Category Archives: Performance Practice

Homophony: All About It

cropped-east-windies-logo-small-jpg3.png   Our bassoonist came across a great website that tells all (with audio examples) about the construct musical homophony:  Columbia University’s Sonic Glossary.  Go to:

http//ccnmtl.columbia.edu/projects/sonicg/terms/homophony.html

homo02 

Sonic Glossary posts this image (“The Food of Love”,  National Gallery London) with their first example of homophony:  Haydn’s Surprise Symphony, mvt.2. The author Elaine Sisman considers 11 more varieties within the construct.  Well worth a visit!

The Inexorable Rise of Concert Pitch

EAST WINDIES LOGO small.jpg                  tuner korg
Image Search: Music Tuner.  “A Rough Guide to Compact Stage Tuners”. Performing-Musician.com. 21.03.2016

Most musicians are aware that concert pitch has risen in recent years, with current practice more or less around 440+ Hz. They may not know, however, that from the beginning of modern orchestras  (circa 1670) concert pitch rose from 392 Hz to a high of 452 Hz by the end of the 19th century.  Things were reset by international convention in 1939, back to 440 Hz where it more or less remains, albeit straining to rise yet again. The question is:  Why does this happen?  Jeremy Montagu (1) provides us a convincing analysis.  Simplifying his argument:   Larger middle-class public audiences meant Larger concert venues demanding increased instrumental forces to supply sufficient sound/audibility.  At the limit of this spiralling process (how big can a concert venue get, and how can you pay for more than around 100 musicians and still make a profit???), the only way to increase audibility was to modify instruments, to wit by increasing pitch.  Increased pitch ipso facto increased sound and brilliance.  And that, dear readers, is what is still going on.  (Otherwise we must resort to electric amplification, which not coincidentally is happening in parallel!).

1.  Montagu, Jeremy. Origins and Development of Musical Instruments. London: Scarecrow Press, 2007. Page 117.

Tips for Writing Your Next Wind Quintet

EAST WINDIES LOGO small.jpgHats off to Zeke Hecker and his article:   “On Composing for Woodwind Quintet”. kalvos.ord/heckless1.html. 5.03.2016.  Here’s a potted version of his timely advice:

music notes composing

Image: “Tips for composing Piano Music”  coltharppianoworld.com. 6.03.2016

Remember wind players have to breathe

unlike string players

Wind players need to rest

constant blowing is tough!

Avoid too much of the “pastoral” sound

wind instruments can do a lot morethey like to move it

Avoid a fixed hierarchy

share the tune around

Don’t use all five instruments all the time

the occasional embedded solo, duet or trio is rather nice

Extreme register tones (highs & lows) require dynamic discretion

example: real soft is fairly hard to do

Play around with rhythm

wind players are good at it

Stretch the classical wind quintet concept

include other members of the family—ex. the Eb clarinet

Try combining winds with other instruments

Piano, or a few strings are nice

Try transcribing as a practice exercise

 Piano music is easiest to start with

 And finally:  “Listen to reams of quintet music”