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Posts for Tag : french horn


Soundings: My new CD! 0

My new CD “Soundings” was just released on the MSR Classics label (
It is an exploration of a new area for me: horn plus the use of various electronic effects to experiment with new timbres, new means of expression.

Here’s the line-up:

1. Soundings by James Naigus for horn and mixed media (which used to be called “tape”). About 3/4’s of it is composed, using a background composed and assembled with sampled sounds plus recorded sounds by James Naigus. He left me some room to improvise in the middle of it (which also was something new: improvising in 5/4…).

2. Conversations I – I. View from the Moon II. I Don’t Think So III. Hard to Believe – for horn and Mandala Drums. Aaron Wells is a Mandala drum expert – they are MIDI controllers with no sound of their own, but Aaron programmed them to have various areas on each trigger all kinds of interesting sounds/timbres. He recorded a number of tracks (sometimes recording a second layer); I then listened to his improvisation and I recorded two improv layers over what he did.

3. Night Suite: I. Dangerous Things II. One Too Many III. Rings of Saturn. Percussionists Jim Dreier and Nathan Yoder loaded the recording stage with a wild assortment of percussion instruments, then improvised a series of tracks. As before, later I listened to their tracks and recorded some improvisations over that.

4. Improv Sonata: I. That Kind of Day II. Lost in Spaces III. Out of My Way IV. Superhero’s Day Off. These four movements (all improvisations) were recorded in concert several years ago. Recording engineer Michael Ozment (Oz, Wizard of Oz) applied various electronic effects to the movements, doing something different for each.

5. Dark by John Manning. John’s day job is tuba professor at the University of Iowa, but by night he is an expert at creating fascinating sound collages using Garageband, mixing sounds that he recorded with sounds from the program. He created this background and I simply improvised a line over it.

6. Kyma Divertimento: I Arctic Visions II. Last Time III. House of Mirrors IV. Side Streets. Rich O’Donnell was principal percussionist with the St Louis Symphony for many years. Since he retired he has been head of the electronic studio of Washington University and has continued his passion for creating his own special percussion instruments. He also has the hardware-software combination known as KYMA; you play into a microphone and KYMA takes what you play and instantly adds it to the recording, like an unpredictable extra player. You never know what it is going to do (add) from moment to moment, so you just listen to what it comes up with and adjust your improvisation accordingly (you hope). It was a fascinating session – me, Rich, and KYMA. I really I had one of those…

7. Conversations II – more of Aaron (Mandala drums) and me. I. What If… II. Just Go

8. ragnorok, baby is a composition by Jason Palamara that uses interactive electronics. I watched a screen with simple instructions on it, mostly with what notes to play at any time (e.g. C E G); I could play them however I wanted to, and I played into a mic; the software took what I played and it added to the overall sound 2, 3, or 4 loops that took what I played and transformed it – played it faster, slower, higher, lower, and several of these at once, and it might also be something that was played some time earlier. As with KYMA, it was a new experience to play while listening to the unpredictable transformation of what I was playing at the same time.

9. Turnarounds – last track on the CD. Composer Israel Neuman recorded some extended techniques for horn and then transformed them (often dramatically) in various ways, then fashioned a background accompaniment with them to the solo horn line that I played. The tricky part (besides playing all the extended techniques the part called for) was keeping to the timeline – the seconds were number on the horn part and the recorded accompaniment part. The result is a fascinating collection of timbres and motifs unlike anything most people have ever heard.

Which also describes most of this album – there is a lot of material here that is not like what most people have ever heard. Which was the idea in the first place – to discover new sounds/timbres with the help of various kinds of electronica. It was a lot of fun to put all of this together and I am glad it is finally available to share with everyone.


The University of Iowa Horn Studio 0

The University of Iowa Horn Studio has enjoyed many decades of strong leadership by horn professors Paul Anderson, Kristin Thelander, and since 2000, Jeffrey Agrell. The list of illustrious horn professionals that are UI graduates is long and distinguished. Of the sixteen presidents of the International Horn Society in its 40+ year history, five have been teachers or graduates of the University of Iowa.