To trip or not to triple...?
I read Mr. Cerminaro's article rejoicing the triple horn in the latest Horn Call with great interest. Especially this statement was touching: "Phrasing with triple horns transforms fluid vocal ideas into confident musical realities." Congratulations to all who find an instrument with which they are really happy, it be a certain make, or, as in this case, a model with many features. However, I would like to comment on the prediction in this article about the future of instruments for horn players.
From my point of view, the development of the horn seems to be going in several directions, the key words being diversity and versatility. The natural horn (from various periods) is now clearly back in business in Europe. I, for one, have been increasingly busy through last decades, performing orchestral or chamber music by Bach, Händel, Telemann, Haydn, Mozart, Mendelssohn and other great composers, on instruments similar to what they had at the time. This includes Brahms Op. 40, with a piano from 1853 and an old violin with gut strings. Indeed, Brahms did have some very special sounds in mind!
Today the natural horn can be studied as the main instrument, for example in the distinguished old Leipzig Music Conservatory in Germany. There are many groups around performing and recording on period instruments or copies of such. More and more frequently conductors ask for natural horns in classical works. Smart students study natural horn on the side, in order to be better prepared for possible opportunities and challenges in their professional future. The single horns (in F and Bb) are also coming back in use, based on the desire of some groups and conductors to create a sound picture closer to what was there at the time of the composers.
Never Say Never - Again
Frøydis Ree Wekre on myths and negative rules
When I started to play the horn as a teenager I got the firm impression that only people with thin lips would have the potential to become really good horn players. This myth stayed in the back of my mind for many years and certainly delayed my progress in several areas. My own, somewhat thick lips became the excuse and explanation for various problems. My own creative problem-solving and flow of new ideas on how to improve technically slowed down considerably because of believing in this myth.
Later I have run across other myths that for some people had been damaging to their progress and self confidence, but often later proven to be wrong.
Many of these myths turn into negative advice and rules on how not to do it. This kind of advice is handed out freely as pompous statements in the form of “never do this/never do that”, understood: “To do this or that is against every law, written or unwritten, and if you do this or that anyway, your playing/your chances/your whatever will be severely damaged.”
Below follows a collection of such “nevers”; statements that can have a negative effect on the minds of sensitive people. Some of the rules are self-experienced, and others have been told me by students and colleagues. Each one will be presented separately with my comments.
“Never puff your cheeks.” My first horn teacher told me this, and I followed his advice obediently. However, one evening, as I was watching the orchestra where he played, I noticed something strange in the horn section; surprisingly for me, my own teacher puffed his cheeks occasionally! When asked about this during my next lesson, he thought about it for a while, then smiled and held firm to his earlier advice, but of course, the grain of doubt had been put into my mind. Later I have found that puffing the cheeks occasionally when playing in certain ranges or dynamics might help to give stiff corner muscles a quick, temporary relaxation. It might also help producing a different tone colour, if one is unable to create that on the normal, non-puffed setting. So, my answer to this rule would be: Yes, for the most part, although no rule without exceptions!
Audition Excerpt List
Brian Thomas & Seth Orgel
[Note: It is highly recommended to read the entire article that accompanies this survey list! The full article has great practical advice on audition preparation.]
The results of the audition repertoire were compiled from material found on 41 audition lists. The number in parentheses indicates the number of times the piece appeared on the different lists. The lists used were from both high and low horn auditions.
The repertoire lists were compiled from the following North American orchestras: Alabama, Boston, Charlotte, Chicago, Columbus, Denver, Detroit, Grant Park, Honolulu, Indianapolis, Jacksonville, Kansas City, Louisville, Nashville, New Orleans, Omaha, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Pittsburgh, Rochester, San Antonio, Savannah, Seattle, Syracuse, Thunder Bay, Toledo, Tucson, Utah, Vancouver and Winnipeg.
We would like to acknowledge the assistance of Vincent Cichowicz, Dale Clevenger, Mason Jones, Widge Kincaid, Steven Lawlis, David Orgel, Roseann Salamon, Norman Schweikert, and Harry Shapiro.
The Infinite Power of Self-Determination
by S. Earl Saxton
Do you know a more genuinely "do-it-yourself" occupation than horn playing? Right from the start most kids spend a lot of time practicing on the horn, alone. Of course, few young hornists try to go it all alone, without any help. What successful "do-it-yourselfer" student does?
Experienced players are nearly always available and willing to help an aspiring student, usually for a price. But how far and how successfully one goes into horn playing is not really established by the teacher. That is determined by the student himself or herself. Let me give you my line of reasoning.
Medical Problems of Wind Players
by Philip Farkas
Brass playing encompasses at least four distinct categories of functions and techniques. One of the most important of these is the formation of the embouchure - the adjustment of the mouth and facial muscles and the positioning of the tongue and mandible so that the lips will vibrate when blown through. The breathing apparatus - the diaphragm, the rib cage, the intercostal muscles, and the glottis - must be correctly coordinated to work in conjunction with and maintain efficient vibration of the lips.
The third factor in brass playing is the ability to hold the instrument in a comfortable yet steady playing position. This requires strong but relaxed skeletal muscles, particularly of the arms, shoulders, fingers, and even the legs of those players who stand while playing.
The fourth aspect of playing is the psychological one of combating stage fright, which is most often exhibited in trembling arms and legs, dry mouth, tachycardia, and mental disorientation. All too many potentially successful artists have had to give up the music profession because of the inability to cope with this stress.