Saturday, November 14, 2009

Growth Is Not Automatic

During our physically developing years growth is a very automatic process normally. I remember going to family gatherings and if it had been a year or so since my relatives had seen me last they would say, "Oh my! Have you grown!" But other types of growth are not automatic. The decision or desire to grow as a person or to keep developing as an artist is a choice. It never felt like a choice to me because I was driven to do so, but it still was a choice non the less because I had the option not to keep pursuing it in the way I chose to pursue it.

Here is another video that I think will be a good supplement to my one the other day about self discovery and self expression. No matter what you want to do, you will be confronted with choices and decisions to make. As you recall in my last video, I spoke about the bravery needed to be yourself. This video will elaborate on the previous contemplation.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Self Contemplation: Building the Vehicle for Growth and Self Discovery

As many of you have figured out, I think it is important to think and contemplate what you want in life and in your art. Not as an end in it self, but to get clearer in your heart and mind what you are after and why you are doing what you are doing. This might not be important to some people. No problem. But to me and others it is a way of keeping on course as well as deepening and developing ourselves and having our art express that urge and need of continuing growth, which eventually becomes a matter of choice to pursue or not.

Fro those who are interested in expanding themselves, their self discovery and the connection-expression process, I offer this short video.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

MORE ON PHRASING vertical and horizontal

To put some more content into this subject of vertical and horizontal aspects of phrasing, I made a couple of videos where I am demonstrating some of the concepts using pieces like Morceau Symphonique and Rochut number 1 and some other melodies you might recognize. It is an intriguing subject, at least for me because it deals with very core laws that govern all of life, at least in some schools of thought. Those magnificent apparent opposites, yin and yang, up and down, valleys and hills, male and female and on and on! Hope these videos help in opening up the territory.

Phrasing 1

Phrasing 2


Saturday, September 26, 2009

PHRASING the vertical and horizontal

When you hear the word phrasing, what do you think of? Long lines, where to take a good breath, crescendo- decrescendo and timing, to name a few things that might enter your mind on hearing that word.

To me the structure of the phrasing is determined by the character and spirit of the music. Like anything else, it is easy to play with a method of phrasing that can make our music making sound controlled and well placed. Those are all useful aspects to phrasing. But in the end, if your phrasing has a formula to it that doesn't alter according to the different kinds of music, then that nicely timed, well placed phrasing can sound out of place and not in character with the actual music.

To approach this, let's look at horizontal and vertical. The long linear aspect of the line makes most of us think horizontally, like looking at a horizon. It is broad and covers a lot of space. In music, this long sense of line gives direction, motion and balance to all the up and downs, curves, peaks, valleys and hills in a line. But if we 'flatten' it out too much, we can loose the emotional and character details that create the nuances that identify one kind of phrase from another.

What about a singer? They use words. If you could not hear the diction of the words it would sound muddy and nondescript. As wind players, we think of 'singing' through the horn to help us unify the musical and technical aspects together. But we are not often thinking of the diction and nuances beyond smooth, legato, pretty lines. Certain things a cellist, singer or oboist do in terms of inflections (vertical aspect) are not oftentimes accepted very well by the orchestral trombone community at large, especially with regard to orchestral excerpts.

Listen to people speak. How horizontal is their phrasing in speaking? Listen to instrumentalists. How much vertical nuance is there as compared to the line length (horizontal aspect ) in their phrasing? What about percussionists? Are there different vertical and horizontal phrasing tendencies for different instruments?

What are your tendencies in this area? Listen to others and get a grasp of what is horizontal and vertical in phrasing. Then record yourself and see how balanced your horizontal and vertical aspects are in your phrasing. It is an interesting and rich territory for those who may be interested.

More later...

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Another Frequency Band Opportunity

Many of you are aware that the Frequency Band has a Facebook page that Carol set up some time ago where people can become 'fans' of the Frequency Band and follow its activities. One of the activities that happens quarterly is an opportunity for anyone, anywhere to participate in a worldwide Frequency Band OPT, a special synchronized opportunity to join together with others in sending well being and good wishes to others. Carol has made it easy for anyone to participate with simple steps and a video posted to the Frequency Band's Event page. The Facebook link is: Worldwide Frequency Band OPT (Autumn Event)

OPTs are an important part of the Frequency Band and they started in response to Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Since then, we hold OPTs at various times of the year. We have held them in Boston with several musicians and we also have held them in concerts, including our participation at ETW (Eastern Trombone Workshop) this past spring. It is not a local Boston event, it is for all who would like to participate wherever they may be in the world.

So, if you are on Facebook, you can check it out and RSVP if you would like to participate. Again, you can use the above link to Frequency Band OPT Event Page on Facebook and add yourself as "attending." Also you can go to the Air-ev website which is: Air-ev Audio/Video Page if you are not on Facebook and you will see the video as well. Just scroll down the page and you will see "Unity Born of Humanity" video.

Last time we an excellent turnout of over 50 people from around the world who participated and there looks like there will be a good number this time, too! The world can use as much well being as is possible and here is another option and way to help.

Hope to 'see' you there.

I wish all of you well being and all the best!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Frequency Band and the 9/11 Commemoration in Boston

The Frequency Band, of which I am co-director with my wife and partner Carol Viera, was very humbled to be asked to play at the Boston 9/11 Commemoration Service held at the State House. What was extra touching for us was the fact that the 9/11 families wanted us back. To me, that says everything. It is a very deep feeling of humanity and service to think we can be a support to their lives in some way through the music.

We started by playing on the lawn in front of the State House for about 15 minutes before the Lt. Governor officially began the ceremony. The pieces we played were: "Onward" from "On With the Battle of Life," "In All Hearts," "Acceptance and Hope" from "On With the Battle of Life," and a new piece I wrote especially for the 9/11 families called "My Love for Thee Will Always Be."

Then the Lt. Governor spoke, after which was the flag raising and lowering to half mast, Taps, the official moment of silence. We were entrusted with breaking the moment of silence, at which point we played "A Prayer for the Dying." Then, there was the reading of the names of the victims read by family members. That is very moving and stirs the emotions in a real and raw way. They were just not names on a page. They were somebody's brother, sister, husband, son, daughter, wife, cousin or in-law.

We played two pieces at the end, while the people were leaving. They were "Unity Born of Humanity" and the ending from "Katrina Contemplation and Wish." All of these pieces, except for "Onward" and "Acceptance and Hope" (which were recorded in 1998 on our "Experiments in Music" CD) were recorded this past January on the CD entitled "Phoenix." I mention this in case people are interested in hearing what music was picked for this solemn and reverent event.

This was not a concert. We believe not all pieces are meant to played at a concert. The pieces we played on this occasion we also have performed in a concert setting (except for "My Love for Thee Will Always Be") but we always prepare the audience in a way that makes them listen beyond "concert ears" or other kinds of judgement, as best as we can. We picked these pieces for this circumstance and the families were very content with our choice and presentation in this very delicate solemn circumstance.

Our hearts go out to the families and we are very touched and filled with thanks that they included us in this so very personal part of their lives.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Legato and Lyrical

Oftentimes, we equate legato playing with being lyrical or lyrical playing as being legato. It brings up two interesting questions: What is legato? and What is lyrical? Looking at them separately, we can see their differences and their relationship.

Legato is a form of articulation which connects one note to another note as smoothly as possible. Many times I hear trombonists and their legato sounds like a very smooth tenuto. My legato can sound to glissy for some. My feeling is that the music should dictate what kind is used. There is a spectrum of legato just like there is of anything else. The more tenuto style can work very well in early music and playing with other valve instruments like in a brass quintet. The other more liquid form of legato can work beautifully in many solo things of a romantic nature as well as in many big band or jazz type solos.

