J.S. Bach: Passacaglia and Fugue for Brass Quintet

I wrote this last year, and finished it just right when the pandemic hit. So, I never got a chance to read through this with a brass quintet I was playing with at the time. Frustrating, as I put in a lot of work and I think it turned out pretty nice.

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Lullaby For Viola

A computer mockup of this pretty lullaby that I wrote for solo viola. The playback doesn’t do many things that a real person would do, like separating strings for triple-stops, but at least this gets the general idea across.

I wrote this using 5-limit just intonation, and those key signatures in the score represent different, specific lattices that can map to something “C-major-ish”. I then draw harmony only from what is “consonantly” available in those lattices, which I think contributed to generating harmonic interest in an otherwise very familiar and simple scale. The hard part was, not being a violist, churning through and making sure that the various multiple-stops are at least physically possible on viola, even if some of them may be pretty odd.

One practical effect that should come out of this is that the violist should not have to make tuning adjustments once a finger is in place. If any violists want to perform this, please let me know!

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Jinjer and dealing with very loud environments [Rant]

I’ve been grooving on Jinjer lately, and I finally ended up finding a very “honest” live show recording them. Here, the band still sounds pretty good, but the singer Tatiana is definitely pitchy in her full-voiced vocals. So, stuff in other “live” videos is probably is “fixed” in post-production. However, I think this is probably a consequence of the band’s setup in live shows, specifically it being extremely loud, which is pretty typical in that “genre”. I know from my own experience that playing in very loud concerts, I literally cannot hear my own pitch. It’s not just not hearing the sound of my bell, but actually having my ear drums over-driven so that it’s literally impossible to hear pitch. The natural tendency in that circumstance is to go sharp – and that’s exactly what I hear in this concert.

Everyone has room for improvement, I guess. I still think this is a great band, although definitely not for everyone, as is all music. And even with the pitch problems, I think that Tatiana still sounds fantastic. It’s cool to see other musicians deal with the same problems we deal with – musicians who know me all know that I gripe about trumpets (sometimes), and more often, keyboards and bass, being loud.

A related idea: there definitely is a conceptual similarity between bands like this and some forms of jazz. I’m thinking specifically of people like Maynard Ferguson making a spectacle of blowing the piss out of his trumpet, and still being able to perform with well thought out ideas.

To not just be a nit-picker and suggest a solution: if they could find a way to work with the visual change, have Tatiana perform in a noise-cancelling helmet, similar to what we see some helicopter pilots use. In really loud environments, earplugs, in-ear monitors, and even headphones may not be enough, because sound will travel through the skull to the eardrums.

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Microtonal trombone quintet: Star Spangled Banner

My arrangement. This performance is computer-generated using Dorico notation software. The notation is Mixed Sagittal. The “base” tuning is Pythagorean, upon which I added additional accidentals to precisely define the key signature. Sharps and flats represent specifically about 114 cents, which would be the “standard” 3-limit Pythagorean adjustments. The “straight” half-arrows that appear in the key signature and as accidentals throughout represent a change of 21 cents to specify 5-limit tuning; the “large curved” half-arrows represent a change of 27 cents to specify a 7-limit tuning; and the “small curved” half-arrows represent a change of 6 cents to specify an interval that adds both 5-limit and 7-limit alterations. In a nutshell, all that means that those adjustments will get you in tune according to the intended harmonic relationships, and it should sound pretty and beatless.

This video performance is obviously stilted as only a computer can be, but all things considered, not too shabby. And perhaps (I hope!) a useful reference for anyone who wants to play this and figure out the tuning stuff. Let me know if you’re interested! I’d love to get a good live recording by real humans.

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My favorite Youtube channels

I’ve been spending a lot of time on Youtube lately, and I think that there’s some excellent content on there. My favorites tend to be channels that are less productive in terms of numbers of episodes churned out per week, and produce fewer, higher quality videos. That’s not to say that some of the faster-paced production videos aren’t great – many of them are, and I watch them too, even if I don’t list them here. But below is a list of what I consider the highest quality content on Youtube that I specifically enjoy. Maybe readers here will find some content of interest that they weren’t aware of.

3Blue1Brown discusses advanced mathematical concepts with nice visuals and a focus on making them understandable for non-math professors.

Adam Neely is a super-nerd for music theory and has a great way of presenting it.

Cool Worlds covers a fairly wide range of pretty fun astronomical concepts at greater depths than most astronomical fan channels.

Early Music Sources is really for music theory and history nerds. Some dives into what (primarily) Renaissance and other sources about how people in those times thought about music.

Fermilab Quantum physics!

History Buffs reviews historical movies, and specifically covers historical accuracy comparing the film to real history.

