Monday Updates: CD Baby, Recital Videos, and Upcoming Concerts

Rather than one large post I have several brief updates to share today.

  • First, I’m happy to report that my Koetsier recording is now available for purchase on CD Baby, in either digital download or physical format. The price is significantly lower than what Amazon is asking. It has been interesting to explore the various marketing possibilities for this recording, and I’ve learned quite a bit along the way. Without getting into too many details, in my situation it is  preferable to sell physical copies of the recording, although I realize that digital format is probably what will sell the best. In any case, I would be delighted if you checked out the recording, regardless of the format! Visit this page if you want to read some recent reviews of the CD.
  • My faculty recital last week went well, and we had a full house (nearly 300 people!) in attendance. Many of the students were there to fulfill concert credit for music appreciation classes, and they were very respectful and well behaved (sadly this is not always the case). I received several positive comments from both music majors and music appreciation students after the recital, and they seemed especially surprised by the variety of sound colors and styles that the horn/percussion combination was capable of producing.  Here are a couple of videos from the recital. First is the final movement from Hornvibes by Verne Reynolds. NB: I set the microphone levels pretty low for the entire recital because the final work had some extreme dynamics, so you may have to bump up the volume or use headphones to hear the Reynolds.

  • Next is  Mark Schultz’s Dragons in the Sky, a piece I last performed as a doctoral student several years ago. It was definitely the big piece on this program, and the audience really seemed to enjoy it (as did the performers!) One note about this recording is that there is a large percussion hit at 1:45, which must have scared and/or woken up some members of the audience – it takes them a few seconds to settle back down. The synchronization between horn, percussion, and tape was quite good, thanks to the use of headphones. There were a couple of places where things weren’t 100% lined up, but on the whole I am very satisfied with this performance. For more information on the unique performing demands of this piece, see this post.

  • Now that the dust has settled from last week’s recital, I’m looking forward to some exciting orchestral programs this week and next. Up first is a concert with the Monroe Symphony Orchestra, which includes Fanfare for the Common Man by Copland and the First Symphony of Sibelius, followed by an all movie music concert with the Shreveport Symphony Orchestra. As always, I am grateful to be teaching and performing!
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Performing Dragons in the Sky by Mark Schultz

On October 8th, my colleague Dr. Mel Mobley and I will be performing a recital of music for horn and percussion. We will close the program with Mark Schultz’s Dragons in the Sky for Horn, Percussion, and Electronic Tape. I performed this work in 2006 for a doctoral recital, and am very excited about playing it again. Dragons is a really interesting and fun work for both performers and audiences, but requires a bit of special preparation in addition to a normal practice routine. I hope that the following tips and observations will be useful to other performers.

First, here are some program notes, which readers are welcome to copy and share.

An award winning composer, Mark Schultz holds degrees from The University of Nebraska at Omaha and the University of Texas at Austin. His compositions have been performed by the Cleveland Chamber Symphony, the Florida West Coast Symphony, the Omaha Symphony, and the Omaha Chamber Symphony. Schultz is also the co-editor of JOMAR press, based in Austin Texas. He has written numerous chamber works featuring the horn and other wind instruments, as well as large compositions for orchestra and concert band. Composed in 1989, Dragons in the Sky won the International Horn Society’s 1990 composition contest. Since its 1989 premiere by hornist Thomas Bacon, this work has been performed over four hundred times worldwide.

Dragons in the Sky takes its title and inspiration from J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Silmarillion, a portion of which describes the “Great Battle” between the elves and Morgoth.

Then, seeing that his hosts were overthrown and his power dispersed, Morgoth quailed, and he dared not to come forth himself. But he loosed upon his foes the last desperate assault that he had prepared, and out of the pits of Angband there issued the winged dragons, that had not before been seen; and so sudden and ruinous was the onset of that dreadful fleet that the host of the Valar was driven back, for the coming of the dragons was with great thunder, and lightning, and a tempest of fire. — J.R.R. Tolkien, The Silmarillion, 2nd ed. (New York: Ballantine Books, 1977), 302.

Schultz draws upon Tolkien’s powerful imagery, creating an energetic and colorful work that allows all three parts (horn, percussion, electronic tape) to come to the forefront at different times. Constructed in three large sections, Dragons shifts between driving, rhythmic passages and slower, more ethereal portions. Percussion, horn, and tape weave fluidly in and out of the overall texture, often combining all three parts to create a sound color unattainable by any one voice alone. The computer generated tape plays almost constantly, stopping only twice for extended cadenzas from percussion and horn.

Next on the list of performance-related details is extended techniques required for the horn. There isn’t anything too crazy in Dragons, but you will definitely want to spend some time practicing them separately. If you don’t own it already, buy Douglas Hill’s book Extended Techniques for the HornThough originally published in 1983 – and recently reprinted by Really Good Music – it is still the most complete, well thought out guide available for extended techniques on the horn. There are also a handful of dissertations and YouTube videos on the subject, including this short video demonstration I put together.

