Illuminated in signature, surface-scratching detail, here are some specific organological endeavors currently occupying my increasingly over-used calendar.
The Leonard Bernstein Collection: Evaluating and Exploring American Archives
From May to August of 2016, I will be working at the Library of Congress in an effort to evaluate and isolate significant content from the Leonard Bernstein Archives which could subsequently be incorporated into improvements of the Bernstein Collection's virtual presence. The majority of this work will involve identifying and extracting exceptionally valuable, historical, or otherwise noteworthy information from audio recordings, as well as selections from the 17,000+ photographs from the Bernstein family. The isolated materials will be compiled in preparation for works concerning the 100th anniversary of Bernstein's birth in 2018.
Examining Interval-Width Preference in Classically Trained Musicians
Taking a little detour into the realms of music theory and perception, this project has been unexpectedly enamoring. The basic premise is exploring connections between instrument type, educational experience, ensemble participation (among other things)... and how consonant intervals are preferentially perceived relative to theoretical pure and tempered interval ideals. The study is still in the data-collecting phase, and will likely continue to be for some time, but it should yield some interesting data on where people prefer to hear and audiate certain intervals, how their backgrounds might show statistical correlation to those preferences, and how those preferences relate to the variation and relative implementation of different temperaments and tuning systems.
An Interview With Larry Ramirez: Expanding Records of Holton Trombone Production
In March of 2016, three days were spent visiting with Larry Ramirez, former head brass instrument designer for Holton/Leblanc. Ramirez was responsible for nearly all brass instruments sold from 1970 to 2010 under the Holton/Leblanc/Conn-Selmer Inc. umbrella, including the landmark Holton "Superbone" and Farkas model horn. Through his first-hand account, countless tidbits of new and/or important information were collected to supplement and clarify the historical record of Holton trombone production. The resulting audio recordings are still being transcribed. Combined with the vast information in the Holton Archives at the National Music Museum, his recollections should provide a foundation for further scholarship and publications on the products of this prominent American instrument manufacturer.
Thesis: The Bass Trombone of the Romantic Period
The bass trombone has come an awful long way since Beethoven wrote his last symphonies, and undoubtedly it will continue to change as time marches on. That said, there is a certain disheartening paucity of information concerning how it evolved during the era of Romantic music. Somehow, between the fall of the Classical and the rise of the effectively modern times, a wide-reaching divergence occurred in size, proportions, construction, and other generally nation-specific trombone characteristics. These changes were influenced by a number of components, not limited to repertoire, national aesthetics, technological advances, and increases in mass-production. The later intermingling and appropriation of these divergent variants spawned the conducive atmosphere that resulted in what we know as a bass trombone in the 21st century. Synthesizing a new record of the Romantic era bass trombone will generate new insight not only on performance practice, manufacturing techniques, and other individual facets of trombone history, but also on how the trombone—as a complete unit—has changed within the musical world, and how the bass trombone came to exist as a distinct entity separable from its tenor counterparts.