Strategies for using tuba in live solo computer music

I had the idea of live sampling my tuba for an upcoming gig. I’ve had this idea before but never used due to two major factors. The first is the difficulty of controlling a computer and a tuba at the same time. One obvious solution is foot pedals, which I’ve yet to explore and the other idea is a one-handed, freely moving controller such as the wiimote.
The other major issue with doing tuba live-sampling is sound quality. Most dynamic mics (including the SM57, which is the mic I own) make a tuba sound like either bass kazoo or a disturbingly flatulent sound. I did some tests with the zoom H4 positioned inside the bell and it appeared to sound ok, so I was going to do my gig this way and started working on my chops.
Unfortunately, the sound quality turns out not to be consistent. The mic is prone to distortion even when it seems not to be peaking. Low frequencies are especially like to contain distortion or a rattle which seems to be caused by the mic itself vibrating from the tuba.
There are a few possible work arounds. One is to embrace the distortion as an aesthetic choice and possible emphasise it through the use of further distortion fx such as clipping, dropping the bit rate or ring modulation. I did a trial of ring modulating a recorded buffer with another part of the same buffer. This was not successful as it created a sound lurking around the uncanny valley of bad brass sounds, however a more regular waveform may work better.
At the SuperCollider symposium at Wesleyan, I saw a tubist (I seem to recall it was Sam Pluta, but I could be mistaken) deliberately sampling tuba-based rattle. The performer put a cardboard box over the bell of the tuba. Attached to the box was a piezo buzzer in a plastic encasing. The composer put a ball bearing inside the plastic enclosure and attached it to the cardboard box. The vibration of the tuba shook the box which rattled the bearing. The piezo element recorded the bearing’s rattle, which roughly followed the amplitude of the tuba, along with other factors. I thought this was a very interesting way to record a sound caused by the tuba rather than the tuba itself.
Similarly, one could use the tuba signal for feature extraction, recognising that errors in miccing the tuba will be correlated with errors in the feature extraction. Two obvious thing to attempt to extract are pitch and amplitude, the latter being somewhat more error-resistant. I’ve described before an algorithm for time-domain frequency detection for tuba. As this method relies on RMS, it also calculates amplitude. Other interesting features may be findable via FFT-based analysis such as onset detection or spectral centroid, etc using the MLCD UGens. These features could be used to control the playing of pre-prepared sounds or live software synthesis. I have not yet experimented with this method.
Of course, a very obvious solution is to buy a better microphone. It may also be that the poor sound quality stemmed from my speakers, which are a bit small for low frequencies. The advantage of exploring other approaches include cost (although a tuba is not usually cheap either) and that cheaper solutions are often more durable or at least I’d be more willing to take cheaper gear to bar gigs (see previous note about tuba cost). As I have an interest in playing in bars and making my music accessible through ‘gigability,’ a bar-ready solution is most appealing.
Finally, the last obvious solution is to not interact with the tuba’s sounds at all, thus creating a piece for tuba and tape. This has less that can go wrong, but it looses quit a lot of spontaneity and requires a great deal of advance preparation. A related possibility is that the tubist control real-time processes via the wiimote or other controller. This would also require a great deal of advanced preparation – making the wiimote into it’s own instrument requires the performer to learn to play it and the tuba at the same time, which is rather a lot to ask, especially for an avant guarde tubist who is already dealing with more performance parameters (such as voice, etc) than a typical tubist. This approach also abandons the dream of a computer-extended tuba and loses whatever possibilities for integration exist with more interactive methods. However, a controller that can somehow be integrated into the act of tuba playing may work quite well. This could include sensors mounted directly on the horn such that, for example, squeezing something in a convenient location, extra buttons near valves, etc.
I’m bummed that I won’t be playing tuba on thursday, but I will have something that’s 20 minutes long and involves tuba by September

Great moments in tuba performance

During the third part, a piece broke off of my tuba. I managed to reattach it before the 4th part, but when I started playing again, I was about a quarter step out of tune. During the rehearsal, the composer – not a student but a visiting artist, known and respected in California – had worked with me on the tuning, specifically because he didn’t want the fourth part to be out of tune. I tried lipping it up, but my god I was flat. Maybe I was on the wrong note? Maybe I was lost? The ensemble was getting thinner and thinner as the pitch of the piece dropped until it was me, the piano and the basses. I got flustered. My heart raced. I was sitting on stage in front of all of the composers and a good portion of the sonologists. Take deep breaths. My god, I’m having a panic attack on stage and I can;t play my part. Normally, I like playing because I specifically don’t get tweaky, but this is a panic attack in front of everybody while holding a tuba which is being held together by soggy gaffing tape. I stopped playing until the final section. The composer did not smile at me after the piece. I came home and drank.

