Ji Hye Jung Performs John Serry’s “Groundlines” (2010)

John Serry’s Night Rhapsody for solo marimba is one of the great early pieces in the contemporary marimba repertoire. While still clearly “Serry-esque”, his new work Groundlines deviates significantly from his masterwork of over 30 years ago. Featuring Dies Irae quotes and Sonata Form,Night Rhapsody features a clear connection to the Romantic Era of wester classical music. That connection seems to be missing entirely from Groundlines leaving us with pure compositional mechanics. Check out the video to formulate some reactions to this new work expertly performed by Ji Hye Jung.

What are your thoughts on Serry’s compositional shift with Groundlines? What are your impressions of the work as a whole?

Tendonitis of the Brain

Guest post by Doug Perry.

Tendonitis of the Brain

I took classical music history this past semester in order to fufil one of the musicology diagnostic exams I failed (I failed all of them). I felt like I was learning everything for the first time, which makes sense given my less-than-stellar undergraduate study habits. It wasn’t until we got to Beethoven that things began to feel familiar again; I didn’t start paying attention in my undergraduate class until Beethoven. (more…)

Guiding Principle #4: From Macro to Micro – Part II

Guiding Principle #4: From Macro to Micro – Part II
By Thomas Burritt

Holy Macro – Part I discussed the idea that a single, large scale perspective, can direct and define a set of smaller instructions that aid in the achievement of a task. The defined task involved learning the marimba solo “Velocities” by Joseph Schwantner. The large scale perspective instructed us to begin the learning process with from the Macro (beginning with composer background and formal understanding) and work down to the Micro (learning of individual notes and phrases).

For today’s post we will begin with Macro Instruction #1: Composer Context. I can’t overestimate the importance of this step! It is clear, after hearing many performances of Velocities, (and not just by students) that performers often fail at communicating the contrast of 2 important qualities of Schwantner’s music:

1: Articulation/Timbre
2: Resonant Structures

A simple trip to the iTunes store allows the listening to a wide variety of Schwantner’s
work. It won’t take long to realize the importance of timbre and articulation. I particularly enjoy, for example, how Schwantner incorportates piano and harp with crotales, triangles, and glockenspiel. These orchestrational organizations help define his compositional qualities.

In Velocities, Schwantner is exceptionally clear in regards to articulation, using terms like: brutale, marcatissimo, legatissimo, etc. In fact, I often wish more composers would be so clear! What does this mean for us the performer? A multi-tonal mallet, with a synthetic core for example, would allow the performer to realize differing articulations. An important feature of my playing, for example, is relaxing the grip for legato articulations and squeezing the grip for marcato articulations. A rubber core mallet for example, while very articulate, basically only creates one kind of attack at all dynamic levels. A multi-tonal mallet can often provide a more legato attack at softer dynamic levels. In the very least, understanding Schwantner’s work can help us choose the right mallet.

As percusssive and articulate as Schwantner’s music can be it also features resonant and fluid qualities. The second movement, as a whole, of his Percussion Concerto is a great example of this style. I particularly like his treatment of the almglocken and the overall emotional qualities of this music. Given Velocities “moto perpetuo” qualities creating fluid and resonant sounds at appropriate times is critical in a successful interpretation. There are no rests in this piece! This is where many interpreters of this music fail, because they simply don’t know or are unable to create fluid, non percussive sounds when appropriate. 9 minutes of the same rhythm and articulation does not capture what is important in this music.

Schwantner’s general musical style, along with clear indications in the score, demand the performer come up with a plan on how to create less percussive and more resonant sounds. While this is a deep subject the performer can, as mentioned above, choose a multi-tonal mallet that can offer both “brighter” and “darker” sounds. In addition, in more lyrical sections, phrasing efforts must focus on shifting the attention away from single notes to groupings of notes. Achieving this successfully cannot be described in ANY blog post. Sorry! However, it begins with selecting a mallet that has a variety of tones to it (in this case as non articulate as possible) and concludes with a successful phrasing approach that connects larger groupings of notes together.