But what is lyrical? When we see that a song has lyrics in it, we don't think, "Who wrote the legato to this piece?" We see words. Lyrics are words and we associate words in music with vocal productions and singing. Lyrical poetry. Songs can be poems that are sung. Lyrical speaks of a language of emotional content and expression. So what is the language of emotional content in music? It would be inaccurate to say it is legato. Legato is a technical term to describe a form of articulation. It says nothing of emotional content. But could it provide a color and sonic texture that could be supportive to certain types of lyrical natures? Sure.

Now, does something need to be legato to be lyrical? When we think of many songs it is easy to find a number of them sung in a legato manner. But, many are very articulated with a variety of dictions and punctuations that would be far away from what we generally consider to be legato. Think of all the non-legato lyrical aspects of opera to rock and roll and beyond.

The next time you play something that is not marked legato, ask yourself about what you are doing to provide lyrical content to it or if you think the piece calls for some. Making note values longer does not necessarily provide the element or emotional content to make something sound more lyrical. Finding the inner 'poem' of the piece (from your perspective ) is one way to have the music's unwritten but not unfelt lyrics come alive.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Ask yourself.....

It has been awhile since the Frequency Bone Summer Music Connection. I hope people got something from it. For some people that kind of approach requires too much personal consideration. Well, if one wants to develop skill and depth in anything, how could it not eventually have considerations in it beyond just how to mechanical stuff. BUT! The development of mechanics also takes a lot of consideration, testing, attempts, approaches and reapproaches to finds one's way in it.

Now that school is starting for many people, it is a good time to cast the net of what you want to make of the coming year. Ask yourself:

1. What do I want?
2. What do I need?
3. If I'm not sure, how can I find out?
4. Where do I want my playing to be at at the end of the year?
5. How can I accomplish what I want?
6. Am I being totally honest with myself?

These are good self inquiry questions to help plan your priorities and not waste time. All you have is time and the sands in the hour glass come to an end in all sorts of ways, like the end of a year, semester, month, week or a day. If you ask yourself, "What did I do today?" every night, it will help you stay focused and on target.

Have goals. Short term, mid term and long term. Of course, they can change or become clearer and more specific but start somewhere. Start from wherever you are at.

I will be putting more videos up soon, perhaps one or two a month, so stay tuned. The plan is to get into the overlay system in greater detail and I will be using my horn to bring certain points across in a practical 'hands on' way.

By the way, if you are not starting school this week, I suggest trying these questions anyway. They keep one on their toes and helps the 'taking things for granted attitude' (which can sneak up on us without us knowing it and which we want to stop before it's too late) from 'running the whole show'. Ask yourself this: "Who's in charge of what I say I want?"

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

More First Overlay Thoughts

Every time you pick up your instrument you are programing your automatic systems (first overlay). Remember your first overlay, automatic systems are a robotic process. They get programed by your actions, not just physical actions, but your mental and emotional processes as well and repeat them.

For example, if you pick up your instrument and on a regular basis and feel anxiety, frustration, apprehension, or any other kind of thought, like happiness or joyful anticipation, they will become what you automatically think about when you go near or touch the instrument. This happens all of the time in life without our instrument but as a part of living. I remember several years ago I walked past an orchestra tuning. I heard the 'A' from the oboe and the typical little note sequences of people tuning their instruments and I felt the excited anticipation come over me like I would have before a rehearsal or a concert. Of course I was just walking by and not even participating. Pavlov's dog, right? That is the way our systems work.

On the blog post, "More Day 1 of the Frequency Bone Summer Music Connection" dated July 21st, I suggested people try putting an addition to their warm up that included going over the reasons they are in music and reconnecting to their love of music and their instrument, before they play a note. The reason being (besides the ones posted) is to encourage the automatic systems to associate themselves with the instrument as a source of joy, musical connection, an inspiring endeavor, personal expression and so forth.

So when our playing goes through a testing time when things do not feel good or we are in a time of change, reconstruction or slump, it is important to feel our love of music that is independent of the instrument and to remind ourselves why we love our own chosen instrument and to be as patient as we can during this passing phase. Not always easy to do! :-)

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Clarification of P.A.T. Concert Video and a bit more...

I hope everyone who participated in the Frequency Bone Summer Music Connection got something from it. I have heard and Carol has heard from people privately (and on the Facebook "event" page) that they feel it was very useful, helpful and inspiring on many levels for them. Very happy to hear it. Carol and I always say if we can help one person then it is worth it.


A student of mine posted a comment about the P.A.T. concert video and wondered why I was holding my horn the opposite way. Well, I would love to have said that I was experimenting holding it the other way but the truth is the camera that is in my computer takes the videos as if I were looking in the mirror. So now you all know what I look like when I speak to myself while doing the mirror exercise! Anyway, thanks Chris Leone for pointing that out. Leave it to you!

I have other Master Manlon quotes I will be putting out soon. Also, I hope to eventually publish parts of the book "TAC Legend Writings" instead of waiting for the whole thing to be finished. The section from Day 3 where Master Manlon is talking to Julian is a very good look at the overlay system in a practical and integrated way. So keep tuned!

I am still open to those who have questions or would like to share their experiences with this work here on the blog or privately.

REMEMBER, this work will remain on the blog. Several people have written to me saying they plan to take the full 'course' when they have the time. Or a person can do bits at a time. It will be here.

Best endeavors to all!

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Day 5 of the Frequency Bone Summer Music Connection, P.A.T. Concert Preparation

Here it is, our last day of FBSMC already. Today we will be playing our Playing Alone Together concert at 4 PM Boston time. This video is a preparation for this concert as well as having some demonstrations of being free while playing. It is interesting if we feel we cannot be free when playing alone isn't it? Hopefully with the work you have been doing this week you will feel more encouraged to try. Make sure you have looked at the directions for a P.A.T. concert . It is on the blog 2008 postings in February. The 9th of Feb 2008 posting has the directions that we will be following for today's concert. The postings before it, explain the inspiration as to why the concerts started. In most public concerts and movie theaters, there is an announcement to shut off all cell phones and peepers. Well for this concert, make sure to shut off all metronomes, tuners and recording devices! (If you really want to record it, that is ok), but not the other two items! :-) Remember you are playing with others. Mentally acknowledge that fact.

See you at the concert!


Great playing with all of you in the wonderful acoustic of freedom and joy of what we do. We were all in tune if we were in that sentiment.

Remember this will be on the blog and you can look at it any time. If you are really trying to put this into your playing life, it might be a good idea to visit this FBSMC on the blog regularly as your schedule permits. A bit at a time and start with what catches you.

Please feel free to go to the comment section of the blog and share what is happening with your work in this area or ask a question if it comes up. There are NO stupid questions!

I also want to thank my wife Carol, for you see it is because of her encouragement that I actually did this. I mentioned to her on Wednesday the 15th of July, that I thought it would be funny if I had an online music seminar called, "Bolter's Bloginar." I meant it as a joke and she said it sounded like a fun and interesting idea. I said, "Really, you think I should?" She said "Yes, I really mean it." So if you enjoyed this, thank Carol too! She was a great help to me in the course of this week.

As you can see, from the time of the thought of it to it actually getting announced was only 3 days! That is how fast things can happen in that freedom and willingness to put it together. Not all music seminars can be born that quickly! But, thanks to our upfront and ongoing work and technology.....there you have it!