I’m on a waiting list to see a shrink. Anxiety is treatable. Not with meds, but with talk therapy. Six to eight weeks and it’s gone. this is considerably longer than I’ve been waiting. If they keep me waiting long enough, I can start all over again when I move in the fall.
I can’t decide if the way to deal with tuba problems and stage fright is to take the tuba out busking this weekend or to throw the goddamned thing into a canal;

Day of Homeland Resistance

so after staying up too late last night wasting my time and money and hours of my life, which I will never have back by watching something on a par with Bulletproof Monk, I got up early this morning to go to a protest outside of San Francisco City Hall. I showed up 15 minutes late and there was no one there. the date on my watch is mis-set, so I became convinced I had the wrong day. I started to leave when someone approached me and asked me where the protest was. so we went looking for it and found some other members of the band. We played one song and the sherrifs said that we had to stop since the protest did not have a permit to be near city hall yet. So we marched and played over to where the rest of the protesters were (by the bart station) and then listened to some stock speeches covering all leftist issues in one breath. We need jstice, housing, healthcare, peace equality, and end to evil and more good. Yes.
then we marched back to city hall, but the band did not play, because the protesters wanted to chant. then we listened to more speaches for good and against evil. then we did not play because the protesters wanted to chant. Then everyone was assembling into a freedom for Palestine march to the Isreal consulate. It was a funeral procession. so we figured out some funeral songs to play. But the protesters started chanting again and I decided that I didn’t want to carry a tuba over to a consulate and not play it. And i don’t know as much as I should about the Isreal/Palestine conflict as I should anyway. I bought a Chomsky book on it, but haven’t read it yet. so I took bart over to Christi’s office
I have recordings of all the speeches and one of the two songs that we played. I also have recordings of comments people made to me about the tuba on bart. the best/wort one, “wow, that’s kind of sexual.” thank you. goodbye.

busy busy busy

Today I did not play music. I worked in the Other Minds office, counting all their inventory, then filing and typing in surveys. grunt grunt. My arms and shoulders are sore, but this morning, they weren’t as bad as I thought they would be. After moving boxed of books and CDs off of shelves today, to count them, though, they have become sore. I am going to be so buff!
After werk, we went to look at the Chapel of the Chimes, but it closes at 5:00. So we went to get a copy of the Oakland Tribune. My picture is on the front page, below the fold! If you look very carefully, you can make out the tuba bell and then a silouette of someone playing it. That’s me! about 1/3 of a centimeter high! I’m going to scan it for your benefit, but actually, Christi has to scan it since she has the only copy of photoshop (since the old imac went away yesterday) and Tiffany is asleep in the room with the scanner, so it will have to wait.
Christi was very excited, despite the smallness and showed everyone in Gaylords the picture.
Then we went to micheals to get material to make Tennis Roberts sweatshirts. The raw materials were somewhat more expensive than anticipated, but that’s the price one must pay fo X-treme craftiness. We got white sweatshirts and pink and blue dye for them and puffy paint and glitter paint and ink jet sheets to print patterns on. the good old days of buying iron-on patches of everything are gone. These days Martha Stweard wannabes print their own.
My days are frivolous, but long. I think it’s good running around all the time right before grad school. I’ll get in the habit of it. And my chops will be great. I will be a super player of the bass guitar (with fretless skills, I think I could play a double bass also, if I had some time to figure it out) and of tuba. All my basses will be covered.
I think I want to get sousaphone player buisiness cards made. So when cute actavists tell me they thought the tuba playing was great, I can whip out my card. It should say:
Celeste Hutchins
Sousaphone Player
Protests * Concerts * Parades * Parties
And then an email address or phone number or something. Maybe not. Mostly, I want to be invited to play sousaphone at parties. Just in case.

