It’s been a busy semester here in Louisiana, but things are starting to wind down. Final exams and juries remain, as well as a few holiday gigs for which I am very grateful! Best wishes to all of my colleagues as they finish up their teaching and performance obligations for this year.
In lieu of a full update from the past semester, here are some recent performance videos. The first two selections were originally submitted for the 53rd International Horn Symposium, which was 100% online. IHS 53 content is no longer available, so if you didn’t get a chance to hear these videos as part of the symposium you may find them interesting. They are both recent works by living American composers, Douglas Hill and Roger Parks Jones. Program notes for each work can be found in the video descriptions.
Sketchbook for Horn and Piano, by Roger Parks Jones
The next set is from a recent guest recital at the University of Oklahoma (Dr. Matthew Reynolds). This performance was the last in a brief recital tour that also took me to Henderson State University in Arkadelphia, AR (Dr. Heather Thayer), the University of North Texas in Denton, TX (Dr. Stacie Mickens), and the National Association of College Wind and Percussion Instructors Conference at Texas Woman’s University (also in Denton, TX). Huge THANK YOUS! to my kind and generous hosts! It was a fun and diverse program of music for unaccompanied horn and horn with various kinds of electronic accompaniment. If any of these works interest you I encourage you to buy the music and perform them yourself! Program information is in each video’s description.
Visions for Horn and Fixed Media, by James Naigus
“Quiet Tears” for Solo Horn, by Douglas Hill
The Confessions of St. Augustine for Solo Horn, by Erika Raum
Gone to the Other Shore for Wagner tuba and electronics, by Nick Norton
Forces of Nature for Horn and CD with Optional Electric Horn, by Nicholas Fife
It’s past time for an update on this blog, and I apologize to my readers (if any are left!) that it’s been so long since my last post. While things have gone well the past several months, I – like everyone else – am looking forward to returning to “normal” as soon as is safely possible. The mood in my state and region is more positive now than it’s been in a long time, which is of course encouraging.
Equipment – A New Horn!
While I’ve played on Geyer/Knopf-style horns for the majority of my career, I appreciate many (though not all) of the qualities of large-bell, i.e. Kruspe-style, horns. I recently got the chance to try one of Yamaha’s Kruspe horns, the YHR 668II, and have been enjoying it a lot! It blows differently than my YHR 671, but there are some interesting similarities as well. Ergonomically the two instruments feel similar in my left hand, despite the design differences. The 668II takes a bit more air, but I am able get some brassiness in the sound when desired. If you compare images of the Yamaha 668II and the Conn 8D, you’ll notice the similarity of design. It’s not just been years, but decades since I last played an 8D, so I can’t really compare it with the Yamaha. Here’s a very brief audio sample from a recording I made for IHS 53. The excerpt is from Roger Jones’s Sketchbook for Horn and Piano.
While I’m still adapting to this instrument, I’m having a great time doing it. One thing I discovered early on is that the 668II responds better to a mouthpiece with a slightly larger bore. In my case I switched from the Houser San Francisco model I was using on the 671 (#14 bore) to the Houser Standley GS12 model (#12 bore), keeping the same rim (Houser E model, 17.5mm). The Standley cup is slightly different than the San Francisco, so that may have impacted the results as well. The Standley model is not new for me, as I played on one for several years before making the move to the San Francisco. I won’t be selling my Geyer-style horn any time soon, but for the time being I plan to keep playing the big-bell horn regularly. If you’re in the market for a large-bell horn, the Yamaha 668II is worth a look.
This month marks my first year as Publications Editor for the International Horn Society. It continues to be an honor and privilege to serve the IHS in this position, especially following Bill Scharnberg’s 17-year tenure! I’m excited about the variety and number of articles that have been and continue to be submitted. Be sure to check out the May issue of The Horn Call if you have not done so already. On a related note, episodes of The Horn Call Podcast are available at podcast.hornsociety.org, and can also be found on Apple Podcasts and other major podcast outlets. As of this post, 13 episodes have been published (10 regular and 3 “bonus” episodes), with a total of 2,380 downloads. Given the niche market for this podcast, I think this is a respectable number. Guests so far have included: Andrew Pelletier, Ricardo Matosinhos, Gina Gillie, Margaret Tung, Jena Gardner, David Krehbiel, Frøydis Ree Wekre, John Ericson, Jonas Thoms, Albert Houde, Jeffrey Agrell, James Naigus, Drew Phillips, and Katy Ambrose. If you enjoy the podcast medium I hope you’ll subscribe to The Horn Call podcast. It is my hope it will serve as a bridge between IHS membership, content creators, and IHS leadership. It has been a pleasure speaking with each and every guest!
