Adopt a Music Creator blog: Sounds, bars and memories

Bury St Edmunds Concert Band trombonist Gary Hawkes fills us in on another thought-provoking Zoom workshop with Litha Efthymiou for Adopt a Music Creator 2020/21.

We’re back on Zoom to meet up with one band representative from each section: trombone, clarinet, trumpet, saxophone, percussion, euphonium, flute and tuba.

Litha told us about a little project she’d like us to complete: three tasks to research, bringing our findings to the workshop in two weeks’ time. Here are her instructions:

1.    Investigate three different types of sound you can get from your instrument
2.    Talk about 4-8 bars of a piece you really enjoy playing in the band
3.    A memory/object to talk through that tells a story, primarily about Bury St Edmunds

For my twisted personality, that’s quite a bit to take in. Task one was blowing my mind a bit. My instrument isn’t in great shape, so why would I want to hit it? Why would I want to make sounds other than notes? That’s the logic bit of me kicking in. I also didn’t want to make up things I wouldn’t do naturally (instinctive). So rather than investigate what I could do with my instrument, I would look at the sounds and think of what I would do.

Here are my three answers to question 1:

a.    Breath sounds
b.    Sounds from the body of the instrument
c.    Mouthpiece sounds

So, breath sounds... there is the ‘note fall/drop’ which I do when I end pieces, usually jazz blues ones. There is the flutter tongue I use very instinctively. Sometimes when warming up, I play and sing at the same time, but not for long as it never sounds great.

Sounds from the body of the instrument? Literally nothing. Honestly, yes, I can tap the brass, but I wouldn’t do that. There’s the sound when my slide closes but that annoys the hell out of me – very noticeable when I do videos! The spinning of my screw bracket that connects the slide to the bell? Yeah, it makes a noise. But I consider none of these things useful or pleasing.

Mouthpiece sounds… instantly ‘Flight of the Bumblebee’, my party piece – is it a sound? No, but it gets my tonguing going. There’s my jazz mouthpiece where I cup my hands around it to ‘wah wah’ the notes. Oh, and tapping the mouthpiece makes a noise, usually when I drop it.

For question 2, Amparito Roca instantly springs to mind. I know – jazz, jazz, jazz; blues, blues, blues. Oh, and Spanish marches. It’s a fast march which is in a key that I can only describe as linked to my spine. When that comes out, I instantly want to play it. I never tire of it. The first half of the piece is aggressive and dark, and the second half just turns light, with the same intensity. A real yin and yang. The eight bars will be from the first half.

For question 3, I have no idea. Nothing instinctive is coming to mind, so cheekily I decide to wing it after seeing what everyone else does!

Follow Bury St Edmunds Concert Band on Facebook / Twitter

The Adopt a Music Creator project matches vocal and instrumental leisure-time music groups with some of the UK’s most promising music creators to collaborate on creating a new piece of music. The project leads to a premiere performance and possible broadcast. If you’re a music group or music creator and you’d like to take part, find out more