It has been very intense at this end for Carol and me and we are very happy if there are some of you who can benefit from this work. You have all of our encouragement. If we can be of any help in this area, please feel free to ask.

Strength of endeavor to all!


P.S. Carol and Master Manlon send their best wishes to all!

Friday, July 24, 2009

Frequency Bone Summer Music Connection Day 4, preparing for tomorrow's P.A.T. concert

Tomorrow is our Playing Alone Together concert. There will be a preparation video ready for you in the morning and we will be starting the concert at 4PM Boston time.

There are a few postings on the blog I suggest you check out tomorrow along with the preparation video. We will follow the basic P.A.T. concert format as outlined on the February 9th, 2008 posting. There are a few other short postings you can also check out: December 31st, 2007, January 2, 2008 and February 1st, 2008. They are not long and not intense reading, I promise! :-) Give yourself a little time to read these, look at the video (that will be posted tomorrow) and prepare for our concert. It is all in the spirit of the original you, your art and unique expression and being "Brave to Be" able to pursue this vitally important undertaking. It can be done. It is not too late or too early to start. Start with where you are at and with what you can do.Whether you are 19 or 90, it is the sentiment that counts.

There are many people around the world now and in the past that have been in touch with their unique selves. This Frequency Bone Summer Music Connection is an encouragement to keep it alive, especially in face of our changing times. Keep up with the times but don't throw out everything for it. Fashions come and go, but that which is real and genuine always IS. You will be able to identify it, if you use your feeling and not get caught off guard by the many cloaks and styles it takes. Remember this simple but profound analogy: H2O is always the same whether it is ice, liquid or gas, it is still H2O. This holds true for that which is harmful and that which is beneficial. Both ends of the spectrum can take on many different forms and it can be difficult at times to decipher what is what. But if you let the balanced duet of your thinking and your feeling 'speak' and communicate with each other, the truth can become clearer. Remember think-feel or feel-think? Do you have a feeling or thought which one you are more prone to? It makes no difference in the end, as long as they can work in partnership.

'See' you at the concert!

More on Day 4 of the Frequency Bone Summer Music Connection

The "TAC Legend" writing that was picked for today has everything to do with BAVE TO BE. You can read this as it was posted on the blog on March 13, 2008.

Think of the strength we need to get through any tough time. We will always have some difficult times. Because of this, one could ask, "Who has the time to take all this on?" There is so much to deal with just wanting to get employed in the music field, whether you are going for a teaching job, freelancing, instrument repair, manufacturing of instruments, sales, administration, an orchestra player, music therapist, and all the music fields. The answer, in my mind, is to help and insure, in whatever way we can, that the living essence of these fields of music does not die. To remember you have choice and to develop those finer skills, wherever they are in us, that are enriching to our lives and to others.

It takes a kind of bravery to be ourselves. But if we want it strong enough, it will come, if we are on a CONSISTENT path to pursue, find and develop it. That takes a regular, consistent effort, just like developing our first overlay. The machine stuff will only go so far, but the danger is, as is put forth in this Sci-Fi part of TAC Legends, that things can go on for a long time before Nature corrects the course. We all know, from looking at certain environmental issues,that there can be a lot of damage done before measures are taken to set it right, with certain things not being recoverable.

*SNAP!* And it will be ten years from now. So, for those who are interested in this work, start NOW. It will pay off. You never know where your life will lead you until you give it a shot. Be practical, don't be to fast or rash. These concepts can be introduced into your playing slowly. Take the time, but engage in the process, if you are so inclined.

The "TAC Legend Writings" are really two stories in one. This section is 200 hundred years in the future. Master Manlon's appearance is really just under 100 years from now. Some of you might have felt some of this work already? :-) Master Manlon, when seeing that his students feel lost, bored or not knowing what to work on, often says to them, "What have you done with the lessons you've been given?"

Not too much later in this Sci-Fi section, Oscar really starts to break down from this incredible pressure at the Academy of Sonic Sciences. This puts him on the journey to discover his Self and those feelings he had about music, but his circumstances would not let him express them. This is a wild part of the story and gets very involved and would be for some VERY SCI-FI. It is there to demonstrate how different life can really be to what we think it is. Haven't we all experienced some of that already?

BRAVE TO BE YOU and grow from there!

Welcome to Day 4 of the Frequency Bone Summer Music Connection

Today's topic is BRAVE TO BE. It is so vitally important if one wants to proceed in life and in finding and growing the deeper Art. So, take a deep breath, feel the strength of yourself, shoulders back, chest out and take it into yourself.

Another "TAC Legend" reading. Hang on to your hats, we are taking a trip into the future! Then you can decide how far away this future is.....

Machines, technology, power, they are never bad in themselves. It is the motive behind their use that determines their positive or negative affects. Practicing with a tuning device, metronome, mini disc or audio visual devices can be extremely useful. Back in the day, I used to practice with a cassette recorder or a reel to reel a few times a week. I also used a metronome. Very useful tools. But, if it gets where you are loosing your own sense of trust and find that you can no longer really handle the flexible situation that playing music with others is, that in my humble view is giving up your sensitive machinery and the further development of that machinery and can cause an incredible stiffness and/or stunted growth.

Could you imagine playing a great connected concert where the audience and the musicians were totally absorbed in the music and you went to a tuner and realized that the orchestra's pitch had changed from the first tuning "A" of the oboe? And then be upset?! I have seen this happen. It is called being frozen and academically strangled. In Harry Potter's world this would be referred to as muggle behaviour!  (Carol turned me onto this word a few years ago). What if that was supposed to naturally happen? I know for a fact it does. Why, would that not be alright if it organically happened and all the musicians were just going with it? If everyone were truly connected to the essence of the music, the essence would govern all the overlays because at that point the music would be a living thing.
                                         BRAVE TO BE

Thursday, July 23, 2009

More Day 3 of the Frequency Bone Summer Music Connection

Here are some quotes from Master Manlon that are pertinent to today's topic on the overlays.

Our extraordinary physical body ( first overlay) is a universe of trillions of lives working together to serve us.

Ask yourself: "What kind of boss (second overlay) am I to my body, my first overlay automatic systems?"

Remember, there is always a simple and a complex answer to anything.

Knowing what something is about doesn't mean you are connected to it or can relate to it or have even found a way to relate to it.

Breathing is a part of our first overlay. But how we choose to use it is a second overlay process. This second overlay process is easy to see from the example of how we plan a breath in our phrasing. Planning is a second overlay process but the PURPOSE of our planning is a third overlay process at a basic level.

Music can be a powerful and effective tool and medium for transference, if the musician is truly connected to the music's essence and the human acoustic of the listener is in tune with the process (receptive).

We can use color as a technology to help us discover more about ourselves, our environment and how the energy worlds work. But never confuse it, no matter how powerful it feels, with whole art.

It's not about technology or over developing one part. It's about why we do what we do and how it impacts the whole of our art and life.

Without the real human qualities of love, devotion, genuineness, compassion, discovery, soul searching, awe, and other qualities, what will be the nature and quality of our art and/or life?

Each person is the hope. We can all grow. We have a second overlay, choice, that is beyond culture and conditioned responses. Our conditioned or 'fall back' second overlay is now located in our automatic systems (first overlay) and is really status quo agreement masquerading as choice. However, the unconditioned overlay of free choice will be for you to discover or not.

Each of the overlays has its own essence. But you can't talk about one overlay without the resonance of the others 'near by'.

It is important for you to know that Master Manlon always says his thoughts and concepts are "fiction until you prove it otherwise."

