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I hate. The composer in the world of today. The School of Music and the radio service of the University of Illinois invite you to listen to another program in the series. The composer in the world of today. Commented and illustrations on 20th century American music by an American composer. Conducting the series is Bernard Phillips Professor of Music at the University of Illinois. And an internationally famed composer the composer in the world of the day is produced and recorded by WRAL Al. The University of Illinois radio service under a grant from the Educational Television and Radio Center in cooperation with the National Association of educational broadcasters.
Day Mr. Phillips will discuss chamber music for brass instruments. The composer in the world of today. And here is Beryl Philips of all the different families or kinds of instruments in use at this present time for the performance of music. Those called brass instruments are the most recent in evolution. The string instruments that form the largest group of any in a symphony orchestra have had a leading role in music ever since the latter part of the 17th century the 18th century symphony employed essentially the same woodwinds as we do today as well as traditional strings. But it was for that 19th century to improve and even invent new brass instruments. It is true that the French horn and the trumpet were sometimes found in 18th century symphonic scores but not by any means invariably the brass were late in developing into the instruments that we have today chiefly because their early construction made them clumsy and technically inferior to other kinds of instruments. The way of producing and controlling tone on a
string instrument is the same now as it has always been and the woodwinds have undergone a mere refinement and perfection in our ways of tone production and control. The brass however became really different instruments around the year 1830. An invention of revolutionary possibilities was applied to the horn and the trumpet at that time that completely changed the performance technique. The tone quality and even the use of the horn and trumpet in the orchestra and other concerted kinds of music. Up until the invention of the valve system the brass instruments had all the bad features of the clumsiness and the raucous sounds of the bugle. The use of veils made it possible for the first time to produce all the notes in the natural range of the instrument whereas before there were vast gaps and large intervals within which it was impossible to play any note at all. The next time you listen to a Mozart or Haydn symphony with horns in the score notice how on melodic the part is how sometimes the horns sound as if they were playing bugle calls. Then compare that with the really independent and
melodic style the horn is given to play in a symphony by Brahms or a Strauss tone poem. It is quite true that the nineteenth century was the age of brass experiments and improvement in design of the instruments and in Wagners case the invention of new instruments to serve a particular need by now in the second half of the 20th century. We are so accustomed to flexibility in the brass instruments that we forget that it was only relatively recently that this family had very little to offer to the composer. So that all of 19th century may be called The Age of brass improvement the 20th century is becoming rapidly the age of brass exploitation from the composers point of view. Before this century there was little original literature for brass outside the parts they play in the orchestra. There was a kind of vogue in the 17th century for what was called municipal music which involved the brass of that day and small combinations and that was played outdoors. But this had no descendants and is today a curiosity rather than the living tradition.
For that reason there is not even any settled number or kind of instruments. Even a large wind bands using grasses or in a small chamber music groups whose strings have the traditional string quartet. The number and kind of instruments being fixed by a long tradition. So to the woodwinds in the woodwind quintet. But if today a composer says he has written a brass quartet it is proper to ask him for what instruments This was designed. The same with the brass trio string trio means piano violin and cello but brass trio might mean three trumpets or three trombones or two trumpets and horn or trumpet horn and trombone. Similarly with the brass quartet Lately there has tended to be a kind of settling down process in this matter but the process is not complete. You can count on two trumpets or cornets But the other two instruments might be two trombones or trombone and baritone or trombone and horn perhaps with recent interest as played by composers in chamber music for brass. There may be a tradition slowly emerging but it has not by no means arrived as yet
because of all this most music of recent vintage for brass has been in the nature of unique forms unique style and unique color. In other words not in the composer's main stream of creative output. There are technical matters of performance that influence as in any other category. The construction of music for brass the radical differences in the speed of articulation is one matter a composer must calculate most carefully in a string quartet all the instruments can be given motifs of similar character and the result will be satisfactory. Not so in a brass trio or quartet. The trumpet is capable of extremely fast and precise articulation. The horn and trombone are not. Hence one cannot write the same kind of music for each of these instruments to a composer accustomed to the flexibility of the string quartet. This inequality of the brass is extremely frustrating but the frustration has its compensations. One of these is that the brass instruments are masters of a kind of sonority round in full that no other group can attain.