In terms of teaching and performing obligations, this summer will be very light for me, but I have several other projects in the works. One is a book project for Mountain Peak Music, and another is a commissioning project. More details on both in future posts, I promise! Up next week is a woodwind quintet performance for the 5th annual New Music on the Bayou Summer Festival. If you are a fan of new music, be sure to check out the live-streams of these concerts. I’ve also submitted three pre-recorded videos for IHS 53: a solo performance – which includes the world premieres of works by Douglas Hill and Roger Jones – a ULM Horn Ensemble performance, and a presentation on burnout. The burnout presentation was originally scheduled for IHS 52 (which was cancelled), but it seemed just as appropriate this year! All three will be available to those who register for the symposium, which is scheduled for August 9-13, 2021.
I hope everyone has a lovely summer with plenty of rest and relaxation!
As our fall semester is nearly at the halfway point, I won’t even bother calling this post a semester “Preview.” Rather, here’s a brief update on some recent activities.
Like many places, my university is operating with a combination of face-to-face and online instruction. Things seem to be going well, and the faculty and students have done an admirable job adapting to the new environment.
Online Solo and Chamber Performances
We have been live-streaming a few concerts and recitals, and also releasing pre-recorded concert videos on our school’s YouTube Channel. While these aren’t quite the same experience as attending an in-person performance, they have been fun to put together, and will hopefully provide some musical enjoyment for audiences. Here are links to a recent faculty brass quartet recital and an upcoming horn and piano recital.
I would add that creating these has provided ample opportunities to work on my sound and video recording techniques, which are amateur at best. We experimented with various camera angles and settings, and I am still dealing with the learning curve on the various equipment and software. I think the audio is pretty good, at least!
The Horn Call Journal and Podcast
Since taking over the role of Publications Editor with the International Horn Society, I’ve been heavily engaged with preparing the October issue of The Horn Call. I’m glad to say that the journal is ready, with printed copies on their way to mailboxes and the electronic version already available online. I’m very grateful to the entire team at The Horn Call for their hard work. I hope you enjoy reading the October issue (cover image above), which features an in-depth article by Paul Neuffer on legendary Hollywood studio musician—and IHS Honorary Member—Vincent DeRosa. In addition to The Horn Call, the IHS also offers several other print and electronic publications, including an e-newsletter, Horn and More, produced by IHS Vice-President Kristina Mascher-Turner. We also have a monthly Horn Call podcast, which launched in August. It’s been a blast working on the podcast, and we have several wonderful guests lined up for coming episodes. If you haven’t had a chance to listen to the first two episodes, check out the link below and subscribe using your normal podcast app to get updates.
This will be the last update in my Caruso Journal [you can read the other parts here: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 |10]
I got busy last week with some other horn-related things (more on this in a future post) and had to defer my Week 11 journal entry. Rather than post Week 11 late, I thought it would be appropriate to combine Weeks 11 and 12 into a single, final summary.
When I began practicing Caruso studies 12 weeks ago, I wasn’t sure what to expect, but in my experience they have lived up to their reputation as great fundamental exercises! My consistency, endurance, and timing have improved over the last several weeks, and as I’ve mentioned before I will definitely be encouraging my students to practice them. Here are a few summary thoughts for anyone who is thinking about getting into Caruso Studies.
Go slowly – follow Julie Landsman’s suggested Practice Calendar, or create your own. Whatever you do, come up with something that is progressive and allows enough time (several days to weeks) on each pattern before adding more difficulty and complexity.
As a corollary to the above, be patient – if you are playing Caruso correctly, your playing should improve. If it doesn’t, take a break for a while, and/or consult with an experienced teacher. If you don’t have access to a teacher right now, watch (and re-watch) Julie Landsman’s excellent YouTube series.
Track your progress – use a chart (or mark in the music) dates and week numbers to help you adhere to the practice calendar. Be vigilant about avoiding strain when playing any of the exercises. I did not get good results when I had to force something to come out. It worked out much better to play to my comfortable limit and then repeat the pattern the next day or every other day.
I’ve enjoyed working on Caruso Studies, and doing so has helped me become more aware of my breathing and physical timing when I play the horn. I’ll keep doing them and trying to get better!
My apologies for being a day behind with my weekly Caruso Journal! Yesterday got away from me with various online meetings and other obligations.
Here we are in Week 10, and I’ve expanded the Intervals exercise to thirds, per Julie Landsman’s recommendation to change intervals after two weeks. Perhaps it’s just having two weeks of practice with this exercise under my belt, but the thirds actually feel easier than seconds. Synchronizing foot tapping, breathing, and air attacking the start of each note is going pretty well, except when I get into the highest register. Still a work in progress, but noticing some definite improvement.
Noodles and Spiders are also going well on alternate days. I usually do the C Noodle twice, once at quarter =60 and again at quarter =120, followed by Variation 1 at the same tempos. I also play Spiders on C, E, and G at quarter=60 and 120. I’ve not added Snakes yet, but will do that soon.