These topics, throughout this whole Frequency Bone Summer Music Connection, are quite dense. Please do not feel pressure to get it all right away. That would be impossible, for it is meant for those who are interested, to play, dwell, think, toy with, experiment, experience and grow it. It is an organic process. A whole process for the person to find their way in it. It is not really something to memorize or retain in a file. I believe the best retention comes from the reference of experience and an active relationship with something.

Welcome to Day 3 of the Frequency Bone Summer Music Connection

Today's topic is the Overlay System. This a big subject and can be a fantastic self diagnostic tool among many other things. So relax, open up your mind and tune in!

Here once again is another reading from "The TAC Legend Writings." Master Manlon shows his skill as a teacher as well as the depth of knowledge he has on the subject of the first overlay of wind playing. Because of the nature of the subject and the amount of it, I was trying to cram a lot into a short period of time, my tempo is quite fast! So, take a few deep breaths, relax, open your mind and fasten your seat belt!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009


Response to a fantastic question!

More Day 2 of the Frequency Bone Summer Music Connection

Good Idea

A student of mine emailed me and said that he and a friend of his are going to do the Summer Music Connection together. This can have some extra benefit as they can work with the concepts together and certainly be able to see the subjective and objective come alive.

For example: One person could read the preparation questions to the other one and then switch it around. Feelthe difference when reading the questions as opposed to listening to them.

They could try to have a free expression time together. This can be done by taking some uncomplicated duets and playing them in different ways like:
1. Have an agreed upon concept then play the duet. After playing the duet, ask each other were we closer or further away from what we agreed upon.

2. Play a duet just focusing on rhythm, then just focusing on pitch, then just focusing on timbre and see what happens.

3. Listen to the other one read or speak something. Then try to listen to to rhythm, pitch and timbre of the one speaking. Feel what it causes in you when listening to the other one speak or play.

4. Find a tempo and do the 'fruit rhythm' exercise together. You might then want to go and make a mango yogurt shake! :-) I've never had one but they're probably really good. Feel the rhythms when you are doing them and sense the difference in your mind and body during each one.

5. Find a pitch you both can agree upon, and go through the vowels slowly. Get into the resonance of each one and feel the vibrations and overtones they produce. Then you can ask each other which one or ones feel or sit the best with you. Which one felt the best together?

Of course if you are on your own, you can experiment with the rhythms and timbres on your own. You can play a note or sing a note and get into the different vowel resonances. Note for brass players: Depending on the firmness and contour of one's embouchure, the vowels will react differently. The firmer my embouchure gets, not just in the corners, but in the lip area, a more open sounding vowel like a very warm air "aah" sound helps the balances in having a fuller overtone spectrum in the timbre of the tone. In the high range, I will have an "E" sound but also resonate it within a more open sound like "HHEE". This keeps the 'E" sound more open so the higher range doesn't get pinched off. If my embouchure is looser, then it affects the vowel sounds to be more in the "U" spectrum of resonance.

Welcome to Day 2 of the Frequency Bone Summer Music Connection

Today's topic is Rhythm Pitch and Timbre. Take a deep breath, relax, open your mind and tune in!

Pitch is like super-fast- frequency rhythm. This is easily heard if you can take a pitch and slow the speed of it way down. It is tempo isn't it? And in order to slow it down the 'pitch' goes lower. Through the lowering of pitch we prove that pitch is rhythm or vibration. That is why I called it super-fast rhythm. The acoustical backdrop in which the super-fast rhythm is played into creates the timbre. Have you ever heard timbreless pitch in the physical realms of our hearing? Timbre is the indentification or sonic signature of any shape and its material composition. It gives us a way into the life and feeling of the subjective nature of an object. The next finer level of timbre is in the essence of the person, place or thing that is being used for the acoustical backdrop. This kind of perception of an essence goes beyond our physical hearing into the inner ears of our deep feeling life, our vibrational life. We can see, from looking at rhythm, pitch and timbre in this way, that it is in fact one living life.

Reading from the TAC Legend Writings. Here Master Manlon speaks to his students on tuning with others. There is also a commentary after the reading.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Some last bits on this Day 1 of the Frequency Bone Summer Music Connection

I would like to put a word of encouragement in to those who have not yet looked at the preparation questions and to offer some ways to help those who have been getting into them make the most out of their work. They were posted on July 19th. Just scroll down from here and you will soon come across them. These questions are a vital part of this Music Connection and will serve as the human acoustical backdrop if all or at least most of you are working into them.

For example, if you look at question number 3, do you feel music or think music? this question might be difficult to answer right off the top of your head! You could possibly say both depending on the situation. What this question was meant to look at was that some people think-feel while others might feel-think. There is not a right or wrong, good or bad answer to this. It was meant to act as a probe into your process. So you can be more in touch with you for the reason of having greater access to the original you which gets into the essence of one's Self and creativity.

If you have not worked with these questions at all yet, just don't drop to number 3, look at the others as well. The questions could be worked on in a couple of different ways. One way is to work on them in order. Another way is to read through them and see if one jumps out at you in particular. The other is to read it over and over again at different points in a day and see what starts to cook in you about them. You might feel inclined to write your thoughts down on paper. Trying different approaches can help facilitate you finding your way into this discovery process.

Get a good night's sleep tonight. You have had a big day today and there is more on the way tomorrow! Good night all!

Extra curious contemplation: The next time you have a problem, try not to think of it in a negative light. Maybe the word "problem" stands for probe missing links.

More Day 1 Frequency Bone Summer Music Connection

Add this to your warm-up each day

Usually when people begin their warm up routine, if they have a routine, they begin with any range of exercises they feel will move them closer to be in touch with the physical instrument of themselves and the instrument they are playing. This could include doing some breathing exercises, embouchure work on a mouthpiece or visualizer of some kind, or vocal studies, slide or fingering movements and articulation exercises.

Do we ever warm up our mind? How about our emotions? What about reconnecting to our sentiments about music and the fondness we have for the instruments that we play? One could ask why do these things need warming up? Well, if you liken it to a relationship with a person, don't you have to warm into each other by a greeting? Perhaps you had a disagreement the day before and you need to sort that out. Isn't it helpful to say to the other person, "I hope we can move on and I am sorry if I did anything to hurt you," for example. You are trying to warm up to them again and get the relationship back in balance so it can move on and be productive and settled.

Try this: Before playing your first note, take a deep breath and relax. Ask yourself and feel in yourself, out loud, how are you today. Just a simple, "how are you?" Then feel what comes up in you. Take another deep breath, relax and connect to your love of music and your instrument. Then tell yourself how you are going to assess your playing. Say to yourself, "instead of good and bad, I will say closer to what I want or further away from what I want." Then encourage yourself by acknowledging the progress you have already attained in your eyes. Then acknowledge what you would like to develop more of in your playing. This can be done if preferred, while looking into your eyes in the mirror.

Now, when you play your first note, play the way your body feels even if it is not the sound you would ideally like. Then play the way you emotionally feel, then a play a note the way you mentally feel. Or, you can just play the first note any old way you feel like it. You can do that as long or as short as you like. You will find it at least an interesting exercise. You can of course modify it to your own needs once you get the hang of it.

Then see how this addition to your warm- up works for you. You might find you do not want to do it everyday, but even a few times a week will keep you closer to 'all' of you, the physical, mental and emotional and to the purpose of your musical endeavor. It is a useful way to acknowledge and bring all the parts together so they can work in unison towards the same goal.

Feel free to comment on the blog the results of your attempts.