When considering this information it is easy to conclude that the marimba is a perfect solo instrument for Schwantner’s compositional style. The marimba, by nature, is highly articulate but also naturally resonant. In conclusion, an appropriate interpretation of Velocities should exaggerate and highlight the differences of these two spectres. Check back later for Part III which will deal with our next Macro Instruction: Formal Analysis.

Communicating and executing clear differences in articulation is actually quite difficult for percussionists. In your own playing and teaching, how do you deal with the issues brought up in this post? The development of our pedagogy may depend on your reply!

Want more information? Many of these ideas were a main focus in my DMA final document.

Originally posted on DrumChattr on January 9, 2011 by Thomas Burritt.

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The photo in this post is used under the Creative Commons License: Attribution – NonCommercial – No Derivs 2.0 by William Murphy on Flickr.com.

M2B Transition I: Music to Business

By Shane Griffin

I know many people have been keeping tabs on my career shift as of late, and I’l like to update you all. I’ve accepted a position as a Sales Representative with Dale Carnegie Training, and will be starting this week. As I progress into my new career, I plan on writing a series of posts regarding the transferability of skills acquired during a music degree that directly apply to the business world. As I am new to this career, I will be waiting to write a good deal of these posts in order to keep them credible and based on experience, rather than speculation. However, there is one element of the transition that I can credibly address already, the interview. Many of the skills you have learned during your matriculation as a music student will prove to be quite helpful during the interview process.

The first one I’d like to address is poise. Musicians, good ones anyway, have the ability to experience a tremendous amount of stress, and display no outward manifestations of that stress. Think about it, you are on a stage in front of hundreds of people, who are all focused on you, yet your job is to entertain them and not distract them with the stressful feelings you are probably experiencing. Everyone knows that interviews are supposedly “stressful,” but I approach them the same way as I do performances. In performance, if I’ve done my work, and am qualified to present a performance, then people will enjoy listening to me, and the stress gradually melts away due to my preparations. Sure, there will be some butterflies at first, but they’ll go away if I dive in enthusiastically. In interviews, if I’m a qualified candidate, then why should I be nervous? Shouldn’t I be excited to display my ability to benefit the company? Just like an audience member chose to come to my concert, the individual in charge of hiring has looked at my resume, and decided I COULD be a qualified candidate. If we approach interviews the same way as we approach performances, as an opportunity to share our abilities with an already interested party, we will carry ourselves with much better poise than the other candidates, something that we have learned through our hundreds of performances.

During an interview, you always have to think on your feet. I’ll be the first to confess that I’ve improvised during a recital when I was lost. I’ve also invented repeats to give my memory the running start it needed when experiencing a memory slip. So what? Artistically, I may not be happy with it, but did the audience know? Only if the composer was there, or perhaps some colleagues who knew the piece well. Part of the interview is the process of reacting to questions that you didn’t see coming, and somehow hiding the fact that your mind is racing the entire time. Again, our performance practice is handy for this application.

Now, let’s address one very elusive element of the interview. It is critical that the other person be interested in you, and in your abilities. You must appeal to their wants and needs more so than your own. This is basic, but so many people ignore it. It doesn’t matter if you think that your time served as president of an organization is relevant if the INTERVIEWER is more interested in your work experience and its importance. Ignore what YOU think is important from your past, and focus on what will benefit THEM, and what they like about you. Now, tying this one to music is a little trickier, but I see this the same as programming a concert or recital. You must think of the audience. Are you a Stockhausen aficionado? Great. Don’t program an entire concert of his music for a general audience recital. It’s not what your audience wants to hear. It’s not in their best interest. If you’re playing for a Stockhausen convention, then great. Program it. It IS what your audience want to hear. Get my picture? The interviewer must see what they want in you, regardless of what you think is importance from your past.

