First Solos for the Horn Player: Brazilian Set, by Louis Gordon

Continuing with the First Solos for the Horn Player project, here are two brief pieces by Louis B. Gordon, arranged by Mason Jones. There is very little information online about the composer, but here is a brief excerpt from his obituary:

Louis graduated from Beaumont Texas High School. He attended Eastman School of Music, Rochester, NY, where he received his Bachelor of Music degree in 1946 and his Master of Music degree in 1947. He went on to earn his Doctor of Musical Arts in 1962.

Louis was a Professor of Music at Fairleigh Dickinson University, Madison, where he taught for 30 years until his retirement in 1993. He was a member of the American Federation of Musicians and a member of Temple B’nai Or, Morristown, NJ. He proudly served his country during World War II as an Army Air Corps cadet.

While I’m fairly certain that this is the same composer whose music appears in First Solos for the Horn Player, I am less certain about the original instrumentation for this “Brazilian Set.” Gordon has a number of other solo and chamber music compositions for winds and piano (though none for horn that I can find), and it’s possible that these two movements came from one of those works. It’s an interesting choice for this collection, and is a nice contrast to the primarily 18th and 19th century compositions found in the rest of the book. If anyone out there has more information about Louis Gordon or this piece in particular I would love to hear it.

Free Arrangement: Duet from The Pearl Fishers, by Bizet

Going back through some of my old arranging projects, I came across quite a few things that were more or less finished, but not quite cleaned up for publication. I may still publish them someday, but for now I thought it would be fun to share a few, including this duet, “Deep Inside the Sacred Temple” from Act I of George Bizet’s The Pearl FishersOriginally for tenor and baritone voice, the duet works very well for a variety of different brass instruments, and makes a nice segue from my previous post, which featured another arrangement from the same opera (by Mason Jones).

The music is in the public domain, and you are free to download and use any of the following arrangements as well as the piano accompaniment audio file. If you enjoy playing it, consider donating to a charity or non-profit organization of your choice. If you decide to make a multi-track recording like the one below, please do share it with me as I would love to hear it.

Free Arrangement of “Deep inside the Sacred Temple” from The Pearl Fishers, by George Bizet.

In related technology news, I’ve solved (or at least figured out a workaround) to the audio/video syncing issues I was having with Final Cut Pro X. The solution: use another program! The video below was created using iMovie, another Apple program that has some similar features to Final Cut Pro. Using iMovie, the syncing issues disappeared…must be a settings issue within Final Cut, which I will try to figure out. For the time being, iMovie works just fine.

First Solos for the Horn Player: I Hear as in a Dream, Bizet

The eighth installment in this series of recordings from Mason Jones’s First Solos for the Horn Player is a transcription of the  aria “I Hear as in a Dream” (Je crois entendre encore) from Act I of George Bizet’s opera The Pearl Fishers. The first image after the titles is a public domain illustration for the final scene of  Act I as produced at La Scala in 1886, designed by Giovanni Zuccarelli (1846–1897) and illustrated by Antonio Bonamore (1845–1907).

This brief vocal transcription would pair nicely with the other Bizet work in the collection, Song of April. As with most of the material in First Solos for the Horn Player, the range and technical requirements in this piece are suitable for intermediate players. It makes for a great study in playing soft, sustained melodies.

First Solos for the Horn Player: German Dance, Beethoven

Up next in the First Solos for the Horn Player series we have one of several arranged works by Beethoven found in this collection, a German Dance based on No. 6 in the 12 German Dances, WoO 8. It’s a fun little tune, suitable for a high school player.

First Solos for the Horn Player: Song of April, by Georges Bizet

For the fifth selection in this series from First Solos for the Horn Player by Mason Jones, I chose Bizet’s “Song of April.” I wasn’t familiar with the work prior to this project, but it’s a lovely tune that lays well on the horn. Technology update: I’m still working on the sampling rate issues I mentioned in my previous post, but have so far not found a resolution. I have a couple more ideas to try…hopefully I’ll have it fixed for the next video.

In the meantime, I have posted two videos for this selection: an audio-only version with some reverb and equalization added, and a version with video that has not been edited. It’s interesting to compare the two, and in the video I get to support one of my alma maters, the University of Wisconsin. Enjoy!