Welcome to Day 1 of the first Frequency Bone Summer Music Connection

The first topic is: The Original You here on this video presentation. Relax, open your mind, leave your judgements behind and tune in!

If you do not 'practice' being free, how do you think your well conditioned responses will let you be different? Remember, you become what you practice. If you give time to be free each day, even for a couple of minutes, you will be able to access that part of yourself because you will build a close relationship with it. This is one way you can be in touch with you.

The meaning of the word free in this instance, means to let go of your usual chatter about what is good or not good, what is in tune or out of tune. LET IT GO for a few minutes each day. Could you imagine refusing to help someone who was truly in trouble because you did not like the pitch and timbre of their voice when they screamed? It is true that timbre, pitch and rhythm give us clues all of the time about human behaviour, especially in the feeling or subjective realms. But if our only criteria is "I like this, I don't like this," we will miss much because those two bars can become our prison.

If you let that overly active concern about technical 'perfection' go once in a while, you will discover a whole new fresh source of energy waiting to be tapped into and used. You will get to look forward to and enjoy your free practice times. It is an excellent release which can unclog the arteries of our emotions and creativity. You might only want to have short free practice periods for a while, then as you get used to the space, you will be more comfortable. This will of course vary from person to person.

This video will look at the subjective-objective relationship of oneself and music and will help to open up the previous video.

Thought: Yes, it is easy to acknowledge the fact of someone lifting a lot of weight over their head. But seeing the real reason why they are doing it might not be so easy. My Grandfather used to play his violin alone in his room. It was his personal time to reconnect to the 'old' country of his youth which was Poland. His family had to leave there and his violin was his time machine. what is your instrument to you?

Monday, July 20, 2009

Frequency Bone Summer Music Connection Schedule of Events (subject to change)

NOTE: This event will last 5 days, last day will be our 'concert'.

July 21st, Day 1: The Original You

July 22nd, Day 2: Rhythm, Pitch and Timbre

July 23rd, Day 3: Overlay System

July 24th, Day 4: Brave to Be

July 25th, Day 5: P.A.T. Concert 3PM Boston time


Any participant can write in questions when they come up. You can post them to the comment section of the blog. Depending on the nature of the question, it may have to be answered at the end of the event.

During the course of the event, there will be readings from the "TAC Legend Writings". In addition, there could be other things that spontaneously arise during our time together over the next few days.

This summer music event will also be what you make of it. You are not going to get the most juice from an orange unless you take the time to peel it first. To get to any depth there needs to be the time taken. Better to get what you can and work on what sticks with you rather than just flipping through everything quickly thinking you will receive the 'juice'. The peeling and squeezing of the content will yield the 'juice' in time.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

In Preparation for Frequency Bone Summer Music Connection

To help those who will be attending the Frequency Bone Summer Music Connection starting on Tuesday the 21st, here are some things I would like you to think about before we begin in a couple days. The deeper you can get into these questions the more it will tune you for our time together and it will set you up for getting the most out of the workshop.

1. What is special about you?

2. From that specialness, what could you offer in any musical situation?

3. Do you feel music or think music?

4. What is music to you? Write it down so you can look at it throughout the workshop.

5.What are your problem areas in your technique and your music making?

6. Are you short goal oriented or long goal oriented overall?

7. What do you want for your ultimate artistic life?

Saturday, July 18, 2009


Name of event: Frequency Bone Summer Music Connection

Director: Norman Bolter

Date: July 21 - 25, 2009

Location: Online here on my Frequency Bone blog.

Cost: FREE

Stay Tuned for updates and preparation information.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009


If you were on an island by yourself with your trombone to play, what would you do? Hint: If you did not have to worry about getting a job in an orchestra or anywhere else.. think and sense how free you could be with your playing....what would be your measuring stick for your standards??? How would you measure them??? Would you measure them and if so, why???

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Frequency Band OPT an opportunity

During the next 28 hours we are having a Frequency Band OPT. OPT stands for "Organized Powered Transmission." This is an opportunity to send thoughts of well wishes, well being and healing to anyone or any place in the world you choose to.

These OPTs are an important part of the Frequency Band and they started in response to Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Since then, we hold OPTs at various times of the year. We have held them in Boston with several musicians and we also have held them in concerts, including our participation at ETW (Eastern Trombone Workshop) this past spring. It is not a local Boston event, it is for all who would like to participate wherever they may be in the world.

If you are on Facebook, you can check it out and RSVP if you would like to participate. The link is on Frequency Band OPT Event Page on Facebook. Here you will also find some simple explanations and guidance.There is also a Frequency Band video on this page as well. Also you can go to the Air-ev website which is: if you are not on Facebook and you will see the video as well. Just scroll down the page and you will see "Unity Born of Humanity" video.

If you are interested in helping out with in this unique way check it out. There is close to 70 people from all over the world participating. With such a large time frame, 28 hours, it is pretty easy for most folks to find the time to send their wishes for a few minutes. And we believe in the power of thought. Even though it can seem so little, it is huge in its energy when coming from real sincerity.

Here is to your well being and a "Unity Born of Humanity" for all.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Follow Up on TRY THIS!

For those of you who happened to do the TRY THIS! experiment for brass players, I hope you got something out of it. Syllables are created and used in sound production by wind or brass players whether it is conscious or not. What I find interesting is the subtle mix of syllables that are present in the ingredients of any sound not just one.

Players who tend to have low overtones in their sound and the shape of the sound is very open, can sometimes have difficulty projecting. When playing alone this type of sound can sound very full and large in size. But this type of sound if the 'oh' ingredient is not balanced with some 'ooh' or a soft 'ay' sound, it can easily get covered by sounds that have higher overtones in them. (Note: not all low overtoned sounds are open in quality, some can sound almost congested or plugged).

I am sure those who have worked into syllables have discovered the different ranges, pedal, low, mid, upper mid and high and 'super high' can be improved upon with the use of certain syllables. In my own case, it is the low range that I have to be the most conscious of in regards to syllable usage. After low Bb, I need to think 'ay' in syllable shape. This helps me to focus the tone and helps to regulate the amount of air going through the horn which is vital for me in that range because I do not have a large lung capacity.

So much could be said about the use of syllables and my research on it is quite extensive because of working with people for over 40 years and how it is another proof of how different we all are and not everyone can use the same concepts. Plus, we need to keep up with our own changing bodies and concepts if we want to continue our playing when those changes occur. Which makes me think, what a person thinks is a hard fact today, might not be tomorrow. I have certainly experienced this myself!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Some Additional Thoughts on Evenness

I want to add to something I said in yesterday's post on evenness. I was talking about clarity and wrote, "I soon realized that clarity had to do with the synchronization of air, lip vibration and tongue, coming together for an immediate impact of sound, not the hardness of the attack or the note length."

It is about definition of sound. The immediate impact of of sound needs to have its synchrony focused on a specific pitch center. When this happens, clarity is the result no matter how short or long, soft or hard the actual length or attack is.

Of course there is the consideration on the subject of release at the end of the note and what impact that has on evenness. Plus another interesting consideration is how a person thinks when they articulate a note. Many brass players sound like they play with lots of 'down bows'. This can get very labored and horizontal sounding to the listener. It also does not do much to the phrasing in general. 'Up bows' in our articulation add to the movement of the line just as it does to string players. In fact, a teacher of mine told me once that all fine wind players 'bow' and all fine string players 'breathe'.