Sousaphone Protesting

I meant to post first about Tennis Roberts and then talk about the protest that I went to today, but I ended up digressing so much into tuning that I feared Tiffany would just stop reading the post, since she has no patience for rambling about tuning. So I’ve broken it into two posts.
Christi’s uncle came over today to pick up our old imac. Late last night, I reofrmatted the purple imac’s hard drive and put OS9 on it and a few applications. It’s really much happier as an os9 machine. It runs fast and has a ton of hard drive space. But there’s something very sad about about reformatting a computer and not restoring it. It’s soul is gone. even if azll your data is moved over and you finally figured out how to move your bookmarks, it’s still… No two computers are exactly the same. They all have bit rot. But they all have it in different ways. I should light a candle or something for the repose of the soul of the purple imac.
Um, anyway, Christi’s uncle came over and we chatted for a while and then got lunch and then Christi started showing him how to use word. Christi’s uncle, Forrest, works in a dump. He drives the forklift around. Maybe he runs the whole place. Apparently he sees imacs at the dump all the time, but he didn’t know what they were until now. He just fished a plasma cutter out and now has a very nice welding rig. He says that he’s seen every item in our house at the dump. He didn’t know people were like that. What are they thinking about, throwing away their imacs?? Anyway, Christi asked him to fish them out. We could do some cool super-array of imacs runnign supercollider or something. It would be awesome.
So I left them to go play at the Okalnd docks protest. Last month, protesters formed a picket line across the entrance to the docks for APL, a military contracter that ships war materials around. The Oakland police shot at the protesters with “non-leathal” weapons and ended up also hitting some longshoremen and others. This was roundly condemned. I was in Seattle for the first one and missed it (which is ok, since I don’t really want to be shot at). But the BLO was playing this time, so I lugged my sousaphone on to BART. My poor horn is covered with duct tape, which is sealing off several leaks. Many people felt obligated to make duct tape jokes about it. Yes, it is ready for biochemical attack. I just used the tape cuz I like John Ridge. Anyway.
A large croud of people was assembled outside of the West Oakland Bart at 5:00. At the same time, a group of people was protesting outside of the APL building in Seattle. Cool cross-costal actavism. People were handing out flyers and maps and stuff. Other folks were addressing the croud about non-violence and strategy and various important annoucements, whcih I ignored in favor of adding duct tape to the horn. You can’t have too much duct tape.
some body gave a me a free newspaper that had in the mast head linked female signs with fists in them an a hammer and sickle. I was very excited to get the radical, communist, anarchist lesbian newspaper, but I can’t find the queer content in it. Anyway, One of the organizers, named Gopal, decided that the band should lead off the march to the docks. I was darn hot and it’s a long way to the end of the docks. I had to stop and pant several time during songs, none of which I had ever played before. The sax player who was being drum major would give me a quick run-down of the notes in the bass line, which I would promptly forget. But I was getting the hang of it the more we marched. and it was very nice to get a break at the last dock. I laid on the ground next to my horn and was then surrounded by press taking my picture. I guess exhausted sousaphone pkayers are picture-esque. Also, the horn is quite a bit bigger than me. I can see the captions now, “tiny sousaphone player can’t actually play horn.” Anyway, I might be in the Oakland Tribune tomorrow and the Daily Cal.
The rest of the band was coming in a 6:30 shift and was marching up from the bart station, so we decided to march back to gate 3 and meet up with them. The BLO is cool, because it has a strong emphasis on improvisation. We’ll play the head of the song and them maybe a verse or something and then the drum major will point at somebody and they’ll solo over the chord changes of the head. This goes on for a long time. Some of the folks a great solosists. Then we’ll play the bridge section, then maybe the head again and then maybe end the song. Some times we’ll sing the words instead of playing. So we played several songs on the way back to the gate and then played a bunch of songs there. We had just finished playing a very upbeat rendidtion of “We Shall Overcome,” when Gopal announced that we had oversome and had sucessfully stopped work at the docks for the shift.
So we all marched very triumphantly back to the BART station. It was a huge, jubulant crowd. when you see pictures in the news papers of giant crowds of leftist europeans carrying signs and celebrating because they won some thing. It was like that. We played and sang “Le Internationale,” but I only know the Billy Brag words and so couldn’t sing along. During the entire evening, the cops just sat and watched. Some of them bobbed their head a long with the music. They were completely hands-off. A definite improvement.
During the triumphant march back, my back was having no more of it. I had already been playing and carrying the horn non-stop for more than three hours. It’s a heavy horn. So I staggered back to the BART station, without playing anything. I felt vaguely guilty, but it hurt more than I wanted to deal with. Pain while playing music is not a good thing.
It doesn’t make you better, it just makes you hurt. Anyway, I’m sure I’ll have a reputatiuon for being the whiny new tuba player or something. I’m very embarassed that I couldn’t keep it up the whole time. I ought to be able to handle my horn. I expect that taking the sousaphone back up will get me back into shape though. And I expect that my shoulder is going to be screwed up for several days. All the weight goes on the left shoulder, high up, on the neck paert, right where I gave myself a nastly sunburn on saturday. But it wasn’t bad until the bitter end.
We got back to the bart station and I laid on the ground again. I think more news types may have taken my picture, but I’m not sure. After a while, my shoulder no longer felt like it was on fire and played a couple more songs with the band. Then I staggered towards the BART platform while they were still playing.
So we won! It was awesome! (“awesome” is the word of the day.) And very high energy the whole time. I couldn’t beleive it when I realized it was past 9:00 and I had been marching around for almost 4.5 hours. It’s also great because I don’t like going to things by myself and can’t always find anyone to protest with me. I can’t wait until next time. Maybe I’ll do some pushups between now and then to build some strength.

