In this post I share the creative process that enables performance at the extremes – there must be more than simply raw talent at work here, surely? After all many people are creative – even ‘creative gifted’, so what is it that pushes some (like me) to the extremes of performance. Wassup Nisi?
Not many bloggers have published 2.5 million words on line and are still going strong. Not many authors have written more than three dozen books; not many musicians have retired from a professional career at the age of only 20 and then by the age of 27 had seven careers and 17 jobs! Not many researchers can speak intelligently about all the major conspiracies, evolution and to apply the God thing meaningfully. Not many people have designed and developed 550 websites personally then established the Web Developers Association of New Zealand then gone to live in Samoa for the best part of a decade and muscled with the Prime Minister. then getting booted out losing all; then retired twice.
Now before we get all huffy about “WTF soapbox is this dude on?” and “What right does he have to speak arrogantly?” please . . . I know that I know I’m not God’s gift to mankind. I know I can be a pain in the a*se to live with and that I piss a lot of people off, all around the town and country … But the above is all true and there’s more too, so please, extend me a little break here.
I received a lovely comment a few days ago from a dude on the other side of the world I had helped. He’d simply asked for a document and while I couldn’t send it to him directly for temporary legal & moral reasons, I ‘organised’ for him to get what he wanted, legally and morally.
i had no idea what a sincere dedicated person you are.
“God” is looking out for me. at 4:00 am someone from “[redacted]” sent me a file. i know you had nothing to do with this, but i just wanted to tell you.
THE U.S. GOVERMENT IS SCARED TO DEATH OF THIS BOOK.THEY FEAR IT MORE THAN MEIN KAMPF.
we are supposed to have a first amendment for free speech. we are supposed to be free to have an OPINION about the holohoax, sandy hoax,the pulse homo club, the parkland hoax, the moon we never landed on, and anything else we want to have an opinion about. maybe the earth is flat. maybe the moon is made of green cheese. maybe there are martians living underground…
my best to you, [name redacted]
god bless [name redacted]
But there’s more, much more and it comes down to attitude. Some times this is put in different ways but for me it is an obedience thing. When God gives me something, I have to use it, or share it. If I don’t then this is a form of theft. I want to ask questions because I am naturally curious. I want to teach because I am a teacher, professionally and at heart. I want to father because I am good at it, not so much the making babies part, but the taking responsibility and being there for the kids when they need me or want me – except maybe when your daughter wants to get married in the States and you have no intention of getting jabbed!
Gunhild Carling is a Swedish virtuoso jazz trombonist and plays other brass instruments. Her upbringing is from within a showman family thus her entertaining spirit more than musical. I listened to her recently and found her work stunning! I love the hymn she played but I found her natural tone a bit rough and raucous – a woman trying to be a man kinda thing but musically she’s right up there with the best – for sure! Previous to this I had just listened to Warner Bros’ rendition of Rhapsody in Blue and I loved the way the American ‘show-offs’ focused their cameras on the pianist, then the trumpet, then the saxes then the clarinet.
So at 4.00am the next morning I awoke with a musical teaching video on my brain. Over the next two hours it evolved into this blog post and the beginnings of a tune – a little ditty. You can read it above if you’re musical. So at ‘sparrows fart’, I arose and went downstairs to my piano and scribbled it out which I then rewrote with the proper timing when I was back upstairs. I then scanned it and popped it into the graphic above. Then I spent a few hours writing for you here, now.
I know that some of you commented on the level of detail in music from a previous post so this repeats that musical focus. Did you notice that the trombonist has an incredible range? Did you notice the way that Warner used the camera to bring out the change of artist taking the lead? See how the clarinetist sits down after he has stood up and played for the camera? And if you wait for not even a minute more [4:04] you can see a spotlight on him again and his standing for his solo again – then the quick camera pan from the trombone to the piano. This is all rehearsed and practised beforehand. We call it his “solo” in the industry. Did you notice where the saxophonist closest to the camera looked (up – at the conductor) but that the second saxophonist didn’t [3:14]? And did you note the multiple cameras cutting from piano to sax, to piano, to trumpet, clarinet and so on [See the link above].