So when considering the topic of evenness, I find it very useful to examine and experiment with it in the light of the following:

1. Musical context
2. Fundamental command
3. Working on stability

Also, when I do my 'evenness' exercises I listen to the three basic parts of each note:

1. Beginning or 'head' of the note
2. The middle or 'body' of the note
3. The end, release or 'tail' of the note

We also can get into the shape of the note which was hinted at in the subject of bowing, but one needs to find a mental concept for their basic note shape. 'Bricks' is a popular shape but I have found it a stumbling 'block' for some people. I often think of a tubular shape, and again this can change according to the nature of the music or an aspect of articulation I could be working on.

My last paragraph on yesterday's post ended with the thought of if a brass or wind player played with as much sound and articulation variations as some string soloist do what would that do to most listeners of the 'classic' kind and would it be practical to work on lots of variation if we have not 'mastered' the one even color yet. Well, the way I have had to solve this in my mind, dealing with it from a very young age, was from the stand point of realizing that the one even basic sound is just one kind of tone color. It is one of many colors in the timber spectrum. In most orchestral settings there is not a great need for a huge diversity of tone flavors and colors. Yes, of course you need to play with a large volume contrast and to blend with others and different instruments. This requires sensitivity to balance and nuance. But in my experience with what most people want, is subtle variations on a basic acceptable color. Which takes its own kind of skill to do well.

For me, it is fun, broadening and musically necessary to venture outside of that realm. It is important at some point, at least it was for me, to not care to, to much on only that which is looked upon by a majority to be the only valid way. If that were the case, how could anything new ever have a chance to appear?

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

More on Evenness

When looking at evenness of sound it becomes quite obvious that the consistency of our impact pressure, articulated beginning of our tone, is a big part of this.
With this in mind, I have also noticed a trend toward less variety of articulation in the quest for evenness. Also, basic note lengths are longer than lets say 30 years ago.

I remember when I studied with Ron Ricketts of the Minnesota Orchestra in the mid to late 1960's, that he was very into short playing especially for faster passages. This was a style of trombone playing, John Swallow also did this to an extent as well, that was prominent and I think often times players associated short note lengths and firm pointed articulations with clarity.

This changed for me when I started to take with Steven Zellmer who wanted there to be more substance and body on any note regardless of whether it was fast or slow in tempo or length. I soon realized that clarity had to do with the synchronization of air, lip vibration and tongue, coming together for an immediate impact of sound, not the hardness of the attack or the note length. With that said, I noticed that the players who can get very 'evenness of sound finicky', do not warm to real short pecky staccato or do not necessarily use a large variety of articulation themselves.

What is interesting, is that many of my favorite string players who are soloists, have an incredible spectrum of articulation and tone colors that if expressed on a brass instrument would cause many of the brass and wind players of the symphonic world to shudder. What is wrong with variety? I think players might think that they need to master the one even quality sound first, and then after that they will have enough control to venture into other colors because they will actually have the control to do it deliberately. My thoughts on that will have to wait until my next post on this subject! Hmmm.....

Monday, June 8, 2009

How even minded are we on the subject?

Evenness of sound is something that instrumentalists have been working on for many years. It is one of the mechanical arts of 'fine' instrumental playing that players strive for, especially in the 'classical' orchestral realms.

However, in recent years it seems to me, it has been getting to be almost an obsession. Certain players just can't 'see' past anyone who doesn't have an 'even' sound in all the registers. This over preoccupation with evenness also affects nuances and timbre variation as well, which of course, are the symptomatic expressions of a player's central government of concepts from where their music comes out of.

Lets look at this 'even' issue. Instruments that are 'built' with a sound, like certain keyboard and percussion instruments, still need the player to develop enough control to articulate evenly in all the ranges. And we all know for example, that different pianists would sound remarkably distinct from one another if they were playing the same piano.

Are some teachers really tough on evenness because it shows a lack of control or a lack of discipline on the students part for not sticking to it enough to develop the control it would take to play evenly? Or, is it that some teachers only see their music from the standpoint of technical mastery and don't really know how to convey or inspire deeper expressive qualities? Or, do they figure that the rest of it is subjective and the only clear 'objective', 'concrete' thing are the mechanics?

It brings me to questions like, "what is important in the balances of our playing?" If it all comes down to "I want a job," then we are at the mercy of the ones that have gone through that process and got the job, and are now considered from others on the 'outside' to be the authorities.

This makes a certain amount of sense on that level. But, if it produces 'clones' of players, and 'cloned' excerpts and performances, let me ask the following question, "what in the world does that have to do with Art and originality? Let alone the deeper human development and creative processes?

What in Nature is even? This is a huge subject, but the forces of Nature, the cycles, seasons, flora and fauna for example, have a motion to them and not always so predictable and 'even'. Maybe the obsession with evenness is a human's way of trying to find perfection and stability. This kind of 'perfection' is not connected to anything in the natural worlds. It will eventually deteriorate because our physiology changes, and not always in clear, predictable and chartable ways. Our physiology is not the only thing that changes really, but whether we the person wants to change or not, our body has a limited life and is changing all the time.

In practical brass playing terms, that beautiful sound we hear in our minds and would like to have for every single note, is temporary, that is if we actually achieve it. The idea for example of an 'open' sound might get increasingly difficult as our bodies change and our internal life changes with living and experiencing what life brings our way. Would we be willing to 'compromise' if it meant giving up our one wonderful even sound so we could continue to play at all?

If 'evenness' is such a huge criteria, could it be out of proportion to the bigger musical picture? Can it be its own type of 'cholesterol' blocking our deeper perceptions out of fear we will not be 'even'?

Hey, I practice my 'even' exercises everyday. But, in no way will I let that be my sole musical government. I still believe that there is room in the job market for those 'less than perfect' players who play with feeling, passion and connection. Of course you can have all those qualities and be a 'perfectly even' player too. Im just trying to encourage those wonderful players out there, many of whom I have heard, that are exciting and expressive players who may not have the 'perfect even' thing down. MUSIC, the essence of it, is an equal opportunity employer!

I'll end this post on evenness of sound by quoting something a great long time friend of mine said who is a terrific violist in a major U.S. orchestra. I was talking to him about this subject of evenness a few years ago. He looked at me and said with a tone of seriousness and a tinge of dark humor, "you take some coffins, you line them up, and their even."

Saturday, June 6, 2009

TRY THIS! Experiment for humans and brass players :-)

As long as we are on the very interesting subject of syllables, I thought that there might be some folks who would like to experiment with this:

1. Sit up right in a chair, relaxed with spine straight and feet flat on the floor.

2. Then say out loud in a full voice the sound 'Oh'. While you say this, imagine the 'Oh' sound surrounding your whole body as if it were a bubble of sound resonance extending out about three feet from your body and encircling it. Do this until you feel you are immersed in that 'Oh' resonance.

3. Then say the word 'La' ( rhymes with 'ma' ) and feel that sound resonance in your heart area in the middle of your chest. Have the 'La' sound have a lot of warmth. Do this until you feel that settled warmth of sound in your chest.

4. Lastly, shut your eyes (you can actually have your eyes shut the whole time of the entire exercise if you wish) and put your attention on your forehead and say the sound 'nim' (rhymes with 'him'). Feel that sound resonance softly near the center of your forehead. Do this until you feel very inward and have a sense of a calm and awake feeling.

This 'exercise-experiment' can be very restful and focusing before we start playing especially if we are mentally scattered or anxious. Also, play with the various sound resonances until they feel natural for you in duration and length.

For all those that are interested in trying this, you are welcome to post your comments on the blog. I would be interested to know your findings and experiences.

Happy experimenting!

Thursday, June 4, 2009

TRY THIS! Experiments for brass players

Play a couple of lines of a simple lyrical legato study using the syllable 'u' ( sounds like 'who'). Notice how it feels in different registers and dynamics.

