Nov 142019

Guest article by swlamu of Swan Lake Music

The term Brass Band is used to refer to an instrumental ensemble comprising brass instruments with percussion. Within this term, there are five different styles of groups that include British Style, Balkin, New Orleans, Low Country, Zanzibar, and Polynesian.

With its rich, mellow sound, the British Style Brass Band dates back to the Industrial Revolution of the early 1900s in England. Seeing the craze of newly invented instruments designed by Belgian musician and inventor Adolphe Sax, bosses of factories and pits saw a new leisure activity for the employees. With the mass production and technological advances of the instruments, the brass band became a favorite pastime by the 1850s and served as an expression of aspiration and solidarity of growing communities. Because of its popularity, brass bands began to spring up all over England, and by 1860, over 750 groups were representing the military, churches, villages, pits, and factories in the country alone. With its popularity, the number of brass bands extended globally, and today there are brass bands throughout the rest of the United Kingdom, Europe, North and South America, Australia, New Zealand, and Asia.

Unlike other brass groups that use trumpets and French Horns, the British Style Brass Band uses specific instruments. These instruments include the following.
1 Soprano Cornet
9 Cornets
1 Flugelhorn
3 Tenor Horns also known as Alto Horns in some countries
2 Baritone Horns
2 Euphoniums
2 E Flat Tubas 
2 B Flat Tubas
2-4 Percussion

Oct 172019

A guest article was written and submitted by swlamu of Swan Lake Music

The word orchestra is originally a Greek word meaning a place for music and other performances in a theater. Before the 1600s, groups of musicians would gather and play on instruments available to them. In the 1500s, the word “consort,” referred to the group of musicians that made the music together. Composers in the Renaissance era would write parts of the music are on any instrument. The symphony orchestra, as we know it, was invented in 1607 by Renaissance/Baroque Italian composer Claudio Monteverdi.

Unlike composers of his time, Monteverdi wanted specific instruments to accompany his opera Orfeo. These instruments include fifteen viols of different sizes; two violins; four flutes, two large and two medium; two oboes, two cornetts (small wooden trumpets), four trumpets, five trombones, a harp, two harpsichords, and three small organs organized into sections.

In the time of Johann Sebastian Bach, around a century later, the orchestra evolved in instrumentation. The string section, including violins, violas, cellos, and basses, replaced viols, and the leadership of the orchestra came from a harpsichord, the first violin player, or an organ player. This keyboard player was often the composer of the music. They would use an orchestra conductor only on occasions. One of the first known uses was Italian born French composer Jean-Baptiste Lully, who worked with an orchestra for the court of Louis XIV of France. Using a long wooden staff, Lully would tap out the beats to help the orchestra play together. Unfortunately, this wooden staff played a part in the composer’s death as he hit his foot with the pole on accident resulting in gangrene. 

The Classical Era (circa 1730 to 1820) saw another change in the orchestra as the string section gained more importance, and the keyboard instruments became less prominent. Composers such as Mozart, Haydn, and Beethoven, continued the trend of writing for specific instrumentations for their compositions. The ensemble became more standardized with first and second violins, violas, cellos, and double basses. The woodwind section comprises two flutes, two oboes, two clarinets, and two bassoons. The brass section comprises two to four horns and two trumpets, while the percussion section comprises two timpani. Even though the concertmaster continued to lead the orchestra from the first chair position, the conductor became more prominent in the ensemble’s leading. Instead of the long wooden staff, the conductor started using specific gestures using a rolled-up piece of white paper, a predecessor of the baton used today.

As the orchestra grew in the number of musicians in the 19th century, it was no longer practical for the concertmaster to lead the orchestra. The conductor became the prominent figure in the ensemble’s leadership standing front and center on a podium.

Today, orchestras vary in number based on the composition played. Often keeping its standard instrumentation of violins violas cellos and double basses, the ensemble varies between 40-200 members with larger orchestras, including more woodwinds, brass, and percussion instruments.

Mar 182019

music2 me dec 2018

I love playing 4th Horn. Unlike the principal Horn position which us Horn players call “the hot seat,” this position is usually the least stressful of the entire section. We also get all the fun low notes too and one thing we do is to make sure our lower register does not sound as though we had beans for dinner. 😛 We are versatile at reading both treble and bass clef, and we get to transpose parts to boot. Which is very enjoyable actually because I love a musical challenge. Most of my symphony gigs involve playing the 4th Horn part, and I have played some great music. I also look forward to doing more in future performances.