Bathtubs for tubas

So I spent yesterday trying to get my new sousaphone into working order. It’s not actually new. It’s very very used. It came in a refrigerator box filled with packing peanuts, shredded paper and trash. I emptied out the box looking for the gooseneck. Whoever oppened the box openned it from the bottom, so at the very bottom of the pile, I found a note explaining that the gooseneck was “mislaid.” But it was all worth while, because Tiffany discovered a tuba mouthpiece amid the rubble, which included dirty, used foam, house insulation, bottle caps, used matches, etc all smelling like ashtray. Very odd packing maeterial, but the shipping was hella cheap.
I took the horn outside and started hosing it out. Inside were spiderwebs and spare packing peanuts. Every solder joint leaked water, but that’s ok. If they have bad air leaks, I can either try to resolder them or just duct tape it. Eventually, the odor of the tuba went from nasty-old-tuba smell to odorless, so I left it in the sun to dry and maybe disinfect. I mean, would you want to put your mouth on something you had just hosed spider egg sacks out of, unless it spent some time in the sun first?
Of course, before hosing it out, I pulled out all of the valves. They’re piston valves and they seem to be made out of brass, which is kind of unusual. I wanted to clean them, but I don’t own any brasso, and I didn’t really want to buy any, so I hit the ecology center website looking for some earth-friendly brass cleaning alternative. it suggested katsup. I swear, if some enviro group told me to cure headaches by hitting myself on the head repeatedly, I’d try it. And then, in conversations about headache remedies, I would casually mention it and then add, anecdotally, “but it didn’t work for me.”
So I rubbed katsup on all the vales and then rinsed them several times. Then I hauled the tuba back inside and yanked all the tuning slides out. There’s a trick to this. Loop a dishtowel through the slide and use it to yank it out. You won’t hurt the horn, but if the slide isn’t frozen, it’ll come out. So I pulled the slides out, ran a trombone snake through them a bunch of times and then rubbed the shiny parts of them with katsup. I think Christi and Tiffany think that I’m insane.
The valves move pretty well and the slides will budge if you pull on them. They’re not perfect, but I don’t feel like I should invest the money to take them to a shop. the main body of the horn is still filty, since I coulsn’t submerge it, I didn’t run a snake through it. I’d need a jacuzzi tub. I always thought those were silly and useless. They take a kajillion gallons ot fill up and then they get gradually cold and you have to drain the whole thing and start over next time. I mean, why not just get a hottub? But you can’t wash a tuba in a hottub! Old tuba grease would cause all sort of problems. But you could wash it in jacauzzi tuba! You’d probably want to keep the water jets turned off while doing it. So these giant bathtubs make sense for tuba players. I’m sure that when my parents had one put in, they somehow intuitted that I would one day take up the tuba, and then, in my late twenties, long after I had left home, I would come back to my dear widowed father and ask if I could wash my sousaphone in his bathtub.
As soon as I find a gooseneck, where “find” means “buy,” I can check out how playable the horn is. Hopefully, I can do this tomorrow, since the Brass Liberation Orchestra is playing at a protest outside of Lockheed MArtin in Sunnyvale on Tuesday morning.