Then wait a couple of minutes and do the same piece using the syllable sound 'ur' ( sounds like 'fur' or 'her'). Notice how this feels in different dynamics and registers.

Then do this same format using the syllable 'O' (sounds like 'oh') then the syllable sounds 'A' ( sounds like 'hay') then an 'AH' sound. Experiment with these for a week or so and if you are interested let me know your results in a comment on the blog.

My interest in this subject stems from my own playing discoveries and what I am noticing in other people's playing. For years we can go on what we have learned and practiced or on 'instincts' and just play. It is only when we hit a snag or a 'brick wall' or feel that something is not doing what it normally does that we have to figure it out.

This is where using different tools can be very useful. The use of vowels or syllables in wind playing is very fascinating for they naturally incorporate the tongue and embouchure muscles in creating shapes that can enhance or distract from sound quality and register and our air support systems.

I don't want to say to much more until a week or so from now.

Good luck with your discovery endeavor!

Saturday, May 30, 2009


It was 74 years ago today
A great wonderful person was born
Just as alive today
Even though she is in another domain

One of my first teachers
Maybe the first in this life
Filled with hope
Love of Nature
Love of family
Fun and playful
Fun! Fun! Fun!
Like a 'hip' Mary Poppins
She was the sugar that made the medicine go down
When Shirley held your hand
You felt so grand
Your life started playing
Like a big brass band!

You could be yourself around her (mostly) :-)
And when she sang, "When you wish upon a Star"
You felt your dreams would come true
And the fact I had a mother like her
Was the proof they had!!

Happy Birthday Mom, wherever you are in the universe!

Friday, May 15, 2009

"That is Where the Music Really Is!"

One of the core sentiments of the Frequency Band that Carol and I speak about is "music as a living thing." Carol has written many times on this vital attitude and approach and we both have worked with students and professional musicians on developing this wonderful and fresh relationship with their music.

In this post, Master Manlon connects deep into the heart of the matter.

Master Manlon was sitting in his practice room moving into deep realms of connective thought. The connection increased and it was clear how everything is energy and that we humans create from the need to move closer to the source of where energy originates.

Master Manlon saw, in his connective state, how the use of technology and the advancement of technology comes from the direct relationship between humans and their knowledge and personal interaction with energy. That is why, Master Manlon could see, the essence of oneself is energy in the form of consciousness. And this, he thought, has been known by the wise people of many cultures for thousands of years.

But to be in the experience of it marks the difference between knowledge from a distance (not integrated) and integrated personal connection--where one sees, feels, hears, tastes and smells the reality of the knowledge. The words with which to describe this state came to him as "intuitive experience cognizing the moment in continuum."

He thought of how, in music, the special moments people feel are when there is a momentum of energy that fills a person with a sense of 'now' and continuos movement where one feels life or oneself very deeply and fully. "To be here all the time," he thought. "Aaah, that is where the Music really is!" Because that is the essence of "Music as a Living Thing."



Other excerpts from my book in progress, "The TAC Legend Writings," can be found throughout this blog. Here is a sampling:

PPMP: Master Manlon and "The TAC Legend Writings"
Trombone Sci-Fi
Excerpt from "The TAC Legend Writings"
Blinded by Sound
Another Excerpt from "The TAC Legend Writings"
More from "The TAC Legend Writings"
More Trombone Sci-Fi
More from Master Manlon and "The TAC Legend Writings"
Truth or Agenda? From "The TAC Legend Writings"

Sunday, May 10, 2009

It Can Be Done

It can be done
It will be done
It has been done
and will continue to be done
by the brave and trying few
who wish to go beyond the 'make do'
into the land of opportunity
on the path of always new
but ever there
shining pure
open ended and truthful
hoping you will come join it
and journey to the sublime
powerful worlds waiting to be

Thursday, April 16, 2009

I'll Make My 'Pretty Good' Sing

This morning while I was tightening my trigger, I thought about how technical mastery is not synonymous with musical expression. As soon as this thought came to my mind, this simple song came in too!

MP3: I'll Make My Pretty Good Sing

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Frequency Band on Facebook

In this day of virtual communication, I know that Facebook is a popular and effective way for people to be in touch with one another. Well, Carol and some other Frequency Band people have set up a Frequency Band page on Facebook.

It has videos, sound clips from the new Frequency Band "Phoenix" CD, photos and more. Carol and the gang have done a great job!

Check it out by going to Facebook if you are on it or even if you're not signed up you can view a lot of the content on this page.

Enjoy getting to know more about the Frequency Band and its activities and become a fan on Facebook!

You also can read more about the Frequency Band on it's own page on our website.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Excerpt-mania, Exerptitis and Excerpt-phobia

Let's face it. The lure of being in pursuit of an orchestra job is huge. Great literature by stupendous composers, an opportunity to play with fine players, conductors and soloists, and, in a lot of cases, a very good stable well-paying job or a good-enough-to-live-off-of job. Because of these opportunities, many music schools and conservatories want to be training grounds and factories that 'crank' out fine symphonic products.

That is all fine, except when the focus on a rigid, formularized approach to the orchestral literature goes into hyper-drive over the basics of rhythm, pitch and sound-evenness, in place of feeling the character of the whole piece where the excerpt is a part of it. Not just a bland, understated color or texture, but a living active piece of the whole musical organism. You cannot see the spleen or colon from the outside of the body, but without them playing their parts to the fullest, you would physically be in BIG danger. That, of course, could be said of other parts in the body and it can be said for all the players in the orchestra, where the individual players are the cells and the sections become molecules and organs.

I have heard many players develop three fundamental side effects from an imbalanced emphasis and approach to orchestral excerpts. They are:

Excerpt- mania

A condition that is very mentally obsessed with orchestral excerpts to the point where it takes up almost all their practicing and when they listen to a piece all they can hear are their instrument's excerpts. It is usually a juvenile stage. (I experienced it myself to some degree and it is OK for a while in our growing years of excited enthusiasm; however, I have seen it continue in some, well after the point.)


A state where the player gets all tight and dull with the performance of the excerpts. It is an 'inflamed' condition and exaggerates rhythms and articulations to make sure they 'happen' and has very little real musical connection. The result can be very academic and robot-like and usually carries some contorted physical characteristics while playing the excerpts or before starting them.


This is a fear of excerpts. This can, in its advanced stages, cause real anxiety in the person who suffers from it just by hearing an excerpt. It makes a person freeze up and get very nervous if they actually have to play an excerpt. If the person did not know it was an excerpt and came across the music in an etude book, they could probably play it much better, due to the lack of the mental head trip they have gotten themselves into.

Some ways to prevent the 'itis' and the 'phobia' is to aways realize excerpts are pieces of a larger work and it is important to feel the surrounding music while you are playing or practicing your excerpts. Being able to play them in at least 3 different convincing ways makes it easier to not fall into deep ruts. Make sure you have your own personal musical connection to the excerpt and the piece as a whole beyond any theoretical or historical knowledge or understanding.

Moving beyond Excerpt-mania usually comes with musical and emotional growth. I f you feel stuck on having a fixation on excerpts, listen to other music that doesn't have your excerpts in them and expand your musical palate and build a relationship with music independent of excerpts or orchestral music.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Master Manlon and "The TAC Legend Writings"

This excerpt was inspired by a conversation I had this week with my wife, Dr. Carol Viera. Carol was talking about a "conflict" she believes people have between wanting to play in an essencely connected way and playing how they think they have to play to get a job, which they think are two different things, although "integration" is possible. Fostering this kind of integration is an important part of Carol's work with the Frequency Band and outside the FB. It is something we both feel very passionately about!