What transferable interview skills have I missed? What are your interview stories, and did your any element of your musical training help you get through it? Discuss it in the comments.

Originally posted on DrumChattr on January 1, 2011 by Shane Griffin.

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The photo in this post is used under the Creative Commons License: Attribution – NonCommercial – No Derivs 2.0 by r-hol on Flickr.com.

G-OOOOOOOO-A-L-S for the New Year

As 2010 comes to a close, I think it is time to look back and evaluate your goals for 2010 and set new goals for 2011. Did you take the time to write down specific goals? Did you accomplish everything you wanted to in 2010? If not, what got in your way of accomplishing your goals? How did you measure your success or failure? These are all important questions to ask as you set goals for the coming year. It is my hope that after you read this post, you will take some time to sit down and jot down your goals for 2011. I would encourage everyone to post your goals in the comment section. I think it is important to be accountable for the goals. We will periodically check in and see how you are doing throughout the year.

At the beginning of each semester, I ask my students to write down their goals for the semester. I think it is important to write down your goals so you can look back on them throughout the semester and re-evaluate your progress. Once their goals are written down, we talk about the three levels of goal setting and assign their goals into one of the following categories:

Short-Term Goals – These goals can be accomplished in 1 to 2 weeks. These goals could include learning a portion of a solo (Letter A to B of your marimba solo) or an etude from a method book. If it takes longer than a week or two to accomplish this goal, then next time, you should assign it as a mid-term goal.

Mid-Term Goals – These goals can be accomplished in 4 to 6 weeks. These goals could include learning all of the notes of a solo or preparing all of your ensemble music for the upcoming concert.

Long-Term Goals – These goals will take a significant amount of time to complete. This time period could be a semester or longer. These goals could include preparing your music for your recital or your repertoire for an upcoming audition.

As you set your goals for 2011, remember that you may not always be able to complete your goals in the “assigned time.” It is important to reevaluate your goals periodically. I prefer to reevaluate my goals on a weekly basis, generally at the beginning of the week. It takes time and practice to set-up goals and if this is the first time you have written down your goals, don’t be frustrated if you don’t accomplish everything you set out to do. You must evaluate your goals and determine why you succeed and why you failed. If you were able to complete a short term goal in a couple of days, it was probably too easy of a task and conversely, if it took a month, it was probably too ambitious. Learning how to set-up your goals is just as important as writing down your goals. It will take some time and practice, but the more you do it, the easier it gets. Trust me, the accomplishment you feel from reaching your goals will be infectious!!

The second thing to remember when setting up goals is to make sure you can measure your success (or failure). Try and set-up specific goals. For example, when learning a new marimba solo, I generally look through the music for a couple of days to determine the difficulty of the piece. At that point, I write in dates at specific points in the music so my goals are visible as I learn the piece. Instead of setting a goal that you want to be a better marimba player, set a specific goal of learning a new repertoire piece each month.

To learn more about measuring your goals, check out the Goal Setting Guide. Author Arina Nikitina introduces the SMART Goal Setting system. The acronym SMART stands for:

S = Specific
M = Measurable
A = Attainable
R = Realistic
T = Timely

As we continue to grow as performers and teachers, we need to learn how to set-up effective goals. Take some time and write down your goals for 2011. Once you have these goals, talk to your teacher or post them in the Chattr Section and determine if these are realistic goals. Be accountable to your goals. If you were not able to reach your goal in a specific time period, try to determine what you could do differently next time. Do not get frustrated. It takes time and practice to learn how to set obtainable goals and I am confident that over time anyone can do it. Make it your “goal” to set-up goals for 2011.

We always love your comments and feedback. Leave your thoughts (and hopefully a list of your goals) in the comments.

Have a safe and productive New Year!

Originally posted on DrumChattr on December 31, 2010 by Dave Gerhart.

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The photo in this post is used under the Creative Commons License: Attribution – NonCommercial – No Derivs 2.0 by Aleksandr Osipov on Flickr.com.

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