Friday, May 9, 2014

Elliot Carter Brass Quintet

Earlier this semester, our ABEL class listened to and discussed the Elliot Carter Brass Quintet.  Written in 1974 for the American Brass Quintet, the piece presents a challenging yet entertaining musicality, one that demands a high level of technicality for the players.  We were asked to share our answers to a few questions asked in class, you will find them below:

1. What is the overall affect of the piece? How does it make you feel? How does it achieve this affect?

The first word that comes to mind when describing this piece is insanity.  Although the piece is highly organized in composition, it gives off both a 'sporadic' and 'chaotic' sense.  However, the technical demands of the players make it a very impressive piece to listen to.

2. List three remarkable or notable characteristics of the piece.  Include measure/rehearsal numbers and explain your answer.

In terms of notable parts of the work, the horn solo at rehearsal 236 to 249 jumps out.  Also, the timbre of the piece at measure 327 onward is definitely a remarkable moment.  Finally, the change in character from 342 to the end is a representation of Carter's ability to revisit the beginning material but also provide a nice conclusion for the piece.

3. Comment on the harmonic, melodic, and rhythmic language used.  What are some of the challenges presented in the performance of this work created by these rhythms.

I would say the majority of the challenges lie in the piece's rhythmic complexity.  There are many moments where the rhythm is nearly impossible to decipher and would require hours of group practice.  Another challenging aspect of the piece are the wide arrays of intervalic material between instruments.


Today we travel across the pond to France.  "Glisssssssssendo," written with 9 s's to represent each of the 9 members, is a very unique group that one of our ABEL classmates presented to us on "Obscure Brass Day."  The group appears to defy the laws of gravity by gliding around on what one can only imagine to be Segways.  Although not exclusively a brass ensemble, Glisssssssssendo represents a group that is developing new ideas in terms of musical performance.  Check out their recording of Philip Glass' Lightning below!

Tuesday, April 22, 2014


Today we travel north of the border to visit Canada, America's hat.  The Canadian Brass has recorded over 100 albums/DVDs, and it is one of the most prominent brass ensembles in the world.  Pretty good, eh?

Juilliard Trumpet Ensemble

This video is from the 2009 National Trumpet Competition Finals featuring the Juilliard Trumpet Ensemble playing Festive Overture.  Enjoy!

(Not only do the soloists exhibit an excellent high range, the lower parts really fill out the sound of the ensemble.)

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Composer Spotlight: Michael Giacchino

Happy Easter! This week's Composer Spotlight is on Michael Giacchino, an American film composer.  Before writing for film, Mr. Giacchino got his start by composing music for popular video games such as "Call of Duty" and "Medal of Honor."  Eventually, Giacchino would write the music for the critically acclaimed 'LOST' series as well as movies like 'Up' and 'The Incredibles.'

Much like John Williams, Michael Giacchino utilizes the brass section in most of his thematic material.  The video below is from one of his first video game soundtracks.  You'll notice the use of the full horn section, as well as trumpet and low brass interjections.  Enjoy!

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Civil War Brass Bands

To follow up on my previous post about the Marine Drum & Bugle Corps, I want to look back at the beginning of brass ensembles in the United States.

 Band of the 10th Veteran Reserve Corps, Washington, D.C., April, 1865.

By the 1850's, brass band music was becoming increasingly popular in the United States.  The advancement of brass instruments opened up the window to more playing opportunities.  When the American Civil War broke out in 1861, the popular brass bands would end up serving a vital role in the armed forces.

(Federal City Brass Band)
(Federal City Brass Band, Civil War Era Brass Band)

These brass bands would play at parades, recruitment stations, and even on the battlefield.  They would play before the battle to inspire the troops as well as afterwards for comfort.  One of the most unique stories I found about civil war bands happened on the front lines between two Union and Confederate groups. Within earshot of each other, the two groups exchanged their side's patriotic tunes until an artillery barrage ended the 'music battle.'

"The Commandant's Own"

Today's group will feature The United States Marine Drum and Bugle Corps, otherwise known as, 'The Commandant's Own.'  Out of all of the American brass ensembles featured on this blog so far, I can think of none more patriotic than this one! Dressed in their traditional red and white uniforms, The Commandant's Own has been performing for 80 years.  Their goal is to motivate, inspire, and entertain not only fellow Marines, but also civilians.  One particular aspect I enjoy about this group is their military tradition and precision on and off the field.  They bring a special passion to what they do that you might not find in other Drum & Bugle Corps.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Hypnotic Brass Ensemble

The Hypnotic Brass Ensemble was formed by eight brothers from Chicago, IL.  What began as a household family group that has scheduled 6am rehearsals before school has become one of the most unique brass ensembles of the day.  The HBE has perfomed all over the United States and is recognized for its special combination of hip-hop, funk, jazz, and rock.  Their name, 'Hypnotic,' actually came from when they were performing on a platform of the L Train in Chicago.  A man watched them play and described their sound to be hypnotic.

Their song, "War," is a great example of how they combine their jazz roots with hop-hop.

The song has become popular enough that it was featured in rapper Childish Gambino's album, Royalty.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Composer Spotlight: John Williams

If you enjoy music and have never heard of John Williams then you either live underneath a rock or you are probably a Justin Bieber fan.  Either way, John Williams has been one of the most prolific composers of the last half century.  Known primarily for his distinguishable film scores, Williams has written the music for blockbusters such as: Star Wars, E.T., Jurassic Park, Saving Private Ryan, and Harry Potter.  Try to see if you can hum the main theme from the films listed, then click the link and hear how close you are.  You might do better than you think!

