March 17 rehearsal blog

Hi All,

Let’s begin by listening to our recording of the third movement of Ticheli’s Second Symphony.

Ticheli 3

Group A: Please answer one or more of the following questions, make your own comments, and/or add to comments previously posted.

  1. What does a “balanced” ensemble sound entail? How can this apply to the 3rd movement, particularly in the Bach chorale sections?
  2. How should we continue from this point?  What are the first and most primary rehearsal considerations?
  3. Ticheli writes that the symphony’s three movements refer to celestial light: shooting stars, the moon, and the sun.  We worked on the latter two movements on Thursday.  Please describe the character of those movements, and what we must do musically to present a unified, compelling interpretation.
  4. What’s one thing you need to work on to play this movement well?
  5. Although the 2nd and 3rd movements present many challenges, they come together more quickly than, say, Roxburgh’s “Time’s Harvest.”  What’s the difference?  What about the latter piece made it so difficult to perform?

15 Comments

Austin

March 23, 2016at 9:23 pm

I just think that this piece is a lot more more fun than Time’s Harvest (to be brutally honest). The tunes are really neat and the piece generally just flows a lot more logically. I also think it’s easier to practice for these kinds of pieces because they’re a lot more technically dependent, whereas Time’s Harvest wasn’t so much about technique as it was being able to listen to everyone else and contribute your part to make a collective impact on the audience.

skk75

March 20, 2016at 11:43 pm

I think it’s really neat that we’re doing this Ticheli piece, because when I was in high school my band went on tour with Ticheli in England and played several of his pieces (easier ones, not this one). So Ticheli music has a special place in my heart, especially since we got to work so closely with him and learn precisely the composer’s vision for each piece we played.

3.) Listening to the recording and inferring from the title of each movement, Shooting Stars should have very focused energy and a bright, celestial quality. It should be exciting and contain a lot of contrast, the way shooting stars contrast with the dark sky. Dreams Under a New Moon should be much more mellow, introspective, and dreamy. Apollo unleashed should have a much grander and joyful energy that Shooting Stars. It’s powerful, sturdy, and balanced, and references to Apollo’s chariot can be heard in the galloping-like rhythms throughout the piece. For movement three especially, confidence in our entrances is key to mastering this piece, which can be achieved pretty easily from listening to the recording several times. Being able to sense the correctness in our entrances is also something we’ve struggled with even in concerts.

4.) I’m actually very happy with the progress we made in this recording after not having the piece for very long. I personally would like to get better at the articulations of the rhythms and intonation in the unison parts with the rest of the horns. Other things to work on might be the flutter tonguing section. The best we can do if we can’t flutter tongue is make sure our stopped notes are in tune and mimic the sound as best as possible.

jspinazzola

March 20, 2016at 12:26 pm

Thanks to all for your comments. It’s always helpful to know how you’re perceiving the music and the rehearsal process.

Will Gregg

March 20, 2016at 11:58 am

One thing that stands out to me is that we are struggling to agree on pulse, especially during transitions. We always seem to get there eventually but some of these passages feel pretty loose. As we get more comfortable with our parts and get our eyes and ears out of our own part, this will go a long way towards developing better pulse.

Although this piece presents its own challenges, I believe it is coming together much faster than the Roxburgh because it follows a more conventional tonal structure that is much easier to understand and fit into.

Overall, I would say that we have made a good start in tackling this movement and look forward to seeing the balance/pulse improve as well get more comfortable with our respective parts.

Ariel

March 20, 2016at 11:55 am

1. A balanced ensemble sound should be one in which no on person or section is more prominent than the others (except for the melody of course). The listener should be able to distinguish the primary melodic line, but also here the supporting music. This also includes a sound in which voices blend in quality and timber, not just volume. In the chorale sections we mostly need to make sure we get inside each other’s sound, like James always says.
2. I think our biggest problem right now is rhythmic dissonance, so we need to make sure we all understand the rhythms before coming to rehearsal and then work hard to really lock into the pulse while we play together.

Deanna

March 20, 2016at 11:38 am

A balanced ensemble sound requires a nuanced and attentive approach to the music. In order to have a balanced sound, each ensemble member should have a good understanding of the piece- the themes, tone, and how the piece should sound overall (such as by listening to recordings). Beyond this, however, is that we’ll need to realize that an wind ensemble that produces well-balanced music is more than just the sum of each individual ensemble member, but an integrated group that really depends on teamwork and collaboration. Once individuals have the notes and rhythms down, we can each start focusing on the sounds within our sections, as well as how the different sections interact to create an overall ensemble sound. This requires active listening and responding to what we hear and see, such as when entering one of the chorale sections, we’ll hear the change in tone and should respond by modifying our own dynamics and tone.

After listening to our recording of Ticheli’s third movement, I decided to listen to the recording on Youtube again in order to compare our ensemble sound with the professional recording. I agree that there are components of the piece that developing nicely within the ensemble and, because of that, we can focus on other areas that can be improved. Beyond individual practice, I think just by listening more to sections other sections would help improve our overall sound. For example, the recording online tended to have a lighter tone in general and have more dynamic contrast, both of which our ensemble is very capable of achieving by focusing more on the sounds being produced around us.

