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Steve Below are the 4 most recent journal entries recorded in the "Steve" journal:
July 31st, 2009
02:42 am


Marine Band concert
I attended a Marine Band concert at the Washington Monument this evening. They began with Sousa's not so well-known Marquette University March, followed by the Overture to The Bartered Bride. It opened with the clarinets in full violin section mode, playing unison 16th notes at about MM=140, no one else playing and thus very exposed, and sounding like one large clarinet. This is the sort of thing we seem to expect from the orchestra world, yet rarely hear done this well in the bands. Of course there are more professional orchestras than bands. By the end of the piece every section had had their opportunity at rapid articulated 16ths--a virtuoso performance.

Next was the Saint-Saens Cavatine, originally for trombone and piano, arranged for brass and trombone by the noted British brass band arranger James Gourlay, featuring SSgt Preston Hardage. Reportedly, his peers liked it--me, not so much.

Then was the Entry March of the Boyars, practically the national march of Norway, followed by Morton Gould's Ballad for Band.

Next, GySgt Kevin Bennear performed the recitation for Randy Bass's Casey At the Bat. He delivered a wonderfully dramatic reading, and, since he is also a musician singing baritone for the band, he and Director Colonel Michael Colburn worked well together so that the recitation and the music coordinated perfectly.

They closed with Rimsky-Korsakov's Capriccio Espagnol, another difficult transcription, performed superbly.

All in all, another outstanding example of your tax dollars at work. I thank all you citizens of Montana, Florida, Texas and all the other states for your contribution to my enjoyment, and wish more of you could share it with me, but there isn't room for all of you to live in Maryland and northern Virginia.

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February 4th, 2008
12:54 am


Fortu(ba)itous encounter
This last Friday and Saturday I was at the annual U.S. Army Tuba-Euphonium Conference at Fort Myer, adjacent to Arlington National Cemetery--lots of interesting and/or enjoyable music featuring the instruments you would expect, all performed by artists of the highest ability. I also caught up with several friends that I see there every year. There were opportunities to do other things as well, wherein lies the point of this post. I visited the elephant room, as the area where the vendors are set up is called, and after relinquishing more than a fistful of dollars, I am now the owner of a new tuba, a B&S PT-1, bought from Custom Music Company. As they do not take trade-ins, I still have the 1970s Mirafone 186 I have been using for 35 years.

The horn was a demonstrator or floor sample or something like that. It does have a few blemishes and one small dent on the bottom bow, but that translates to a significant discount, and compared to the wrinkled appearance of the 186 (the bell was crushed during shipment to the dealer and repaired, which got me a very affordable price in the 70s, plus a few knocks and bumps since then), the damage is trivial and cosmetic.

I had been browsing the vendors with the thought of maybe buying something. I tried a new 186 with 5 valves which was nicer and responded better that mine, but it still felt ... just ... adequate, and at $7200 besides. I finally talked myself into waiting until some later time, and continued wandering around the exhibitors when I saw the PT-1, which I hadn't noticed earlier. I tried it; it spoke easily in the lower register, which I never had with my 186; it responded well to ascending scales and descending octave slurs, again better than my 186; it just started feeling right in short order. I talked with them of price, which seemed reasonable, and did not include any tax or shipping costs. "Let's do it!" and I walked away 22 pounds heavier.

Unfortunately, the vendor was wrong when he said he thought it would fit the same bag I have been using for the 186. I have discovered that the current 186 is a slightly larger horn that mine, with the bell being an inch larger in diameter. The PT-1 is another inch+ larger yet, and 2 inches taller, so I had to order the larger Pro-Tec tuba gig bag.

I expect to be very happy with my shiny new toy. Despite containing a larger volume of air, it is more nimble than my 186, and the larger size produces a more powerful low register. I only hope that my creaky aging joints will not complain prohibitively about the 2 and a half pound weight gain.

Current Mood: pleasedpleased

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March 2nd, 2007
06:47 pm


I can't do that?
Well, here we are, home at last, a day late and a dollar short--actually, an hour or two late and $250 short.