Throughout my career, concerto concerts, well… are not exactly a love relationship, not a hate one either. Some concertos involve us, for example, like Rachmaninoff 2nd or 3rd Piano Concerto, while others do not involve us at all. One positive thing about having a variety in a concerto concert is that you get to play, but you can also head to the restroom during the pieces you do not play, saving us the agony of the long lines during intermission. Especially when you down a lot of water on stage as I do. 😉

Many years ago, while I was traveling for symphony gigs, I was playing in a concerto concert. Even though most of the concertos involved the works of Vivaldi, Bach, and Mozart, one number included all four horns from I do not remember who it was from (Shostakovich? Yay!). This concerto was the last piece on the program, so it gave me time to listen and enjoy the other tunes, use the bathroom, mentally go over my part and other things that make up the art of tacet. Originally set to do two movements of this composition, I was raring to go at the dress rehearsal. However, news came that the program had changed, and instead of doing two movements, we were only doing one. Well, the movement selected only comprised one note, the final note, in my part, and it was also the final note of the entire concert. A single staccato, pianissimo, low note. I think that was my shortest performance to date, but I got paid well for that note, and I think we even had a standing ovation. It is one of those moments where I look back on and laugh about it. Shoot, I was laughing about it then.

Jul 052018

You Only Live Twice

Written and produced by John Barry, with lyrics by Leslie Bricusse, “You Only Live Twice” is the theme of 1967 motion picture by the same name featuring the iconic secret agent character, James Bond, 007. Performed by Nancy Sinatra, this theme is considered one of the best James Bond movie themes and became one of Sinatra’s best hits.
This arrangement for Horn Quartet is 3 minutes long and starts with the recognizable two bar theme in the first and second Horns with lush harmonies by the third and fourth horn. The song continues with each horn part getting the opportunity to play the melody.


Jun 122018

What exactly is music? The dictionary defines music as “an art of sound in time that expresses ideas and emotions in significant forms through the elements of rhythm, melody, harmony, and color.” The fact is, however, that what constitutes music has been the subject of debate by philosophers, scientists, and even musicians themselves.

Where and how the very word “music” came into being is debated. Some say that the word came from the Greek word “mousikê” (“tekhnê”) by way of the Latin “música.” Others say that the word comes from the ancient Greek word “mousike,” which was used to describe any of the arts or sciences performed by muses.

You’d probably have a bit of difficulty getting a devoted fan of opera to agree that rap was, in fact, real music. Rock-and-rollers are devout in their belief that all music culminated in the development of rock and roll, and that anything called “music” before or since wasn’t music.

What we call music is in every part of our lives. If you watch television or listen to the radio, if you go to concerts, plays, or sporting events, music is there. Music has been used to inspire and to incite. Music is powerful!

So what exactly is it that determines what type of music we find pleasing? I think that several factors play in our appreciation and enjoyment of particular types of music.

Our personal history such as the circumstances under which we lead our lives is a primary factor that determines our affinity for specific genres of music. The music that we like is also a reflection of our inner feelings, and our personal history produces those inner feelings.

The bottom line is, if it’s music to your ears, it’s music!

Jun 122018


Composed by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov in 1888, Scheherazade is a symphonic suite based on One Thousand and One Nights, a collection of Middle Eastern folk tales compiled in Arabic during the Islamic Golden Age.
My arrangement, from the third movement of the suite, called, The Young Prince and The Young Princess, is for a Horn Sextet and is available on my Sheet Music Plus Web page.
Feb 252018

Moolight 2

Originally written by James Horner, Barry Mann, and Cynthia Weil, for the 1986 animated feature, An American Tail, Somewhere Out There is a song that conveys the feelings of faraway loved ones and their belief that they will see each other again. In the movie, a young Russian mouse, Fievel Mousekewitz, gets separated from his family during a storm on their voyage to the United States. Arriving in the United States, Fievel searches for his family while his parents give up hope presuming that he is dead. His sister, however, has the feeling that he is still alive. Fortunately, at the end of the film, the young mouse and his family find each other and start their new life together in America.
In the same year the film came out, American singers Linda Ronstadt and James Ingram performed a pop music ballad version of the song for the soundtrack, An American Tail. This version of the song ranked number 2 on the Billboards Top 100 in 1987 and won Song of the Year and Best Song Written Specifically for a Motion Picture or Television at the 30th Grammy Awards. This tune also earned nominations for Best Original Song at the 44th Golden Globe Awards and the 59th Academy Awards.
The arrangement that I have made for this tune if for a Horn Quartet and is available on Sheet Music Plus. Check it out at this link. Somewhere Out There arranged for Horn Quartet.
Jan 182018


Movies and music go together like a complete meal. Even though each part is good on its own, together they create something magical and perfect.