Cassidy Mileti

March 20, 2016at 11:17 am

1. A balanced ensemble sound doesn’t mean that everyone plays exactly the same volume and can be heard at the same level. I means people are aware of who has the melody and that sound is brought out, above the rest of the sounds, while everyone else backs off, which applies to the Bach chorale section. I think another part of a balanced ensemble means that no one overpowers anyone else, and people are aware of the size of their section and the volume of their instrument so that they can account for how to play a certain dynamic.
4. Personally, I think I need to focus on learning some notes and rhythms. None of them are exceptionally difficult, and I can play them, but I need to really master them so that in rehearsal I can focus on my sound in relation to the whole band rather than trying to get notes right and worrying about where to come in.

karimiya

March 20, 2016at 3:07 am

5. I definitely agree with Jason in that Time’s Harvest was a difficult piece to digest. I also have a more involved part in the Ticheli than I did in the Roxburgh (instead of playing two things, I play nine [yay!]), so although it is harder to keep track of everything, I feel as if the Ticheli is more vibrant and has a more energized feel to it. Although the Roxburgh did have some interesting and intense moments, I couldn’t help but feel a little scared throughout the piece; it reminded me of life, which is full of surprises and is scary sometimes but can also be magnificent in its own way. I actually downloaded “Apollo Unleashed” from iTunes and listened to it on the way to class a few times, and there’s just something about it that keeps my interest. Every time I listen, I hear something new and interesting, and then I want to go back and listen to it again because it’s so cool.
4. One thing I need to work on is general set up. Not only were missing a member during this recording, I was constantly shifting around to find the best possible space for everything (plus the things I share with Hanxiang), so my set up was different than last time. Being organized and staying focused will drastically improve my performance. I know that I have some parts that accent those of the flutes, so I can do better by blending with them more and bringing my volume down, and by making my cymbal rolls/hits less aggressive. And finding out exactly where I play the ratchet. That part is odd.
3. The idea of conveying celestial light through music is really, really cool. Although I find it odd that “Dreams Under a New Moon” called for me to play bells aggressively (something you don’t see every day, but what kind of dreams are these?), but the section is dark and flowing and reminiscent of moonlight. When I see/hear the title “Apollo Unleashed”, I have this mental image of the Greek god of the Sun unleashing his light upon the world, and it’s pretty epic and majestic; it can get pretty intense. Sometimes the light burns and it causes fires, anxiety, and movement. It perfectly matches the tone and character of the section, and has a little bit of everything I could ask for except for the lion’s roar. In terms of creating a unified interpretation, I think that maybe we should keep in mind the tone and feeling of each section while we’re playing it. It requires a lot of energy and focus on every member of the ensemble, so if someone’s not feeling it, the light becomes that much dimmer. Do my suspended cymbal hits remind me of the radiance of the sun in “Apollo Unleashed”? Heck yeah they do. Will my slapstick part remind me of “Shooting Stars?” Hopefully, if the stars are shooting each other.
I thought that we did a nice job for our first recording and made significant progress during Thursday’s rehearsal. I’m so excited for this next concert. I thought that the brass sounded good near the beginning (it sounds a little different since I’m always behind them). Nice vibraslap, tambourine, and timpani work for percussion!

Isabella W

March 20, 2016at 12:02 am

I think we’ve already created a few very musical moments in this movement, and I think that that’s what will be most important going forward to really nail this and our other pieces. Already at this point we’ve gotten a grasp of the more melodically straight-forward passages, and as a result, while we might not yet have notes and rhythms or balance completely down to a T, we can enjoy playing and expressing such passages much more, and end up listening out to other parts and naturally creating balance and naturally creating music. The best way, I feel, that we can foster this is to really get to know the piece and not only learn notes and rhythms in individual parts, but also internalize how those individual parts fit in with and contribute to the music in tandem with the rest of the ensemble. I think that with this kind of mindset, we can not only enjoy the music more and enjoy rehearsals more, but also just come together more strongly and make better music.

Andrew Stafford

March 19, 2016at 6:05 pm

4. Personally, I think I need to know when I need to play out and when I need to play beneath the melody. For example, at the beginning of the piece, I need to play out on my crescendo in the 6th bar and in the 10th bar, while I can take a bit of a backseat dynamic-wise at measure 162. A challenge for me is maintaining complete focus during rest sections, especially when the time signature changes. I rest from measure 64 to measure 95, a section in which the time signature changes 6 times. If I lose focus for a second, I will lost track of where we are in the piece and miss my next entrance.