We went to a museum on the Johns Hopkins campus, and returned to see a tow truck with one car on the flatbed and our car being towed behind (the only two cars remaining on that block-length segment, the others all presumably already driven or towed away). Reaching the driver just as he was starting to move away, I got the address of where to go find the car, and them we went into a nearby church to ask for a phone book so we could call a taxi. There we learned that apparently north-bound Charles St by the campus is no-parking in the right-hand lane after maybe 3:30 to help rush-hour traffic.

While I can understand and agree with the intent of such a policy, I don't think there was enough signage to communicate it to drivers who did not already know this. I was one in a long line of parked vehicles, so I expected parking was allowed. Ahead of me was a NO STOPPING. CARS WILL BE TOWED sign with an arrow pointing to where I was not. Behind me a little bit was another sign, arrowed away from where I was, mentioning 4PM as when parking must stop. A minute of walking about before the taxi came did not produce any sign I had not already seen when I drove into the space. I must return at some future time to see if there was some sign at the beginning of this half-mile section of road about the parking regulations, although if that is the case, I personally don't consider it adequate delivery of information.

Oh, well, it was a beautiful clear 50° day, the people in the museum gift shop we had been chatting with instead of returning to the car (being unaware that it was under attack) were friendly and shared our interests. So, as with most days, it could be worse.

Current Mood: discontentdiscontent

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January 29th, 2007
03:45 pm


Marine Band concert
Well, there are some really nice benefits of living in Baltimore near DC--all those tax-supported military band concerts!

Yesterday I attended a Marine Band performance in Alexandria VA for what was probably a once-in-a-(mine anyway)lifetime event. They played a transcription of The Planets--the whole thing, making up the entire second half of the program.

Beginning pleasantly enough with Bach's "Wir glauben all' an einen Gott," we then proceeded into the celestial segment of our journey, with Husa's Apotheosis of this Earth.

Following Music for Prague 1968 by two years, it is as dissonant as Prague and presents a frighteningly depressed depiction of the destruction of the planet. Quoting from Husa:

...In the first movement, Apotheosis, the earth first appears as a point of light in the universe. Our memory and imagination approach it perhaps the same way as it appeared to the astronauts returning from the moon....

The second movement, Tragedy of Destruction, deals with the actual brutalities of man against nature, which lead to the destruction of our planet, perhaps by radioactive explosion. The earth dies as a savagely, mortally wounded creature.

The last movement is a Postscript, full of the realization that so little is left to be said.... one of so many questions comes to our minds: "Why have we let it happen?"

In 1970, perhaps the threat of nuclear annihilation was more pressing than after the end of the Cold War. Nonetheless it was so powerfully depressing that I preferred to perceive it as, similar to Marley's ghost, a prophet saying "I have shown you a possible future. It does not have to be this way."

Fortunately I did not have to go home with that echoing in my head, for Holst was yet to come.

Although I had never heard of it before, this transcription is apparently 7 or 8 years old, done by Merlin Patterson, the brother of Don Patterson, who along with Stephen Bulla, does music production for the Marine Band.

Much of the time, I didn't particularly notice the absence of strings. Besides the usual transfer of black notes into clarinets and flutes, some solo violin parts were covered by soprano sax and some string color went to marimba.

I did hear differences in sectional balance, such that I heard some lines and rhythms I had never noticed before, done here by trumpets and trombones, whatever they were originally.

Besides its difficulty, I will probably never hear this again because of the resources it requires. There were two harps, two sets of timpani, two string basses, bass and contrabass clarinet, contrabass bassoon, three vibraphones and evidently lots of other stuff in the percussion section. In a post-concert meet-the-conductor chat in the lobby, I commented that concert preparation probably included choreographing the percussionists' moves from one place to another. Captain Fettig agreed and noted that this concert had required the biggest transportation effort of any performance in memory--five trucks filled with equipment. Indeed, the long 20 minute intermission was needed to allow time for the percussion to be set up.

Unfortunately, the joy of hearing such an abundance of musical sound is increasingly rare in both band and orchestra. Professional symphonies will consider the expense of hiring the additional musicians and decide that it's not worth it. Even the biggest community bands are unlikely to be able to find such extras. Probably large music schools are the only place that might find that many diverse musical resources to be called up without financial pain, and even more than the DC military bands have a limited geographical accessibility to an audience.

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