Monday, December 04, 2006

Curse the Devil

This is where I curse the horn book Just Desserts and its creator Lowell E. Shaw. Lowell E. Shaw is Lucifer himself, come up from the bowels of hell with a trail of sulfur stench following behind him. Lowell E. Shaw laughs at pain and gnashing of teeth. Lowell E. Shaw finds joy in the suffering of mankind. Lowell E. Shaw causes me to play swing on my French horn.

Currently during my horn lessons I play two exercises in the Kopprasch book (a standard), Mozart's Horn Concerto No. 2 (which I play with precision but not with enough delicacy as demanded by Mozart, and in the first movement, not quite up to speed), Beethoven's Horn Sonata (which I have just begun working on and love dearly, Beethoven being my favorite composer), and Just Desserts (jazz style solo exercises designed to encourage jazz playing).

Horn players don't often have opportunity to play jazz. It's not in our nature. We play straight, right down the middle--soft lovely arpeggios or big Hollywood rips. But here I am trying to figure out swing, and I am stumped.

There is a scene in Mr. Holland's Opus where Mr. Holland is trying to teach a student how to feel the beat. It proves to be a difficult lesson, so he straps a football helmet on the kid and pounds the beats out on his head with base drum mallets. I am to the point where I believe my horn teacher needs to suit me up and start hitting my head in a swing-style beat. Maybe then, I'll get it.

Until then, I'll have to stomp the beat out like a horse--ONE and TWO and THREE and FOUR and..........I hate Lowell E. Shaw.

13 comments:

dive said...

Robyn. You can sing Cry Me A River, so you can obviously keep a swing beat.
Listen to Miles Davis' Kind Of Blue a few times before your next lesson. Loosen up with a few bars of that and you'll have no trouble.
Having said that, I have a tape somewhere in the attic of the hilarious attempts choir-trained Caroline made at singing Jazz in the studio. In the end I had to write all the words out phonetically, with slurs and stuff and she had to re-learn this unrecognisable gibberish. It worked though.

Robyn said...

Here's the problem, I can sing Cry Me A River because I have something to sing to, something that keeps the beat going. But when I play out of this stupid book, it's just me. Even with a metronome, I lose beats. It's making me crazy--and my poor teacher.

dive said...

Jazz is feel; there's no getting around it, Robyn.
Trying to play written Jazz, you're always going to end up sounding like Rhapsody In Blue rather than Kind Of Blue.
Don't feel bad about it; it will come. Improvising with Jazz musicians or Jazzy friends will help.
Once it clicks, you'll never lose it.

Robyn said...

Oh no! Now we're talking about improvising? It will never happen. I've had to write a couple of cadenzas for Mozart concertos, and even then I fall on my face. I'm paper trained.

Old Knudsen said...

While you continue to talk about playing swing on a horn I will continue to giggle like a school gurl.

Sassy Sundry said...

Sounds like he will be getting his just desserts.

peahen said...

Robyn, I know what you mean. I play in a traditional brass band where anything that's in straight 4 or straight 8's is absolutely fine. When we try something like 'Miller Magic' which demands a swing feel, it's a complete disaster. I think it's as someone said in The Commitments, we're just a little too... white.

peahen said...

btw, I love the idea of beating children on the head with a mallet. That's cheered me right up.

Robyn said...

Peahen, my brass band often plays arrangements from a retired Navy band trumpet player, a screecher who likes everything fast and loud, and there is never any time to even attempt to count out everything. So we all just play it by ear. It usually works, but only because the loudest people (the trumpets) know what they're doing. All I have to do is follow along.

Old Knudson, is the swing that makes you giggle like a school girl?

Kim Jong Il said...

Did someone else mention The Commitments recently? its just that I've mentioned them in my most soon to be posted post, might be Blogjinx!
I'm just full of the horn.

Robyn said...

Kim Jong Il, I'm honored. It was so nice of you take a break from ruining your country so you could stop by for a visit. And I love your new site.

amydecat said...

Heh, I came across your blog when I was looking up information about Lowell E. Shaw. I just met him in person last month for the International Horn Symposium and he is a lovely fellow! In addition, I simply adore nearly everything that he's written. I'm not wanting to stir the pot, I just want to stick up for a pretty remarkable man that deserves the utmost of respect. Thanks for hearing me out! =)

Scout said...

Hi Amy. Thanks for stopping buy. I have heard that Lowell Shaw is delightful, and of course his compositions are wonderful. My post was written with tongue-in-cheek, which I thought was clear. I'm jealous of your trip to the International Horn Symposium.