Mr. Friedman is right on again. This momentum to give the players a lot of power kills the power of the music - the style and the dynamics. I am often criticized for my equipment. I primarily play trombone. I have a medium bore horn, small bell, rose brass bell and a smaller mouthpiece. All of this I have chosen carefully so I will blend with the groups I play with. I have been asked why don't I play a big bore horn, with a bigger mouthpiece and a yellow brass bell and give it some POWER?Fine conductors take an orchestra off what I call auto-pilot, which means the orchestra plays the way it would if someone on the podium was only beating time and nothing else. What is the biggest giveaway that an orchestra is on auto-pilot? The answer is: not observing soft dynamics. Dynamics are the single most overlooked aspect of orchestral performance today, and soft dynamics are the most neglected part of dynamics. It takes a conductor with a vision and a relentless persistence to make a difference in the sound and style of an orchestra.
Musicians need to judge conductors on their interpretations and not only the physical part of music making.
For one simple reason. I want to make music. I play in a symphonic wind ensemble, a brass quintet and a trombone quartet. When I play trumpet, I have a very open cornet. It sounds like a trumpet due to the large bell (5 ") and the construction. But the conical bore allows it to blend better.
Now granted, Mr. Friedman and myself are talking about legit playing. Jazz, rock, ska, latin, etc. are different. But this "blow them out the door" mentality extends beyond the professional orchestra. There are nine trumpets in our symphonic band. 7 play the dynamics and what is written. Two play as loud as they can and will play everything up a 5th or an octave. It sounds terrible. I am the associate director. I tell them to play what is written and down about 3 dynamic levels. They play it the same way.
It has become so bad, that the director walked out one night. The board of directors has intervened. It helps for a week or two. Then the same ole crap. The other 7 players are just fine. Many of them bring their cornets. We have only two trombones. We NEVER play above mezzo forte. It would be too loud for that ensemble. But the two of us, like the 7 trumpets, care about the sound.
Sorry for the rant. This topic is close to my heart.
Dr. Jim Fox
Licensed Mental Health Therapist
good post, Jim.
I am often bothered by musicians not bothering to check their dynamics.
This past school year, I was in the school jazz band (we didn't really play JAZZ, just crappy arrangements and rock songs.), and we had a tenor sax player who liked to really blow on a song called "Turn the beat around"
this playing style really bothered me, because not only did he play loudly and badly (everyone could hear how bad he was) he had nothing for tone, but
thought he was the greatest.
One thing I've always found to be a bothering factor in groups is people who are bad but refuse to accept it. Also bad people who play too loud.
I appreciate when someone is bad, and they realize that, but they don't get down on themselves, they just work harder. whenever they make a mistake,
they admit it, showing honesty.
(this might seem like a rant post, sorry if I come off as that way.)
In my summer orchestra, I'm the 2nd trumpet, so I get most of the low brass (just trombones), and one of them seems "spaced out" most of the time, and so the conductor has to ask him to start with the band for about 5 minutes, til the 'bone player sitting next to him pokes the 'bone player in question, and tells him to start playing.
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