In terms of low register work, I’ve incorporated Chromatics Down into my daily routine and use Arpeggios Down for a warm-down at the end of the day. These are deceptively difficult exercises to play with great control and consistency all the way to the bottom of the range. Because these exercises require contact between the lips and mouthpiece throughout their entirety, I’ve found it very important to pay attention to the jaw and leadpipe angle as a means of getting into the low register.
As mentioned in a previous post, my plan is to continue with this journal through Week 12. There are a few more Caruso exercises that I haven’t explored yet, but I plan to do so in the coming weeks. Feel free to check them out on Julie Landsman’s Caruso page using the links below.
Week 9 means I’m now in the third month of work with Caruso Studies. A little over a week ago I incorporated theIntervals, Noodles, and Spiderexercises into my daily routine, playing a set of Intervals and two sets each of Noodles/Spiders on alternating days. There are a few more things to add in the coming weeks, but at this point I’ve encountered most of the exercises found on Julie Landsman’s Caruso website. I would point out that there are lots of variations on the basic Caruso exercises, which allows for growth and adaptation. Here are a few takeaways I recently jotted down regarding my past few months of work with Caruso studies.
A day of rest between the Interval Studies seems to be working, and for the most part I haven’t experienced any stiffness from these pretty intense workouts. The flexibility exercises (Noodle/Spider/Snake) provide a good balance.
Following the link from this Horn Matters article, I spent some time perusing the Caruso Forum on trumpetherald.com. There is so much content here that it was tough to know where to begin. I did however find some good advice about the use of a metronome for Caruso work. In general the recommendation seems to be to NOT use the metronome except for periodic reference, and to instead rely on coordinating the physical act of foot tapping with playing. It’s difficult to describe the difference in feel between foot tapping and responding to the metronome, but there is definitely a difference. Proactive playing vs. reactive playing sums it up best, I suppose.
Julie Landsman’s Caruso Videos have been extremely helpful, and I have been re-watching them periodically as I make my way through the various Caruso patterns. One thing that really stuck with me is her description of support feeling like your belly button is pressing towards your spine. For whatever reason, this concept has really helped with Caruso studies and other stuff too!
I’m back for Week 8 of my Caruso Studies journal. If you’re wondering how long this series will go, I plan to stop after Week 12, through the end of the first page on Julie Landsman’s suggested practice calendar. If you’ve followed these entries up to this point, thank you for reading!
Speaking of the Practice Calendar, I have a confession to make. Towards the end of the past week (Week 8) I went ahead and incorporated the Chromatics Down exercises into my daily routine, and have also been playing Noodles/Spiders and Intervals on alternating days. It sounds like a lot of new material to add, but Chromatics Down was scheduled for Week 9 anyway, and the Practice Calendar says “In the 3rd month, you may begin doing heavy lifting and flexibility exercises on alternating days.” In reality, I only jumped ahead by a few days.
So, how do these new exercises feel? Pretty good, so far, although I’ve been doing Caruso patterns for long enough now to know that it takes several days (for me at least) to really settle into them. The past few days have gone well, but really it’s about finding the most efficient way to play each pattern, which continues to be a work in progress. More next week!
I don’t have much to report this week, but if you have been reading my “Caruso Journal” posts I’ll assume that you have more than just a passing interest in the method. If so, I highly recommend that you check out this Brass Junkies interview with Julie Landsman, former Principal Horn of the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra, and Caruso Method expert. Her interview is inspiring, funny, and full of great advice for horn players and all musicians.
On a personal note, while I never had the opportunity to study directly with Ms. Landsman, I did get to work briefly with one of her former students (and section mate in the MET), Michelle Baker. Ms. Baker was on the faculty of the Round Top Music Festival in Texas when I attended in the summer of 2003. Her masterclasses and lessons were fantastic, and I still think fondly of my experiences that summer.
More updates next week as I will be adding some exercises to the routine!
After 6 weeks of daily work with the Caruso Routine, I’m still discovering new things, and continue to find the exercises very useful for building fundamentals. These will definitely be incorporated into my future teaching! No new material added this week (nothing new until after Week 8), but I’ve been experimenting with the three different beginnings to the Harmonic Series pattern. So far, playing them as written seems to work best for me.
Something else that occurred to me this week is that although the instructions say to keep the mouthpiece on the lips during rests and breath through the nose, there’s a difference between keeping the embouchure set and over tensing it. In an effort to avoid relaxing my setting, it’s tempting to “flex” the embouchure too much, which tired me out very quickly. After several weeks, I think I’ve found the right balance between these two.
To close, you may be wondering what else I’ve been doing in my routine besides Caruso Studies. Back in March I started using Daniel Grabois’s The Daily Drill for Horn Players, published by Brass Arts Unlimited. It’s a great riff on some of the standard warm-up maintenance materials, and was just the right thing (along with Caruso Studies) to help me stay motivated during this period of social distancing. I hope that you have found, and continue to find, reasons to stay motivated!