Master Manlon was talking to a young musician named, Ortia, who was torn between becoming a professional symphonic ensemble player or an artistic medium of essence transfer, not realizing she could be both.

Ortia: "Sometimes I feel torn between two worlds."

Master Manlon: "In what way Ortia?"

Ortia: "Will the training that you are giving me prepare me to get a real job in an ensemble of the symphonic kind or... will I just end up with all this incredible knowledge and not have what it takes to get employed?"

Master Manlon: "I do see your predicament. To you, at this point in time, it seems like a choice between art and employment. Can a person who is training to be an artistic medium of essence transfer be employable? Does this correctly state what you are in conflict about?"

Ortia: "Yes... and I feel almost ashamed to admit that in front of you. You have opened my eyes to so much,that I do not want to disappoint you... I ...

Master Manlon: "You are not going to disappoint me, Ortia. I am hoping that there will be some people who can take the bold step and integrate this special training into their 'professional' life. It can be done, but I would say it certainly could be a challenge to do. But, if your own relationship with our work becomes alive in you, if you have made it your own work, then it will be integrated naturally and offer a relief and inspirational encouragement to the other musicians you are working with, as well as to all who come in contact with you."

Ortia: "But the way the instructors work with us at PMMP (Professional Musicians Manufacturing Plant) puts so much emphasis on the raw mechanics that I feel like a robot who can only carry out orders or churn out notes and phrases like they were isolated pieces of a puzzle. I can't find myself in it."

Master Manlon: "So after you make the processed phrase, be the fairy, like in the old classic children's story "Pinocchio." Breathe the spirit into those wooden phrases and make them come to real living life! It can be done, and has been done, and you can do it too. Try! Oh try! From the love that it should be so, try!"


Other excerpts from my book in progress, "The TAC Legend Writings," can be found throughout this blog. Here is a sampling:

Trombone Sci-Fi
Excerpt from "The TAC Legend Writings"
Blinded by Sound
Another Excerpt from "The TAC Legend Writings"
More from "The TAC Legend Writings"
More Trombone Sci-Fi
More from Master Manlon and "The TAC Legend Writings"
Truth or Agenda? From "The TAC Legend Writings"

Thursday, April 2, 2009

"Arjuna Speaks"
World Premiere at Eastern Trombone Workshop

Fifteen minutes before the world premiere performance of "Arjuna Speaks" at the Eastern Trombone Workshop, I still was not sure what mouthpiece I am going to play. All week long I was playing on one mouthpiece that I had been playing on for a couple of months. I had rehearsed with the Army Band all week using this mouthpiece. But, for the prior couple of nights, I had only slept three hours and was tired before we even got to Washington D.C. But throughout all of this, Carol and I were tuning and fine tuning to the reasons why were at ETW. We knew why, and wanted to stay in tune with those reasons and core foundations. Other decisions would have to follow that.

So, my mind and spirit were ready, my body was very 'up,' but tired at the same time. Not totally ideal for my trombone playing. But, I was not there just to play my horn in this world premiere. It was to communicate, as best as I could in this medium, what, to me, is the meaning of the first two chapters of the Bhagavad Gita--a story which I believe is about all people and their struggles, no matter what one's religious or non-religious beliefs are.

This powerful Hindu text was the inspiration for "Arjuna Speaks." Arjuna is the young devotee of Lord Krishna who is caught in a serious conflict which he then, through the divine help of Lord Krishna, finds his way through to enlightenment. It is all about the timeless battle of 'good versus evil' and the various choices we make in our lives as well as how we handle what comes at us in life. This text brings to light, in its own unique way, all the different things that keep us from our true Self, and the personal battle that has to be fought if we want to keep developing ourselves towards our essential natural path, which is unique to each individual life.

As Carol and I were in the small practice room tuning to the reasons why we were there and what it was I wanted to communicate that night, I decided to go with the mouthpiece I had not used in almost two years. I NEVER would have thought that I would switch equipment at the last minute like this. But life can have a way of challenging our 'logic' and pushing us in ways we never thought were possible.

This incident showed me again how important it is to be open to what is needed, rather than be attached to habit or a thought process that might not be useful in every circumstance. And since I could not totally depend on my body or equipment, it forced me to connect to the core of myself, and what I believe in, even stronger, and for that I am ever grateful.

With the incredible support from Carol and all the Frequency Band members, it was a deeply moving experience for me and, from the many responses I have been receiving, for others too. For me, it was an experience where I did not feel like a soloist but instead felt connected to my own 'Arjuna,' blowing the conch shell that says, first and foremost to me, "Stand up and count yourself in!"


I wrote "Arjuna Speaks," for solo trombone and wind ensemble, knowing it would be world premiered at Eastern Trombone Workshop with the U.S. Army Band "Pershiing's Own." My sincere thanks to them and to their conductor, Col. Rontondi, for their sincere efforts to "be with me in it." It made a difference!

Photo courtesy of Sam Woodhead and the U.S. Army Band "Pershing's Own."

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Back from Eastern Trombone Workshop

At the end of the Frequency Band concert at Eastern Trombone Workshop last Saturday, an older man from Brazil came up to us in tears, putting his arms around me, saying he will never forget this concert as long as he lives. "It was magical!" he said.

That is why Carol and I came to ETW, and why the Frequency Band came to ETW. Just in case there was one person who could be deeply touched beyond any trombonastics and feel another kind of important messages that can be expressed and transferred via music. This man got that! What joy, humility and gratitude Carol and I felt.

As it turned out, there were other people who got the 'something else' the FB has to offer. A older, experienced teacher came up to us and said, "My teaching will never be the same again." Another very, very famous trombonist said, "It was the most moving concert I have been to in a long, long time." This same person also commented on the great togetherness of the ensemble itself. He was sincerely touched. And many, many other teachers, performing professionals and students made sure to tell us how they were affected in positive ways.

Also, since then, there have been a number of students emailing us, reporting how they were inspired by our participation at ETW. A number of young players have found the new Frequency Band page on Facebook and are becoming "fans." And so, the interest continues!

I congratulate Sgt. Sam Woodhead, organizer of this event, for all his hard work in putting the whole workshop together and for having the courage and vision to invite the Frequency Band to ETW as "an alternative to the traditional trombone format." It was an incredible opportunity for all in the Frequency Band to walk the talk, to actually 'be the change we wish to see' and to put it out there with confidence, in the love that it should be so. The FB members did a fantastic job in holding true to what the FB is so "music as a living thing," in the way that we can offer that, had a chance to appear and work its wonders. Hats off to all of you!!!

For Carol and me, it has been a HUGE journey, part of which includes the release of the new Frequency Band CD called "PHOENIX" which is now available. I really have no idea how Carol managed to produce this CD in the short time she had from the start of the recording retreats, mid January, to the start of ETW last week! I know she is my wife and co-director of the Frequency Band (and MANY other things, as well) but my gratitude and appreciation for what she does ever keeps growing!

I also want to thank the US Army Band "Pershing's Own" and their commander, Col. Thomas Rotondi Jr., for their terrific playing and willingness to 'be with me in it' as we premiered "Arjuna Speaks," for trombone and wind ensemble. I am sure I will be writing more about this experience in the days to come.

For some, these experiences at ETW will seem like a dream, for others an already forgotten memory, and for others still a non-ending journey of perception, development and connection. But, no matter what the case my be, as Carol has often said, "the material remembers."