First Solos for the Horn Player: Romance, by Alexander Scriabin

Here’s the fourth selection in the First Solos for the Horn Player video series, Alexander Scriabin’s Romance for Horn and Piano. Here are links to the other recordings up to this point.

Along with the second movement of Mozart’s Quintet for Horn and Strings, K. 407, this miniature for horn and piano is probably the most recognized work in the collection. The score and solo part are also available on IMSLP, and  there appears to be little difference between the Mason Jones and IMSLP editions.

A few interesting technical notes about this recording, and thoughts on this project thus far:

  • I experimented with the recording process on this one, using a Blue Yeti USB microphone in stereo pattern to record the audio into Logic Pro X. My hope was to sync this audio with the video from my Zoom Q2n-4k camera, and apply some equalization and reverb to improve the overall sound quality.
  • The latter effort was successful, and the overall sound quality belies the modest recording environment, a bedroom! The sound of the digital accompaniment is pretty good too, although it would have been nice to be more flexible with the tempo and dynamic subtleties. With a collaborative pianist, this would have been easy and natural.
  • Syncing the audio from Logic Pro with the video file should have been a routine task, and one which I have done several times in the past, though not with an identical set up. But as you can tell from the absence of video footage, I could not get it to work! Despite spending several minutes playing around in Final Cut Pro and consulting help pages, it still wasn’t working. I have very limited technical knowledge, but my guess would be that the sample rate between the Logic Pro recording and the camera recording was not the same.
  • Because the sound quality of the audio-only recording was superior to the camera audio, I decided to use it without any video footage, and insert a public domain image of Scriabin and his mistress, Tatiana Schloezer. For the next video I hope to work out the syncing issues.
  • A final note: I decided early on to NOT record every solo in this book. There’s a couple of reasons for this, not least of which is that recording the entire book would probably run afoul of “Fair Use.I haven’t settled on which solos to record for the remainder of the project, but I anticipate five or six more. Enough to to be representative, but certainly not a majority of the book (or even half). After that, I have some ideas for future projects, more to come.

 

First Solos for the Horn Player: “No More, I Have Heard Everything,” by W.A. Mozart, arr. Jones

The next video in the First Solos for the Horn Player project is “No More, I Have Heard Everything” (Non Più, Tutto Ascoltai), by W.A. Mozart. Paraphrasing some of the information provided by SmartMusic, this short work was originally for soprano and tenor with chamber orchestra, and was later included in Act II of the opera seria Idomeneo. It’s a lovely tune, and offers ample opportunities for the horn player to work on expressive playing.

For those who might be interested, here’s the equipment I’m using on this project.

  • Horn: Yamaha 667V
  • Mouthpiece: Houser, San Francisco 14-0-2 with 17.5mm Houser E Rim
  • Camera/Microphones: Zoom Q2n-4K
  • Video Editing: Apple Final Cut Pro

I might add that this was the last video recorded in my teaching studio at the University of Louisiana Monroe. Shortly following this session, we were advised that further precautions were being enacted to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. The rest of the videos will be recorded from my home, and I might need to adjust camera placement, microphones, etc. to fit the new space. Stay tuned!

Horn Pedagogy Videos and More from Eli Epstein

Renowned horn pedagogue and performer Eli Epstein has a posted a  new video on Breathing and Breath Support to his YouTube Channel. Mr. Epstein gives a concise, yet detailed and anatomically correct, explanation of breathing, and also demonstrates how to put these concepts into practice. Before further discussion, you should watch the video!

As I’ve mentioned in previous articles, Mr. Epstein’s approach to the horn is relaxed, methodical, and overwhelmingly positive, which makes for a very effective teacher. One especially unique element is the use of a chair to engage the same muscles used in breath support. Mr. Epstein expertly demonstrates by playing Mendelssohn’s Nocturne from A Midsummer Night’s Dream, accompanied by a silhouette and animated meter showing varying levels of breath support There is a lot of information packed into this six and half-minute video, so it should be viewed multiple times if possible.

If you like this video and find it useful, be sure to check out his other videos on Relaxation Before Performance and Radical Practicing. The relaxation video comes at a very fortuitous time, as many of us in the education field are approaching the end of our academic year. If you find yourself getting tense and more stressed than usual, take five minutes to listen to this video. You’ll feel more relaxed afterwards.

