Boris, Dollink - Where Are Moose and Squirrel?

Just returned Friday night from a week in frigid Milwaukee, where temps hovered in the single digits. I once again schlepped my trumpet along, but this time I added a bit of technology that I learned about a couple of weeks ago (click to engorge):

It’s from Yamaha, called “Silent Brass”. The black mute in the bell of the trumpet almost completely silences my playing, a mercy to anyone in adjoining rooms. A pickup wire from the mute runs through an amplification device, and I can hear myself as if I were playing with an open bell. I had to remove an earbud a couple of times to be sure I wasn’t actually peeling the paint at full volume. Yamaha makes an assortment of these devices for various brass instruments, including tubas!

It’s a good thing that I got to play during the week, because we got the music for our March concert over the past month, and it’s pretty daunting. The theme of the concert is From Russia With Love. Yes, we’re playing a Bond theme or two, but the meat of the concert is:

  • Mussorgsky’s Pictures At An Exhibition
  • Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture
  • Stravinsky’s Danse Infernal and Finale from The Firebird
  • 4th movement of Shostakovich’s Fifth Symphony
  • Scheherazade - Rimsky-Korsakoff

There’s a lot of trumpet-playing there, and a lot is at high volume. The 1812 and the Shostakovich are each close to 15 minutes long. Mrs. Perils says I should be doing push-ups with my lips. But then, she’s been saying that for decades.

So one night we’re about to rehearse Firebird, and I turn to the guy beside me, who’s younger than I but past his 30s for sure, and ask him if he knew that Yes used to play a recording of the Firebird finale as a prelude to taking the stage. Well, he’s heard of Yes, of course, and liked them, but had never seen them live as I had several times in the 70s. We’re stopped for a bit before playing the last several ecstatic bars, and I tell him this is the point where Rick Wakeman swirls behind his bank of keyboard in his cape and blends in with the crescendo. Blank stare.

The Yamaha kit does one other cool thing - it lets you plug in an mp3 player and play along with music. I’ve obtained this recording by the US Army Field Band of the Shostakovich, and have been curious if it’s the same arrangement we’re playing. Last night, I wired up with my iPod, put my music on the stand and played along, including counting all the rests. This is indeed the same arrangement:

The trumpet part consists of two pages with enough rest bars that we should probably put in leave requests; the clarinets, on the other hand, have 8 pages.

Here’s a video of the OSU Marching Band singing, playing and performing a drill to the 1812 (this is definitely not my band - it’s the 21st century version). There are fireworks, of course, but the interesting thing here is the choral excellence, and the fact that, despite being strung across 90 yards, they’re right on the beat:

When I was in the OSU band, we played a version of the Firebird finale.  If I can find it on my moldering vinyl collection, I’ll rip it and post.


  1. I love that blank faced stare from slack jawed youths as you quote/do something from popular culture of times past. Last night I was circling my arms muttering “danger Will Robinson, danger”. Nothing. Song references are also particularly awkward.

  2. Phil:

    Hi, Louise! Yeah, it’s sobering to realize that we not only no longer define the culture, we don’t even intersect with it, in the sense of Venn diagram intersections. Even if someone remembers the stuff we’re gibbering about, they’re surprised we’re still alive. And you’re several hundred ticks younger than I.

  3. I heard someone say last night on the documentary Digital Nation, we older folks are immigrants in this new world, the young people are its natives. It made me wonder if that’s always been true.

    Very cool Yamaha device.

  4. KathyR:

    I have never seen anything like that Silent Brass thing. I wonder if they have one for woodwinds. We could have used one during the great clarinet experiment.

  5. Phil:

    Robin - I remember my parents in the late 50s/early 60s going on about how great the swing era was compared to the Elvis/Beatles stuff (and don’t even start with MoTown). I’m sure Gen-X and beyond are sick of hearing how daring and revolutionary we boomers think our music and counterculture affectations were. The fact is, I happened to really like the music of Glenn Miller, ARtie Shaw, Stan Kenton, etc, and envied my parents the opportunity to hear and dance to them live. But I’ve also found music I like in every decade. Intellectual curiosity shouldn’t stop short of popular culture. But I take your point - we can listen and enjoy, but we’re less and less participants. A bare-chested Mr. Perils in a mosh pit would not have been a pretty sight.

    Kathy - I had a great clarinet experiment, too. I married her.

  6. Hi Phil, I’m enjoying your musical journey. You’re doing what we all say we’re going to–pick up or resume a passion some day. And your bonus is that you can do it indoors so it’s a good winter occupation.

    Thanks for your comment at Hill Country Mysteries. I have another friend who has trouble with slow download. With your feedback, I started looking at the composition and what I could do. I deleted a couple of java features and will start uploading pix in low-res. Hope those will reduce download time. Hill Country is hosted by Blogger (Google) so I don’t have control over coding interface but I did test Hill Country out on my computer on three browsers: Safari, Internet Explorer and Firefox. Firefox won but all three loaded within a few seconds. The only other things I can think of are capacity of your laptop (I know you got a new MAC not long ago but…) and speed of your internet connection. Is your connection is sometimes slow? Do you have this problem with anything other sites? I’d welcome any thoughts you might have.

  7. Very interesting stuff, Phil! I forwarded a link to your post to one of my brothers who used to play French horn in band, thinking he might get a kick out of the latest gadgetry that changed the world of wind instruments in the “real world.” I like virtually all music…just can’t play anything, nor can I talk intelligently about any of it. My conversations about music go something like, “Yeah, I like it. No, I don’t know what it is. No, I don’t know who’s playing it. No, I don’t know whether it’s from the 14th century or the 21st. I may not know music, but I know what my ears enjoy.”

  8. Phil:

    Springer, I just hope no ears, discerning or not, are damaged in our forthcoming concert.