Also they rival the percussion family for power rhythmic utterance. To illustrate these two capacities we will hear three short pieces for brass trio trumpet horn and trombone. By the young American composer Patrick McCarthy the first called Fanfare has powerful and also very subdued brass sonority in profusion. The second case Giuliano exhibits the characteristic simple brass melodic line while a third cortege is based on the fast rhythmic figure with displaced accents at the brass can do so well. Here are three pieces for brass by Patrick McCarthy played by Haskell Sexton trumpeter Thomas Holden horn and Robert Gray trombone.
A. Funny thing. After that trio for brass by Patrick McCarthy comes another trio with the same instrumentation by the American composer Leslie Bassett. This work also has three movements but the music is of a different character from that of the McCarthy pieces
here. Mr. Bassett has attempted something a little more contrapuntal with each instrument treated approximately the same as all the others. A moment ago it was said that this is not the way to write for brass is that it must be kept in mind of each brass instrument has its own peculiar kind of music and that by implication contrapuntal music is not the best vehicle for brass expression. However composers are always pushing experiments to find out what the limitations of the medium are. And in this trio Mr. Bassett has not gone beyond what might be called Brass logic. The first movement might be described as a flowing but not a lyric form. The second movement has a lyric result in which each instrument eventually participates tellingly and the last movement is a lively alert and rhythmically vital one which exploits the brass in extremes of speed and range. Here is a brass trio by Leslie Bassett.
That was a brass trio by Leslie Bassett. To conclude our program we will hear next a quartet for brass instruments written by another young American composer Arthur Frank and Paul this quartet is an enlarged over the dimensions of the trio is by the admission of a second trumpet. So the score has two trumpets a horn and a trombone. It is surprising with a simple enlargement adds in the way of increased sonority and fullness. It also was affected by Mr. Frank in Paul's compositional style. In this case much less contrapuntal than that to be found in Mr. Bassett's trio. There are three three movements in this quartet. The first is based largely on a repeated note motifs particularly well-adapted to the brass style and one that allows for the rhythmic character of these instruments to come through. The second movement is based on the Swedish Caroll. It is what the Germans call a chorale by our by two and one slang a professor of counterpoint described as a workout which it certainly is with the chorale melody tossed back and
forth from one instrument to another. The last movement introduces a faddist arpeggiated figure which recurs throughout and after several transformations the piece and then to bring inflation. Here is a brass quartet by Arthur Frank and Paul played by Haskell Sexton and Richard Tully trumpets Thomas Holden horn and Robert Gray trombone.
That was a brass quartet by Arthur Frank and pole played by Haskell Sexton and Richard Tully trumpets Thomas Holden horn and Robert Gray. This quartet and two trios performed earlier were intended as illustrations of a growing interest on the part of young American composers and chamber music for brass instruments a kind of music that is becoming more important to the contemporary scene and a category in which more good examples are being rapidly added. You have just heard chamber music for brass instruments. Another program in the series the composer in the world of today conducting the series is Bernard Phillips Professor of Music at the University of Illinois and an internationally famed composer. We cordially invite you to join us again next week at this same time for the next program in the series a composer in the world of today.
Composer in the world of today
Chamber music for brass
Producing Organization
University of Illinois
WILL Illinois Public Media
Contributing Organization
University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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Episode Description
This program, "Chamber Music for Brass," discusses a popular development in contemporary classical music at the time.
Other Description
How the composer of today sees the contemporary world around him. Interviews, commentary and musical illustration provide a better picture of the modern composer. The series is hosted by Burrill Phillips, composer and professor of music at the University of Illinois.
Broadcast Date
Chamber music
Media type
Embed Code
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Host: Phillips, Burrill
Performer: Sexton, Haskell
Performer: Gray, Robert
Producer: Gouds, Moyra
Producing Organization: University of Illinois
Producing Organization: WILL Illinois Public Media
AAPB Contributor Holdings
University of Maryland
Identifier: 58-42-5 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
Duration: 00:28:49
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Chicago: “Composer in the world of today; Chamber music for brass,” 1958-01-01, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed August 17, 2022,
MLA: “Composer in the world of today; Chamber music for brass.” 1958-01-01. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. August 17, 2022. <>.
APA: Composer in the world of today; Chamber music for brass. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from