In Radical Practicing, Mr. Epstein discusses and demonstrates the importance of varied repetition as the pathway to learning new material. When we repeat material over and over in exactly the same way, we become bored, even if we continue making the same mistake. Varying our repetitions to target specific elements of a passage is a much more effective way to learn and retain. On a personal note, this concept played a huge role in the development of my etude book Solo Training for Horn.

If juries, final exams, and other end-of-term tasks are starting to stress you out, take a break and view the above videos. It will be time well spent!

Comparing Microphones for Recording Solo Horn

Here’s a video comparing three different ways to record a solo horn.

  1. MXL R144 Ribbon Microphone – placed approximately 6 feet in front of the horn.
  2. Samson C02 Condenser Microphones – stereo pair in XY configuration placed approximately 6 feet in front of the horn.
  3. Samson C02 Condenser Microphones – stereo pair in NOS configuration placed approximately 6 feet in front of the horn.

The above are three common microphone techniques. There are many more, but my limited skills and equipment prevented me from exploring others.

This little project came about for three main reasons:

  • While I am most certainly not a recording engineer, I teach an Introduction to Music Technology course, and have an interest in recording techniques. I enjoy learning about the equipment and principles, and used this video as a way to put some ideas into practice.
  • Back to back comparison of the two types of microphones I own – ribbon and condenser. I’ve used both in various situations, but had not compared them in this way. For more information on microphones, see here.
  • I also wanted to try out a new way of recording – using independent audio and video equipment, rather than the all-in-one approach I have used for years. Though it took a little more time to set up, I think the end product was pretty successful. Syncing up the audio and video was less tricky than I anticipated.

Before getting into more discussion of the results, here’s the video. Separate audio files are also embedded if you would prefer to listen to those. I chose an excerpt from Otto Ketting’s Intrada because I’m performing it in a few weeks, and also because it has lots of contrast in a short amount of time.

Ribbon:

Condenser Pair XY:

Condenser Pair NOS:

Even with the extremely low cost equipment I am using, hopefully you can hear a difference among the three techniques. To me, the XY configuration has the best overall sound, although there are elements of the ribbon that I like quite a bit. Ribbon microphones are very popular for recording brass instruments, because of the warmth they bring to the sound. Higher quality microphones should of course yield more perceptible results, although my cheap MXL ribbon is ok for my purposes. I hope to do some more videos like this in the future, with different techniques and ensembles. In case you are interested, here is the equipment I used (microphones are listed above). Assuming you have a decent laptop, all of the other gear is very reasonably priced.

  • Audio Interface/Preamps: Focusrite Scarlett 2i2
  • Computer: 13 inch, MacBook Pro, ca. 2012
  • DAW: Logic Pro X
  • Video Camera: Canon Vixia, ca. 2009
  • Video Editing: Final Cut Pro X

While there are some great all-in-one recording products out there, if you do lots of audio and video recording of your horn playing it might be worth exploring some of this equipment.

Throwback Thursday: Strauss 1 from 2004

From way back in my video archives, I dug out this live recording of a D.M.A. recital performance at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. It’s been really fun listening to this recording  – the video quality is pretty bad, but the audio is actually ok – and reminiscing about those days. The conductor is Matthew Beecher, another D.M.A. horn candidate who was working towards a minor in conducting, and the orchestra is the Camerata Chamber Orchestra, an ad hoc group made up of graduate and undergraduate students at the University of Wisconsin. Matthew and I shared this concert, with me performing the Strauss on the first half, and him performing the Britten Serenade on the second. He definitely had the more difficult job, and I remember the entire concert coming off really well. The video is too grainy to see much detail, but if memory serves the equipment is as follows:

  • Yamaha 667V
  • Moosewood B 13 (Y) mouthpiece, with an M2 rim (I think)

I definitely am a better all-around horn player now, but there are some things I really do like about this performance. This would have been my first semester as a doctoral student, and I was still working out some issues in my sound and overall approach to the horn. Yet, there’s a fearlessness to the playing and some musical ideas that I enjoy. It wasn’t a “perfect” performance, but it was definitely fun!

I performed the entire concerto, but unfortunately the DVD seems to have been damaged somehow, and the only electronic backup I had was of the first movement. Perhaps at some point I’ll be able to track down the rest of the piece.

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