Category: Philosophical Thought

Spectacle Brass in Villa Rica, GA; live performance, Christmas tree lighting, special event, ceremonial music, trumpet

Challenging the “Orchestral” Model

Last weekend I had the opportunity to attend two local concerts: Georgia Symphony Orchestra (GSO) Jazz at the Earl Smith Strand Theatre and a matinee Atlanta Symphony performance at the Woodruff Arts Center. While I’d like to offer a few musical observations on both concerts, it seems this would be an appropriate setting to discuss how modern orchestras are changing… Read more →

Robert Spano at Bailey Performance center john thomas burson trumpet spectacle brass quintet

When Passion Meets Persistence: This is “World Class”

In the midst of difficult and tense labor negotiations at the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, Virginia Hepner, president and CEO of the Woodruff Arts Center (the ASO’s parent organization), proceeded to state during a radio interview that “It’s up to anyone to decide what’s world-class and what an orchestra should be.” As a curious music student, I realized I need to… Read more →

Learning from SIMPLE Observation

We’ve all heard a huge amount of technical lingo throughout our school and professional lives, but I often question how useful much of it is.  This video demonstrates many parts of brass playing: use of the tongue for articulation and range, position of the mouthpiece, width between the teeth, and probably three dozen other facets of the horn and trumpet you can read about.

Notice, now, how much we can learn just by watching this creative demo– WITHOUT words.  Hopefully, we’re EXPERIENCING left brain meeting right brain.  Music achieved as an experience and not an action.

Next time while practicing or teaching, consider how much you can teach without saying a word.

Seeking to Define…Or Not.

“I do not compose, I assemble materials,” said Aaron Copland.  Fascinating, isn’t it?
Take a listen to this work for soprano and orchestra by the late Witold Lutosławski.  Some might call Lutosławski’s work this “assembly” of materials Copland was talking about.
We’ve all participated in conversations trying to define what music “really is.”  But one cannot define such a thing as music, because that’s exactly what music isn’t.  From Cage and Reich to David Lang, there is only one idea that has stuck for me.  Dr. Tom Gibson initiated this quest for meaning, and that is of music as metaphor.
Think about Copland’s Third Symphony for a moment.  Now, turn the Lutosławski back on for a few minutes.  Vastly different, right?  Or are they?
These composers speak to us in what we perceive to be very different languages, but both speak to us in ways that can only be achieved through music. Philosopher David Hume would have called this association of ideas.  This association of ideas is not so distant from the idea of music as metaphor.
Music completely relies on what Hume is talking about, working with the space between our inner selves and the entire universe.  Assembling materials is exactly right, but that’s just the beginning: that aural association is a mere initiation of the true music.
Next time we hear something and think, “That sounds ‘different,’” consider whether it’s the sound that is important.
-JTB