In the beginning, movie technology was still mostly just a dream with the combination of both, a silent film strip with piano accompaniment. Since this silent film era, music has always been a part of any movie ever made.

The term score in the movie world is used to describe the music that makes up the background music in a film. This musical score used in the movie does not include any songs featured in the motion picture. A soundtrack, on the other hand, consists of both background music and the featured songs in the film.

There are some very famous movie scores. These are scores that are so unique that when fans hear only a few notes, they can identify the movie by the score used. Perhaps you may recognize a few.

John Williams is one of the most famous of composers of movie scores. You might not recognize his name, but you will know his music. He wrote the scores for “Star Wars,” “Superman,” “Born on the Fourth of July,” “Harry Potter,” “Jaws,” and “Indiana Jones.”

James Horner is another name that may not be a household word, but whose music you will immediately recognize. Some of the movies that he wrote scores for include “A Beautiful Mind” “Field of Dreams” “Avatar” and “Titanic.”

We all love our movies — and the music scores that accompany them make them even better!

Jan 082018

ancient syria

Professor Anne Draffkorn Kilmer, a professor of Assyriology at the University of California and a curator at the Lowie Museum of Anthropology in Berkeley, California, has developed an interpretation of the oldest written piece of music discovered to date. Written on tablets on dated at about 3,400 years old, the music and words found in the ancient Syrian city of Ugarit in the early 1950’s and is approximately 1,400 years older than what was thought to be the oldest written music at the time.

Professor Kilmer developed an interpretation of the song based on her study of the notation. She wrote a book (“Sounds from Silence”) about her work. Amazingly, the oldest written music is based on the diatonic major scale. Professor Kilmer is quoted as having said, “We are able to match the number of syllables in the text of the song with the number of notes indicated by the musical notations.” Harmonies, rather than a melody comprised of single notes, are the result. The chances that the number of syllables would match the notation numbers unintentionally are astronomical.

The idea that music was written using the seven-note diatonic scale and harmony 3,400 years ago is astounding. That blows up all of the theories and concepts of the evolution of Western music.

The sheet music and sound recordings of the oldest written music ever discovered are both available online and off-line. The music is not bad. It is not awe-inspiring, but it is not bad either.

Those who are genuinely interested in music and the way that music has evolved over the centuries will be curious enough to track down a copy of this music. Music does last forever!

Dec 282017


A person who speaks Chinese and a person who speaks French cannot hold a conversation. Oh, with the use of hand motions, a primary form of communication might be possible; but it could hardly be called conversation. A person who only speaks Spanish cannot have a real conversation with a person who just talks any one of the Vietnamese dialects. All languages are different — all languages except music, that is. Music is the same in every language.

There are seven notes in a musical scale, and it does not matter what country you are standing in or what language you speak. There are still only seven notes in a musical scale. Granted, those seven notes might have different names in different countries; but the music is the same, and if the note is written on a musical staff, every musician plays the very same note.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow said, “Music is the universal language of mankind.” He was right. All humans have the same well of emotions. We can all feel happy or sad — hopeless or hopeful, joyful or depressed, defeated or victorious. Moreover, the same music can evoke the same emotions in people who speak different languages. We all bleed red, and we all feel the same inside. We all understand “music” no matter what language we speak.

I cannot imagine a world without music. Sometimes music merely is background, and sometimes music is the star. However, there is always music, and it is a language that all musicians can read and “speak,” and all the rest of us understand.

Moreover, it is not only humans who understand the language of music. Music therapy has proven effective in plants and animals, too. Furthermore, it has shown that both plants and animals respond in a positive way to the sound of music.

Cover tiny file
look inside
The Red Sarafan for Chamber Orchestra
Composed by Alexander Varlamov (1801-1848). Arranged by Lisa Lenke Sousa. 21st Century, Romantic Period, Classical Period, Folk, European. Score, Set of Parts. 34 pages. Published by Lisa Lenke Sousa (S0.298957).