Another important issue with this piece in particular is page turns. Both players perform from the score – which is pretty much a necessity in order to line everything up with the electronic accompaniment – but the large score format will result in some awkward page turns. The best solution I’ve found is to photocopy and reduce the entire score and tape it to a large piece of cardboard. If you shrink the 11 X 17 pages down to 8.5 X 11, you can fit five pages across the top and five pages across the bottom on each side of the board. So, you will turn this:

dragons_score

Into this:

dragons_board

The result is that you will only have to turn the “page” once during the entire 20 page work (although you may need a stronger prescription for your glasses or contact lenses!)

The next few issues are related to the CD accompaniment track. First, you will need a dependable assistant to start and stop the CD at the appropriate places in the score during the performance. It is essential that the assistant be able to follow the score and rehearse with you at least once before the performance. And although it isn’t specified, I have found it very helpful to use headphones on one ear and/or onstage monitors so that both players can hear the CD. In my experience it is almost impossible to hear the CD without headphones when both the hornist and percussionist are playing at full volume.

And finally, I would encourage the percussionist to experiment with different setups than what is diagrammed in the score. Depending on the size of the hall and other factors, it may be necessary to rearrange things to ensure smooth transitions from one instrument to another. The horn player doesn’t have to deal with multiple instruments, but it is important I think to have the bell facing the audience for this piece. For one, it will ensure that the horn sound doesn’t get buried during the loud parts, and it will also allow the audience to see some of the extended techniques being utilized.

Do you have any tips or suggestions for performing this work?  Feel free to comment below.

What’s On My Music Stand, Summer Edition

musicstandsummereditionHere’s a quick rundown on what I’ve been practicing this summer. Scheduling has been more of a challenge, but I’m finally settling into a decent (but flexible) routine. Some of them are old favorites, but there is also plenty of new (at least to me) and exciting repertoire. If you find yourself getting bogged down during the summer months, pick out some new pieces (solos, etudes, excerpts, chamber music, etc.) and get to work!

Old Stuff

  • Eurico Carrapatoso, Sete Melodias in Forma De Bruma Keeping these in shape for performance at the 45th International Horn Symposium in Memphis, TN.
  • Kopprasch Complete, ed. Corbin Wagner Hoping to record some more videos this summer, and right now I’m working on Nos. 51, 52, and 53.

New Stuff

  • Paul Basler, Etudes for Horn, Volume 2 A two-volume set of studies that will push your technique, range, and endurance. Not as difficult as the Verne Reynolds etudes, but just as stimulating! Read a review of them at Horn Matters.

I’m working on the next several pieces in preparation for a duo faculty recital this fall with my colleague, Dr. Mel Mobley, who teaches percussion, composition, and music theory here at ULM. There is some wonderful and challenging music out there for horn and percussion, and I’m really looking forward to this recital. If you are interested in finding out more about horn and percussion music, one excellent resource is a dissertation by Dr. Casey N. Maltese, A Performance Guide of Selected Works for Horn and Mallet Percussion, D.M.A dissertation, the University of Miami, 2011.

  • Daniel McCarthy, The Call of Boromir for Horn and Marimba Dedicated to Christopher and Leslie Norton, this brief piece is inspired by passages from The Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien. Lots of fun writing for both instruments! Here’s a great performance by Brigette Hopkins (horn) and Justin Stolarik (marimba) at the University of Texas-Austin.
  • Verne Reynolds, HornVibes: Three Duos for Horn and Vibraphone Another substantial work for horn and mallet percussion, HornVibes was also composed for Christopher and Leslie Norton. The outer movements are sustained and atmospheric, and the central movement contains jazz influences. This piece is currently out of print, and is a bit tricky to get your hands on – more on this in a future post.
  • Mark Schultz, Dragons in the Sky for Horn, Percussion, and Tape Another Tolkien-inspired work, this time drawing on passages from The Silmarillion. I performed this piece in doctoral school, and I’m very excited about performing it again after several years. One of the most notable features in the horn part is the use of multiple extended techniques. Check out this recording by Thomas Bacon to hear them.
  • Steven Winteregg, High Veld Sunrise for Horn and MIDI I’m planning to round out the rest of the horn and percussion recital with a few solo works, this being one of them. This piece was commissioned by Dr. Richard Chenoweth, who, “having returned from a safari to the African veld…wanted a piece for horn and MIDI that evoked the sounds of Africa.” (composer’s notes). If you don’t know any of Steven Winteregg’s music, he has lots of great pieces for horn, including solos, chamber music, and horn ensembles. High Veld Sunrise is really fun to play, and is very accessible to audiences.
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