risk of thoughtless-opinion which is dangerous, especially when confronted.

Kindly,
Mike

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