2. As an ensemble, I think we need to work on individual mastery of parts on our own time, and we need to be ready to learn everyone else’s part during rehearsal. One of our biggest issues as an ensemble is that we devote too much rehearsal time to learning our parts. Rehearsal should be where we learn where our parts fit in with the rest of the ensemble and work on more musical elements, such as balance and blend. If we can master our parts on our own and be more productive during rehearsal, we will perform well come May.

jk2424

March 19, 2016at 5:26 pm

1. An ensemble’s sound is “balanced” if listeners can distinguish the melodic line of the piece, with the harmonies and countermelodies being discernable, but not overpowering the main theme. A balanced ensemble, should not sound like several individual instruments playing their own parts, but should instead produce a unified, blended sound. In order to achieve a blended sound, each player should know when they’re playing a melody, harmony, or countermelody, which other sections are playing the same thing, and which section is playing the most thematically important part.

2. It sounds like most of us have very few technical issues to work on; instead, the main thing we have left to do is to fit each of the parts together to form a coherent whole. To do this, we should focus on phrasing the lines we already have down, emphasizing contrasts in dynamics and articulation. If we improve our phrasing, the melodic lines will become more obvious, while the other lines will make more musical sense, and fit into the piece better. To work on phrasing, we should all try to listen to the other parts and watch the conductor more, in order to get a sense of the musical direction of each part of the piece.

Francis Ledesma

March 19, 2016at 4:08 pm

1. I think a balanced ensemble sound requires all players to be aware of their part’s relation to the piece. A solo melody should definitely be louder than the accompaniment. Additionally, each individual player must remain actively engaged with the players in their section, paying extra attention to dynamics in relation to the section leader. By not trying to play louder than everyone else, such an attentive player contributes the right amount of sound to a balanced ensemble. In the Bach chorale sections, these principles can be applied very easily. Each section should decide whether they qualify as melody or not and adjust dynamics accordingly. Also, getting inside the sound of the section leader helps with dynamics as well as intonation, further creating a good ensemble balance.
4. I personally would need to perfect playing the difficult rhythms of the movement as well as working on dynamic contrast. Ticheli writes his dynamics and accents exactly how he wants them, so working on following said markings would allow me to play the piece better. As always, my intonation needs work in some parts, so that would be my third goal by the concert.

matthewxlin

March 19, 2016at 4:02 pm

1. I think a balanced ensemble allows for new entrances, without taking over from the instruments already playing. It might only apply to certain sections of the piece, or perhaps it was written that way, but sometimes with new entrances, I have to listen very hard to hear the instruments that were already playing.
2. To continue, I think we should always remember , in the words of Mr. Frank Battisti, that rehearsal is to learn everyone else’s part, and that you need to learn your own part only at home. By always actively listening, through your rests and while you’re playing, you can hear how your part fits in with everyone else. This helps you know when it’s your time to play (in case you get lost counting all your rests), and helps you play the written dynamics, within the context of who else is playing at the time.
4. For me, I think I need to play, sometimes, just a little bit louder. I have many matching vibraphone rhythms, such as with the flutes on [214, 215], and then the clarinets on [217, 218]. There are many of them, and only one of me. In order to better complement, not over take, their sound, I think I should play just a little louder. It’s sometimes hard to gauge percussion’s dynamics, within the context of who else is playing, when we are in the very back. Being better at that will come from actively listening, and through having more confidence in my own part (and confidence usually follows with experience). That vibraphone part might also just be quiet since the recorder was in the front of the room.
Further, I think I should be able to make sure I’m always aware of my surroundings. That cymbal hit in like m. 14 is actually me accidentally hitting the cymbal with the vibraslap. I have a good set up, but I must always remember where I set everything up.

tyleicht

March 19, 2016at 3:26 pm

2. I think the primary objective for the ensemble as a whole is to begin to master their parts instead of just being proficient. This piece is fairly approachable for us and the audience, so it is our responsibility to perform it well technically and stylistically. For this, we should turn to our parts and listen to recordings and simply get the notes under our fingers. By doing this, we set ourselves up to have a great concert where we can really showcase our abilities.
4. Personally, I have two main objectives with this piece. First, I need to become more confident with my own part (correct notes, timing, blend) so I can come to rehearsals and focus more on becoming part of our overall sound. Second, I need to focus on not overplaying. The tutti sections are not that technically demanding and I tend to fall into the mindset of “play loudly because I know these parts” when really we need a more unified sound. The third movement has a lot of energy throughout, but energy does not always have to be in the form of volume.

Overall, I think this is a great starting point for the piece for having only a few rehearsals on it. But now is the time where individual and sectional work will really pay off going forward through the rest of the semester.

Jason Han

March 19, 2016at 3:19 pm

4. I certainly need to maintain the pulse better. This piece offers a very engaging parts for alto saxes. So I need to make sure to look up during the 8th note and 16th note runs. People tend to stay in their stands and rush during these passages.
5. I actually find the Ticheli to be an overall harder piece. Again, my part is now more involved than that of Time’s Harvest. In addition, the 1st and 2nd parts do not align in many sections of the piece; it really forces me to be more accurate in entrances and not incline to follow other parts. All that being said, Time’s Harvest is a harder piece to digest overall. There is more rhythmic and harmonic dissonance in Time’s Harvest whereas the symphony is more straightforward in these regards.

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