The History Guy: History Deserves to Be Remembered covers a wide range of subjects, unlike a lot of pop history that only really does military history.

Legal Eagle explains lawyering.

Mathologer discusses advanced mathematical concepts with great care to make difficult concepts digestable to non-doctoral math professors, with great visual aids and humor.

Orchestration Online dives deep into symphonic orchestration techniques.

PBS Eons delves into the deep history of the Earth. Lots of paleontology, but also some geology.

Smarter Every Day is an engineer’s nerd-out. Lots of exploration of physical concepts and experiments.

Townsends focuses mostly on 18th century cooking recipes, although some episodes deal with other aspects of 18th century life. But the recipes (and their historical context) are often quite interesting, and simple enough that non-chefs like me can use them as a basis for ideas, if not outright copying.

Veritasium is a science and engineering-focused channel with very well thought-out, clear explanations.

Vsauce discusses various scientific concepts the author likes – mainly physics and psychology. He has a fun way of throwing around puns, too.

WDR Big Band is one of the finest jazz orchestras in the world, and what they put on this channel is world-class quality and often cutting-edge.

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Sun Gift (Dorico playback)

This is a melodically minimalistic trio I wrote many years ago, but this version has a microtonal (just intonation) treatment, with a 224EDO custom tonality system I defined in Dorico: both the Mixed Sagittal accidentals on a few notes and in the key signature; and the playback, which is excellent given this is fully computer-realized.

I’d love to someday get a live recording of this.

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Extremely dissonant “Pentatonic” scale

The brainstorm inspired by a question on the Xenharmonic Alliance, I decided to create a simple chorale where the scale tones are derived exclusively from wolf intervals: the wolf fifth with its extra syntonic comma, and the wolf octave with its Pythagorean comma. The result here, treating both commas as the same, as they’re only about 2 cents different, is pretty twangy, at least. Although, I note that it’s impossible to avoid some essentially ‘consonant’ intervals in spots.

Dissonant Chorale

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Performance documentation on Youtube

For anyone who is interested, I do have a small history of performances that people have opted to record and put on Youtube:

Marie with the Rhythm Society Orchestra

A pick-up band for a birthday party, on bass trombone:
Chet’s Call
Strike Up The Band
Miller Time

Some things from the Great Basin Jazz Camp:
Just Friends (trombone ensemble)
Whisper Dance (my composition)
Oleo (faculty combo, me on alto trombone)

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Lesson Requirements

Here is my introduction to lessons document for new trombone students, intended both for them and for parents who may not know much about musical training:

Lesson Requirements

My approach to teaching private lessons covers a wide range of topics. Music is a doorway to many different disciplines besides literal performance, and I think it’s important to show students how deep the rabbit holes extend, metaphorically speaking. Inspiring people can’t involve just showing what they’re already capable of grasping, but shining spotlights on deep ideas that expand on our understanding of our universe. Relevant topics include:

– Classical coaching; helping students understand how to effectively practice and be aware of what they’re doing.

– Understand perception and our relationship to music; how the ear is imperfect; how microphones, speakers, and the process of delivering music (even live music) alters it.

– Lots and lots of deep listening to great music, both live and recorded; emphasis on exposure to many different genres and approaches. Seeing what is possible.

– Understanding correct mechanics of physically handling their instrument.

– Awareness of history; knowing where music comes from and where it might go in the future. Not just literally who played what, but cultural contexts; changes in technology; how music in different realms is related.

– Mathematics in music.

– Strong encouragement to participate in lots of kinds of musical ensembles. Music is a community activity and is best experienced with others.


My Favorite Big Band Recordings

I’m a big band jazz connoisseur. I love playing the music, and I love checking out others. Here follows those I believe are of the highest musical level and well-worth giving attention to, updated as I see fit:

bill holman: a view from the side
The Bill Holman Band: Brilliant Corners
Bob Curnow’s L.A. Big Band: The Music Of Pat Metheny And Lyle Mays
The Bob Florence Limited Edition: With All The Bells And Whistles
The Count Basie Orchestra Live At El Morocco
Darcy James Argue’s Secret Society: Infernal Machines
Frank Sinatra: Sinatra At The Sands
iTiempo Latino! – The Airmen Of Note
Maria Schneider Orchestra: The Thompson Fields
Mingus Big Band 93: Nostalgia In Times Square
Ray Charles + Count Basie Orchestra: Ray Sings Basie Swings
Scott Gwinnell Jazz Orchestra: Mulgrewology
Stan Kenton: Contemporary Concepts
Steve Weist: Excalibur
The Vanguard Jazz Orchestra: Up From The Skies