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"Blast!": Composer and his work

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  • spunky sam blue style avatar for user B.K.
    At , what are the items called at the ends of the trumpets, and what is their use?
    (6 votes)
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    • leaf blue style avatar for user CTG
      Hi B.K.

      The items at the ends of the trumpets are mutes, which dampens or alters the tone of the sound. There are many various types of mutes especially for brass instruments that produce various different timbres. I hope this helps.
      (4 votes)
  • blobby green style avatar for user epp
    Very intense and fascinating work! At there is an interesting strings technique. What is this technique called? Also, there is another interesting technique in the double basses where the string slaps against the instrument while performing pizzicato at . Is there a name for this technique? Does anyone know? It sure is interesting and different!
    (4 votes)
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    • leaf blue style avatar for user CTG
      Hi epp,

      At the strings are performing a glissando, or a slide, to a harmonic note which helps create a wild effect. At in reference to the double basses, the brutal pizzicato with the snapping of the string is called "Bartok Pizz." because in many of his compositions he calls for some pizzicato to be played that way.
      (3 votes)

Video transcript

(aggressive orchestral music) - This piece "Blast!" was commissioned from the Seattle Symphony for Jerry Schwartz's last season as music director of Seattle. I was very happy to be asked, but of course the many of us who were so strongly connected to the Seattle Symphony were all part of this crew of something like 18 American composers who were asked to write short pieces for his final season. I knew what kind of piece this needed to be, and I knew I wanted it to be loud, and I knew it wanted to be fun, so that's how it came to be "Blast!" - It's loud, aggressive, fun. There's one little section of soft music in the middle, but basically it's just one huge gesture that goes from beginning to end. - Sometimes titles are very difficult to find, but this one was easy. Once I knew the character of the piece, that I wanted it to be, really, to just let it all hang out, "Blast!" Just don't forget the the exclamation point, it's gotta be "Blast!," not just blast. It's only four minutes long and a few leftover seconds, but it packs a lot of sound into those four minutes. As I said, it's quite loud. The percussion whacks away, and the brass, but it's supposed to be that kind of piece. (dissonant orchestral music) - The timpani has a very prominent role. Interesting, when you think about the timpani. The timpani was an instrument that played two notes in Mozart's time and Haydn's time. They usually played (single piano note), or this note (second note followed by first note) Just back and forth, whatever happened to be the key of the piece. As time progressed, especially in Beethoven, with the 9th Symphony, when we get to the scherzo (imitates timpani melody) the timpani actually becomes a melodic instrument. So by the time we get to the end of the 19th century, the timpani's playing all the pitches, lots of drums, not just two drums, but three drums, four drums, five drums, tuned in different ways, and the timpani actually has pedals, so they can actually tune quite quickly. In David's piece, the timpani is a prominent role, and even the very second bar, he went (anxious piano notes). He's long from this (piano melody in major key), a long way away (anxious piano notes). And while he's doing that, the violins are playing (rapid piano notes) so all of this around these two pitches, back and forth, back and forth. The brass are playing aggressive chords, and this pattern between the timpani playing, whether it's (uneasy piano notes) or (major piano notes), it's always that kind of odd interval. It's never a very, what we would call consonant, but always very aggressively dissonant interval. (frantic orchestral music) Then, he uses a rhythmic motive that leads to this almost jazzy section that the trumpets start. They have Harmon mutes in, which is a kind of mute that gives it a sound like it's maybe Miles Davis, the great jazz trumpet player made famous. (brass-led orchestral music) What he does with the strings, and in the winds as well, everything's very angular. So the timpani, as we know, is playing in an angular way, and very often the strings are just playing short, aggressive notes that just makes us startled. (frantic orchestral music) Again, the timpani leads with this melody (piano notes) so it's like (piano notes interrupted) and then the trombone (repeats piano notes) picks up the melody from the timpani. (uneasy orchestral music) Then we get to really what becomes, in some ways, the first kind of melody, and it's the horns being answered by the violas and the cellos. (orchestral music led by horn and cello) About two thirds of the way through, we finally have a little relaxation. I think it's important. Sometimes, if you have a piece that's so aggressive, and so loud, to have even a short moment of reflection is good, and David does that. He does it with a duet between the bassoon, oboe, eventually clarinet, and flute. So just the woodwinds for a little while, not long. (woodwind solos) And he brings that jazz figure back, and again, he gets aggressive with the timpani like the beginning. (combative orchestral music) That really sets up the whole end, and boom, another short, magnificent work, and it's over.