Random Monday: Lyres, Conductors and Monks (Oh My!)

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Working without a conductor
The old Greek story of Orpheus and his journey into the Underworld to rescue his wife opens some interesting commentary when that name is applied to a chamber group that works without a conductor.

As the old myth goes, Orpheus is allowed to leave the Underworld with his love in tow. She will remain behind him out-of-sight, but only if he never looks back to see if she is there or not.

That being said I have also wondered about how the music group Orpheus organize concerts and make decisions about the music.  From a recent article at The Wall Street Journal we gain some insight.

…an elected executive committee of players assigns the position for each work; the concertmaster then chooses the leaders and co-principals of the other sections, who form the so-called core. At core rehearsals, the broad themes of interpretation, tempo and phrasing are hashed out ahead of tutti rehearsals, in which each player is encouraged to speak up. Everyone is expected to know the entire score. During rehearsals, players take turns walking out into the auditorium to check for sound and balance and then report back to the ensemble.


This article also brought back to memory a classic conductor joke:

Q. What is the difference between a symphony orchestra and a freight train?

A. The freight train needs a conductor.

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The life of David Sprung
Stumbling upon this story, I quickly became fascinated with the breadth and depth of his career.

David Sprung calls himself “The Opposite Man” because somewhere back in elementary school he skipped a half grade. “That’s what they used to do with what they considered bright kids. So I was always in-between—opposite. When I went to Queens College I started in January.”

For his career, he had planned to become a college professor and did so, but performing as a professional musician was always a parallel career. Retiring from teaching in 1992, David has continued to perform. “That’s not the way it’s supposed to go,” he says,” you’re supposed to retire from performing and then teach. I did the opposite.”


Northeast Horn Workshop

“There’s a certain personality that’s drawn to the horn in the first place,” Ann Ellsworth, co-host of the conference with Donna Yoo, admitted with a laugh before the event, which took place last weekend. “We’re not like trumpet players, who tend to be ultracompetitive. Horn players have always been very collegial because we all struggle with this instrument. It’s basically designed to humiliate us.”


IHS Surveys on European style
If you have never seen the “Two Surveys of European Horn Playing Styles,” I highly recommended it as a great resource to compare and contrast different embouchures, hand positions and musical styles. Looking around recently, I re-discovered Domenico Ceccarossi and his high placement embouchure.

Like minds stagnate alike
Jeffrey Agrell shares his thoughts on staying inspired and creative within a work environment.

When I was in the orchestra, one thing I noticed was how interesting it was to talk to people who weren’t in the orchestra. Nothing wrong with the orchestra people, but they all had the same mindset, the same complaints, the same experiences. The best conversations were usually about player’s hobbies – the non-orchestra-related stuff that they did outside of the job. Building sailboats or furniture. Travel. Mountain climbing. Skiing.


Achieve monk-like focus

The moment you get effortlessly lost in work goes by any number of names: focus, concentration, escapism, flow, and countless others. It’s the point where you’re able to blur the world around you and calibrate your brain to pay attention to one single task. It’s your sweet spot. It’s when you Get Things Done.


A fellowship with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra

On the French horn was Sharn, the former Emerald Marist College student now on a 12-month fellowship with the prestigious SSO as her classical music career continues to spiral upward.

“She lives and breathes music 24 hours a day,” her proud dad Charlie said.

“She will come home and get off the plane, we’ll talk for half an hour and then she’s gone for five hours practising.


Random stuff

Random videos

A questions-and-answers session with some of the horn players from the Berlin Philharmonic.

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Andrew Karr talks about his experience teaching French horn in Afghanistan.

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Another synthetic horn – but this one has an interesting wind interface. Otherwise the tone quality is a little on the blatty side for my tastes.

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A hose horn, but with copper tubing.

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Most dogs wait until the playing starts to start making noise.

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University of Horn Matters