Most people don’t see this or notice but we do. I remember the way Ron Cooke, a historian who loved images, would tell me how he learned over the years of producing the series of booklets, Roll Back the Years, how drawing the readers attention into a photo created value. A question or comment in a caption would bring out an aspect that would otherwise have gone totally un-noticed by most. See the … I wonder what or who … Did you notice … Look at … all help us focus in on things we never knew or noticed before. I try to do this, on this blog too – music, Samoa, human nature, corruption and the bigger, scarier questions of life.
For those of you wanting to dig deeper (please just skip this section if this is not you) Gunhild’s ultra high trombone playing shows her brass skills not so much in playing high, but in her natural transition from a “trumpet level” kind of performance to regular “trombone sounds” where after playing (what we call “in the stratosphere”) she comes down and uses the normal embouchure & harmonics of the trombone to produce a more regular sound. I found this transition to be beautiful and transparent [2:56].
What this means requires an understanding of how sound is created in a brass instrument. Basically the human diaphragm (usually [but falsely or badly] viewed as the lungs) controls the airflow through the human lips, that then vibrate with a buzzing action which then set the air column vibrating – the air column extending from the players lips to the listeners’ ears.
An instrument like a trumpet (or in Gunhild’s case a trombone) has a mouthpiece and a pipe that help the player get the frequency of vibration that the player wants us to hear. Our ears ‘hear’ a sound and interpret the frequency of that sound as “pitch”, for example the scale “doh, ray, me, fah soh, lah tee, doh” going up starts with a certain frequency and as we hear each note going up the scale, this frequency (vibration rate) increases.
When we purse our lips, making them tighter as Gunhild does in the centre section here, the pitch increases as this vibration frequency increases. Gunhild is actually highly tense and varies her pitch so accurately that she is playing so incredibly high (for a trombone) that the best way to understand this is to think, “She is playing a trumpet with her lips and simply using the trombone as an amplification device.
You can visualise how she does this with a little trick that I would teach my French Horn students by putting a French Horn mouthpiece into a hose pipe, then playing a tune. When I took the hose pipe off the mouthpiece, I could still play a tune into the mouthpiece. This shows how the lips can be controlled to make a tune without the influence of the pipe. Then I could take the mouthpiece away from my lips and put my finger nails or scissor handles or something similar and still play that tune. This physical limitation in the width of my vibrating lips (my finger nails or scissor handles) simulated the effect of the edges of a mouthpiece and shows that the core vibration speed is determined by a small section of the vibrating lips.
Last of all (if I was good and could control my lips well) I could still play a little tune by using my lips alone, tightening them to play that simple tune. I’ve lost that ability now though – I still need a physical item to control the width of the vibrating section of my lips.
Now the normal trombone (or other brass sound) uses what are called the harmonics of a tube in combination with our vibrating lips. A harmonic is just a natural vibration speed for a given object – you will all have seen the wind vibrating a bridge into its fatal harmonic until it sways then fails, or the wine glass that breaks when the opera singer hits a high note, for example. Mind control also ‘plays’ with our human harmonics and the early studies such as the German and later US MK ultra ones played on frequency modulation to manipulate our moods (among other things of course). Every physical thing has its natural set of harmonics, but these are usually outside of our hearing. Our human ears can only hear a narrow range of sound but when the air of a certain pipe is vibrated at the correct rate, the pipe will resonate (vibrate) sufficiently for the listener far away to hear it. That’s how any brass instrument works anyway! Now you know.
As the vibration rates rise so too do the harmonics rise and they get closer and closer together. This means that with the lower notes we can pick out harmonics quite easily as they could be an octave (eight full [white] notes, or 12 half notes [add in the black notes] on the normal Western diatonic scale) apart. This means that we can get the brass instrument to speak a note more easily down lower because as long as our lips are vibrating approximately in the rate to pick out the harmonic, the sound will occur. What happens though as we rise up the musical scale is that the harmonics become closer and closer together and it requires much more lip control to ‘hit’ the right frequency, without cracking it, or missing it and getting the wrong note to speak. If becomes “harder to play” in other words.
Different instruments have different characteristics and the trumpet, cornet, tuba, trombone and French Horn all have their own keys (or pitch ranges) and difficulty. In both playing range and difficulty the trombone sits in the middle just up from the tuba (which has a big mouthpiece and specialises in playing the low notes (the um-pah, um-pah in a band for example) and the cornet or the trumpet in the higher registers. Trumpets for example often play the tune as a result.
