Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Performance Diary

Back on Saturday morning 5/17 we played for a fundraiser put on by Doris W in the parking lot of the local nursing home. I've been doing this event for years, originally just by myself, and in the past few years some of the Kenwood Players have been joining me. That's Dick and Maggie on trumpet and clarinet. Crawford is the tuba player with his instrument at rest so he can smile for the camera, with Bill next to him taking up the slack on the bass line. 

The fellow in the background with the children's train shows up at most community events to give the kids a ride and they love it. One of the tunes we played was "Take The A Train". 

One thing to notice is how bundled up everyone but me is. After a long cold winter we've had a chilly spring and it was just in the upper 40's. My hands and fingers didn't go numb, but fretting even easy chords took a little extra mental effort. I've also decided to go with just banjo a lot of the time, as the guitar is just one more thing to lug around, and the banjo has a more focussed sound that projects better. What that meant was playing some familiar songs in unfamiliar (without the capo) keys.
In this shot above you can see Judy playing the drums. You can also make out my current sound system which gives enough support to be helpful, without overkill - or heavier stuff to lug around. My sense in that 20 feet away from us you'd be hearing half what we're doing ourselves and half the reinforced sound.

The tubas have one large condenser mic between and above them. Maggie has a small condenser on her stand for the clarinet. I have a small condenser on my stand for vocals, and a small dynamic mic at banjo hight, because the banjo is very directional and without amplification to spread the sound around, people I'm not facing will say they can't hear it.

The little mixer on the folding table is a Mackie that has four inputs for condenser mics. For amps I'm using one large and one small Peavy keyboard amp - sort of a woofer and a tweeter. We need at least one large amp for the tubas, but just one seems enough. The smaller one is to point is a slightly different direction to fill out the sound of the clarinet, vocals, and banjo.

Thanks to Jeff Poole of the Orange County Review for these great shots.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Lois Svard

Back last August, Kyle Gann alerted his readers to a new blog by a friend of his, Lois Svard, which she calls the musician's brain. I've been an avid reader and re-reader ever since and added it to my "regular reads" over on the right.

What she's doing is reporting on all the new science that's coming out on music and the brain, based on a lot of background reading and study of the subject. My immediate reaction to the appearance of the blog was one of profound happiness in that it validated things I've been posting on here, which I think are going to transform what we think of music in general and of music therapy in particular. If you think of music as a technology of experience, Lois is laying out the nuts and bolts of how it works.

As I've been following the blog, I've come to appreciate just how much thought and preparation has gone into each post. Whereas my posts on these subjects are sort of like a magpie going out and finding shiny objects and bringing them here and saying, "Hey, look at this!!!", Lois, besides educating herself about the whole subject, has done a lot of thinking about what's going on with all this new research, how it all fits together, and what it means about making/performing music.

Just here lately I've come to think of her posts as similar to wonderfully realized performances of music (her background is as a concert pianist and teacher). Just as a musician works with a piece of music so that the music comes alive with both the composer's intention and her own personal conception of it, these posts very cogently lay out the science and what it means about music making.

So if you've come to my blog looking for info on the neuroscience of music - bookmark the musician's brain

Friday, May 23, 2014

Proprioception and Emotions

I've posted on proprioception in the sense of one's awareness of the physical aspects of music making. There can also be an emotional component, as sometimes the physical gesture used to create the sound can mimic a gesture that can communicate emotion non-musically, e.g. caressing the piano keys to suggest a physical caress.

This article about Jesse Prinz says this about one of his books:

His 2004 book, Gut Reactions: A Perceptual Theory of Emotion (Oxford University Press), follows William James in arguing that emotions are perceptions of bodily responses to cues in our environment, which they follow rather than precede.

If this is to any degree part of what's going on (and I've never heard of this being something James talked about), it means that we are both sending and receiving emotional cues at the proprioceptive level, both consciously and non-consciously. 

Monday, May 19, 2014

Time Keeping

In a post of Kyle Gann's, one of his regular commenters, a composer, says:

There is also the problem with timing. I once formed an ensemble with classical, jazz and rock musicians: the classical musicians were slightly behind the beat, the jazz musicians slightly ahead, and the rock musicians dead centre, almost like a computer sequencer. This is changing now, I did a session with classical string players a few years ago who were as dead on the beat as any rock player.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

First Impressions

In talking about the importance of tone, I often use the example of how a person's voice sounds will often determine how engaged you will be in listening to them. This story out of NPR validates that.

. . . In less than a second, the time it takes to say "hello," we make a snap judgment about someone's personality, says Jody Kreiman, a UCLA researcher who studies how we perceive voice. On hearing just a brief utterance, we decide whether to approach the person or to avoid them. Such rapid appraisals, she says, have a long evolutionary history. It's a brain process found in all mammals.

"Things that are important for behavior and for survival tend to happen pretty fast," Kreiman says. "You don't have a huge amount of time. It has to be a simple system of communication." . . . 

This one detail of the study, the rising or falling of pitch at the end of a sentence, overlaps music:

What makes females sound more trustworthy is whether their voices rise or fall at the end of the word, says McAleer. "Probably the trustworthy female, when she drops her voice at the end, is showing a degree of certainty and so can be trusted."

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Performance Diary

Here are some photos taken by cousin-in-law Ed of the performances in Gordonsville talked about in this previous post. This first one was taken when I was introducing the brass players and their instruments. That's Dick on the trumpet. Pete behind the lectern with his flugelhorn, Gabby with her euphonium next to the organ, Crawford and Bill with their E flat tubas.
Here is Ben Armistead, the choir director of Christ Episcopal, who was both the host and the conductor. He did a wonderful job of welcoming the audience, saying a little about each piece we played and answering questions. In this photo he's leading the audience in the singing of a hymn - but for most of the time he stood in front of us, and once Dick set the tempo and started us off, Ben then conducted so that Tom on the organ and the brass players could hang together on the turnarounds and fermatas. 

Here's a good shot of Tom May at the pipe organ.

Bill on E flat tuba.

Dick on trumpet and Crawford on E  flat tuba.

Gabby on euphonium.

Here'a shot of me down on Main Street right before the Chamber Group got started.

Here's the Chamber Group. That's Hayley on flute, Kelly on recorders. Kelly's mom Judy on percussion, Kelly's daughter Sydney on percussion, Dr. Andy on cello and Maggie on clarinet. Our main audience is just off to the right, out of the photo, at one of the stops on the walking tour. Being in this spot kept us in the comfortable shade.