19 February 2014

Copper in the Arts

The Art and History of Brass Musical Instruments

By Donna Dvorak

Through the ages, copper and brass instruments have been used in an assortment of capacities, and are still popular today throughout the world. In the famous Broadway Show The Music Man, its memorable tune "76 Trombones" by Robert Meredith Willson is belted out in a parade with copper and brass musical instruments gleaming like a beautiful sea of copper.

But, what comprises a brass instrument? Anthony Baines, author of European & American Musical Instruments, states that brass instruments are defined as instruments that produce a tone by vibration of the lips as the player blows into a tubular resonator. Also known as labrosones, brass instruments are constructed of brass and other corrosion resistant, easy-to-fabricate copper alloys.

The actual description of brass instruments are dependent on the overtone series first studied and analyzed by the Greek philosopher Pythagoras. A string or vibrating air column in the case of a brass instrument will tend to vibrate at certain frequencies based on the length of the string or tube. The fundamental pitch is the lowest natural note with other possible notes one octave above the fundamental, followed by a perfect fifth, fourth and up. Modern brass instruments usually alter the length of the tubing through valves, including the slide still used by today's trombonists. The Roman Tuba, Lituus and Buccina, and other early brass instruments were made of bronze combined with animal horns, like the Scandinavian lur, and the Roman cornu.

Getzen Brass Instruments: Then and Now

Musical instruments are a long-standing family tradition of the Getzen family that began in 1939 in a converted dairy barn behind their family home in Elkhorn, Wisconsin. Three employees concentrated on band instrument repair and they produced their first trombones in 1946. They're now producers of world-class trumpets, cornets, fluegelhorns, and trombones.

"Now, we make approximately 15,000 instruments a year and we send them all over the world," says Brett Getzen, Special Projects Manager and great-grandson of the founder Anthony James Getzen. "Tony originally worked for another band instrument manufacturer but, in 1939, branched out to start his own company. When he began building horns in the late 1940's, he used a copper trim. Copper has also been used for quite a while to create resonant bells. We have two kinds of copper bells - one made here from copper tubing for the bell and the other kind is electroplated. They take a steel mandrel and plate copper onto that until it's thick enough to break away - and then you have a bell blank. When you create a bell for a trumpet you spin it on a lathe to get the tapered look, and the blank looks like a bell that, at that point, isn't the right size - yet. At that time in the production, it can become several things. One example is several different bells on trumpets. The rate of paper to the bell, the size of the throat and flare determines how the horn sounds and plays, so according to what you're trying to achieve, we make these copper blanks into different bells, depending on how we spin them. The largest copper instrument we have is the trumpet bell. We also use copper in our plating and use copper plate as a basecoat before we do a silver plating. We put a thick layer of copper on before we put the silver on because the copper makes the silver more illustrious and provides a distinguished tone, as well."


18 February 2014

Wisemann Brass Ensemble (China)

The Wisemann Brass Ensemble is an exciting new professional brass ensemble based in Beijing, China and is Asia’s first ever independent professional brass ensemble.
The ensemble features the current and former principal brass players of China's professional orchestras such as the China Philharmonic Orchestra, Beijing Symphony Orchestra, Shanghai Symphony Orchestra, China Central Opera Orchestra, and China National Centre for the Performing Arts Orchestra. 
Wisemann offer several ensemble formations to suit all occasions. The quintet consists of 2 trumpets, french horn, trombone, and tuba and has a wide repertoire of music ranging from Jazz and Popular to Classical and Contemporary. The trio consists of trumpet, trombone and tuba and is very well suited to performing Jazz and Latin music as well as popular classical repertoire.
More info HERE

04 February 2014

Paul Higgs (UK) new CD Pavane

Celebrated trumpeter and composer Paul Higgs has created many albums throughout his time as
a successful musician, but this is his first to blend the genres of classical and jazz music. Paul
has never felt restricted by musical boundaries and wanted to make “an album that combined the
freedom of jazz with the rich sonorities of classical music”. Pavane presents pieces in song form
in a classical style with an emphasis on melody and counterpoint.
The jazz ensemble featured on the album is complemented by a string section with classical
guitar, and highlighted by the melodious sounds of a cello. Paulʼs trumpet flows throughout with a
voice that is in turn seductive, playful and intriguing. His consummate skill and seemingly
effortless technique produce a sound of unearthly beauty. In Pavane he presents an infinitely
varied world expressed through melody, atmosphere and sensitivity. Each piece shows us a new
soundscape, and the exquisite sound of his trumpet transports us through each one in turn, with
the romantic grandeur of a film score.
“Paul Higgs is one of the most gifted composers and musicians. I'm very proud to see the
success he's currently enjoying.” Bill Ashton OBE, Musical Director, NYJO. As a young man Paul
Higgs was already renowned for his skill, and worked with luminaries such as Peggy Lee, Buddy
Greco, Rosemary Clooney (indeed – George Clooneyʼs aunt) and John Williams. Paul toured with
the much-loved Norman Wisdom and Bob Monkhouse. As a composer, he has written a
commission for the Proms, has had music published by Oxford University Press and Stanza
Music, and has published music himself. He has also written music for film, TV and radio, as well
as theatre.
“Paul Higgs is a world-class composer and trumpet player, and this collection conclusively proves
the point!” Digby Fairweather: BBC presenter (Radio 2 and 3), and jazz trumpeter.

More information about Higgs HERE. His Pavane CD and digital download tracks from that recording are available at online sales sites such as CDbaby, Amazon, iTunes, eMusic, Rhapsody and many others.