Today I would like to share my favorite piece of John Williams' music, "Revisiting Normandy," from the score of Saving Private Ryan.  If you haven't seen the movie(go see it), this piece accompanies the opening scene.  One of Williams' greatest strengths is his ability to match the music with the emotion of the film, which is done beautifully at this moment.  (The soundtrack won the 1998 Grammy Award for Best Score)

Sunday, April 6, 2014

The Four Hornsmen of the Apocalypse

You heard right, today's spotlight is on The Four HORNSmen of the Apocalypse.  This horn quartet started as a student group at the University of Southern Mississippi in 1998.  Although the group was formed as a fun way to play with friends, they began touring and their popularity increased.  The Four Hornsmen(and one hornswoman) eventually all ended up in Champaign-Urbana at the University of Illinois.

Today, The Four Hornsmen of the Apocalypse horn quartet has performed throughout the country at various universities and festivals, including the International Horn Society Workshop.  In addition to all being excellent musicians, the group has a very unique way of interacting with it's audience while on stage.  I was lucky enough to see the quartet perform this year at The University of Iowa and it was one of the most entertaining recitals I have been to. Not only are they incredible horn players, but their goofy, relaxed stage presence made for a great concert.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Dallas Brass

The Dallas Brass has recently emerged as one of the most distinctive brass ensembles in America.  Along with their characteristic use of brass instruments and percussion, the Dallas Brass is also known for it's extensive choice in repertoire.  A concert with this ensemble could include anything from Johannas Brahms to the Pink Panther Theme by Henry Mancini.  Founder Michael Levine once described the group by saying, "a Dallas Brass Concert is intended for the entire family."

One particular aspect of the ensemble that I enjoy is their use of social networking.  The site is actively maintained and includes anything from tour dates to educational clinic information.  The website also includes access to all of their CDs as well as a link to their 'sound cloud' that features an audio sample of every song they have ever recorded.  That link can be accessed here.  The group also has an operational YouTube channel with professional made videos and promotions.  I believe this group is a great example of how to a professional brass ensemble should be run in this day & age!

(Their great promotional video can be seen here:

Saturday, March 1, 2014

The American Brass Quintet

Today's focus will be on the American Brass Quintet.

Trumpet: Louis Hanzlik, Kevin Cobb (Previously Raymond Mase, pictured above)
Horn: Eric Reed (Previously David Wakefield, pictured above)
Trombone: Michael Powell
Bass Trombone: John Rojak

The ABQ is very important in the history of brass ensembles because it was founded on the idea that it will perform music originally written for brass.  Predating their first performance in 1960, brass chamber music was still a relatively new idea.  The concept of the 'brass quintet' had originated ten years earlier with groups like the Chicago and New York brass quintets.  When the American Brass Quintet was formed, the ensemble distinguished itself from these groups by using a bass trombone instead of the conventional tuba for brass quintet.

Today, the ABQ has accumulated dozens albums together and has performed all over the world.  Throughout it's 54 year history, the group has had many esteemed musicians come and go(see the 'family tree' below) but consistently remains an elite ensemble.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Genghis Barbie

Time to put the kids to bed! Today we take a look at Genghis Barbie, a horn quartet group and "the leading post post-feminist feminist all-female horn experience."  These four young ladies and their combined 24 years of conservatory training have taken their pink bells(and pink mutes, outfits, etc.) and unique style all over the country.  Playing mostly pop music from the 70's, 80's, 90's, and present, Genghis Barbie wows their audience with their musicality, flair, and distinctiveness.

Check out this one-of-a-kind brass ensemble perform "The Thong Song" with their horns in the streets of New York City.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Throwback Thursday

This week for Throwback-Thursday we travel to Carnegie Hall on May 5, 1991.  The video above shows the New York Philharmonic playing Fanfare for the Common Man.  Although not exclusively a brass ensemble, the recording shows off the impressive NY Phil brass section.  Enjoy!

Saturday, February 8, 2014


Making it's debut in 1999, the Broadway production Blast! was first to feature drum & bugle corps on the stage.  Originally the Star of Indiana Drum and Bugle Corps, the innovative Blast! show brought the brass, percussion, and color guard of a marching band into a musical-theater setting.

Instruments used:
French Horn
Baritone Horn
Full Percussion Ensemble

Although comprised of primarily drum corps instruments, Blast! also features concert-style instruments which help create it's unique blend of sound.

The extent of personnel involved in the show combined with the difficulty of the music and choreography make Blast! a truly compelling production.

(As of the 2002 season Blast! added woodwind instruments to their shows.)

Saturday, February 1, 2014

The American Horn Quartet

The American Horn Quartet was founded in 1982 by four American musicians living and performing in Europe.  Over the past 30 years their popularity as a brass chamber ensemble has skyrocketed.  Although they have mastered the existing repertoire, the AHQ is also active in commissioning new works for horn quartet.  The American Horn Quartet is featured at numerous chamber festivals and brass workshops around the world.

Kerry Turner
Charles Putnam
Geoffrey Winter
Kristina Mascher
David Johnson(founder)

"The Sooners" from Quartet for Horns No. 3 - Kerry Turner

Sunday, January 26, 2014


Hello and welcome to Red White & Brass! The objective of this blog is to share information on various brass ensembles and music from the United States.  It will also take a look at the history of brass groups and their contributions to the advancement of music in America.  Check back for more updates!