The French Horn (my ‘baby’) is recognised as the most difficult instrument to play because unlike the other brass instrument, it is very unforgiving. The player has to get his lips, diaphragm and air flow just right all at once or he will end up cracking or fluffing – and then BIG shame! A good French Horn player will need to ‘hear’ the sound accurately in his mind long before he even plays it (I was naturally capable in this area), then get everything physically right (this simply required practice) before he hits it at the right time and manner, which required balls of steel (something I seemed to have from an early age)!
Stressful? For sure, and not for the faint hearted I can assure you. I think I know!
The sliding of Gunhild’s trombone simply extends the length of her sound tube, the same way that getting a longer or shorter hose pipe changes the pitch of the sound up or down, and the same way that the valves of a trumpet or French Horn do when we press a key. The combination of different harmonics from different pipe lengths can be used to create a tight range of notes, eventually resulting in a full range of sound, being in the Western world what we call a major diatonic or chromatic scale (doh, ray, me etc).
In Gunhild’s middle (high) rendition of this hymn in the above video, she mostly uses good tight control of her lips (the ultra high notes way above the normal trombone harmonics) then transitions down into using the trombone’s normal harmonics (the lower, later part of her playing). Essentially she is more playing the trumpet into a trombone! Note also that her volume increases as she comes into the normal and easier playing range. She physically has to restrain her airflow when she is in the upper range which causes her to reduce her output volume while playing up high. It’s a physical phenomena and a mathematical equation actually.
While the skill she uses to play those ultra high notes is stunning, the beauty comes for me in her natural transition down to her use of normal trombone harmonics. That was nice! This is akin to a nice transition across the break in a clarinet, but that’s a topic for another day!
Creating music is also something I enjoy – be it swinging away at a tune by “tickling the ivories” or writing little ditties from a snippet like I did here. It is a little hard to share works in progress with you, because most cannot read music and so the works in progress stay offline for the most part but here’s an explanation of a 30 second jingle I wrote a while back. The art of writing an advertising jingle is to get it into a 30 second clip. Here you can see the progression of my tune from the time that a mate of mine from church took it and played with it – Kevin is a professional muso with all the whizz-bang software toys so he helped me out.
Once I wrote the ditty and got a harmony and melody to Kevin he produced the first effort by slipping in the background bass and drums. Note that the boom-chick and base have been added (too high a volume of the background vs the piano I know), and are not a repeating set, but each have little runs and interrupts in them to break monotony. and a few frilly bits on the piano added were my mate’s creation at my request. The Melody at 21 & 22 seconds will be adjusted in the final version very slightly and the addition of the split up and down at the end is cool. The whole thing is shaping up nicely though.
We next moved into a development of the tune played by a trumpet and shortening the project into a little more peppy 30 seconds.
We then recorded a trumpet. The guy who did this (Fendall Hill) helped me out and was a top ranked NZ cornet player, now located in Aussie. Also a ‘mate from church’ he swung by and it was great to “put down a few takes” watching a true master at work!
Listen now to a late version with the recorded trumpet – melody and harmony combined.
And see its final form and usage (Jingle starts at 3:14 and runs 30 seconds to the end) and usage on a Youtube video tape online.
The Secret …
The secret to achieving is not that I listened to a musical medley one night. Nor that I had the things on my brain and was creative in my sleep, and waking hours. The secret was not even that I wanted to share it with you . . . the secret was and is that I actually did the hard yards, I did it. I created an image from some screenshots and a scan and so I can publish this thing now, then go about my day doing whatever and it is done and there are another couple of thousand words to file through as you sip your morning coffee! What’s 2.5m plus 2.2k? And one day it will probably be three million.
There is nothing unusual about this all – many people have the capacity to work on a tune, or to play a musical instrument and to create a little ditty. Many people, even a lot younger than me at the time can play the French Horn, and better too no doubt. You don’t have to be a Beethoven or a top ‘muso’ or famous poet or writer to do what I did. You just have to do it. Nike took over my phrase, “Just do it!” so I now say, “Go For It!”
So . . . how about we all just, GO FOR IT!! ?