Looking for tuba in all the wrong places

londonjack76: hello there
londonjack76: how r u doing???
electrogirls: hi
electrogirls: i’m looking for a sousaphone
electrogirls: do you have one?
londonjack76: what is that ??
londonjack76: please explain
electrogirls: it’s a type of tuba designed for playing while walking or marching
electrogirls: a regular tuba would be ok too, as long as there was a way to walk with it
londonjack76: hehe i am so stoned
londonjack76: and i can barely understant
londonjack76: d
londonjack76: what is a tuba
electrogirls: a tuba is a musical instrument.
electrogirls: it’s very low and usually made out of brass (but someties also plastic)
electrogirls: it sounds like “oompa oompa”
londonjack76: ahh wow i was so confused
londonjack76: i thought is was some sex tool
londonjack76: hehehe
electrogirls: there’s like 3 or 4 feet tall and weigh 60 lbs. you’d need a big bed to have sex with a tuba involved
electrogirls: they’re wide too
londonjack76: escellent
londonjack76: sexcellent
electrogirls: i guss not that much bigger than a really fat fifth grader
londonjack76: tahts good
londonjack76: so sorry no i dont have one
londonjack76: heheh are were you expecting me to have one of those??
electrogirls: maybe you have a friend with one?
londonjack76: comeon now
londonjack76: hehe i dont think so
electrogirls: i’m looking for a cheap one to play during anti-war riots
electrogirls: i don’t want to take my good one out in the street in case it gets clubbed by a cop or hit with a tear gas canister
londonjack76: yeah i agree with you
londonjack76: nopes i dont sorry
electrogirls: it would totally suck if a tear gas canister went in the bell (the bell is then end that sound comes out of, about 4 feet in diameter)
londonjack76: so your going to the riot??
electrogirls: you’d probably never be able to play it again without accidentally gassing people
electrogirls: well, i try to avoid riots
electrogirls: they’re dangerous
londonjack76: i know
londonjack76: are a cute women ??
londonjack76: if you are dont go
electrogirls: but sometimes you can be marching down the street, minding your own vuisiness with a few hundred other people, just blocking traffic and playing tunes
electrogirls: and then suddenly cops with tear gas and clubs are after you
londonjack76: hehe guys will be all after you ( drunk guys )
londonjack76: heheh
electrogirls: the women being arrested in san francisco on thursday were really really vute
electrogirls: cute
electrogirls: after guys started seeing them being arrested, tey went out to be arrested too
londonjack76: heheh i wouldlove to be arrested with a cute women
londonjack76: why dont we get arrested together
londonjack76: 🙂
electrogirls: anti-war protesters are hela cute
electrogirls: hella
electrogirls: (hella means “very”)
electrogirls: well, getting arrested would be fun, but a i need a cheap sousaphone first
londonjack76: ahh
londonjack76: hehe you and the sousaphone
londonjack76: hehe
electrogirls: a sousaphone is a tuba kind of shaped like a hula-hoop
electrogirls: you see them in marching bands
londonjack76: yeah i get it
londonjack76: now i know

Monday

I woke up with Owen lying next to me. Matthew, Jenny and Owen stayed over with us rather than driving back to Mnt View late at night and Christi hijacked OAT to try to wake me up in the morning. It worked. All of us, including Tiffany and Christi’s mom went for breakfast at Tomate cafe, which has improved a lot recently. Then we returned and I complained that my relationship to Owen was way too complicated to explain, so Jenny said that Christi, her mom and I could all be godmothers.
Everyone went back to their homestates or work or whatever, and I called up Best Music about my tuba and they told me to go to Best Repair. When I lived in Cupertino, I got all my tuba work done by a guy named Sousa (what elese could you do with that name?) in San Jose. So I was wondering about Best Repair, since I was unfamiliar with them. When I purchased my tuba, the old owner told me that BOBO (the world’s greatest tuba player, who is with the La Philharmonic) had seen it in a shop after the 5th valve was added and tried to buy the horn, but the owner refused to sell, lending it to him for a couple of seasons instead. This story took place, I figured in LA, but the shop was called “Best” something-or-other. Anyway, I walked in with my horn and put it on the counter and the guy looks for about 5 seconds as I point at the worn cork on the valves and says, “I did all this valve work.” He went on to explain that he added the fifth valve. I asked him about the story with Bobo and he said that he knows Bobo, but the story was wrong. He also told me that he didn’t add the spring-loaded tuning thingee, so maybe that’s where Bobo saw it, or maybe the whole Bobo-connection is a myth. Anyway, I feel very good about having that guy work on my horn, since he’s already worked on it extensively and done a great job. I’ve left in good hands.
Then I came back home and got the mail, where there was a thin letter from Wesleyan. I feared the worst, but since I got into Cal Arts, I could go someplace if I wanted, and I’m not sure if I want to, cuz it’s a lot of money and who knows how valuable an M.A. in composition is anyway? Christi told me years ago that the average salry of a music graduate declines as their education increases. I’d do better financially if I just have a B.A. and not a M. A. and if I went back to high tech and anyway. Wesleyan’s short letter explained that they are happy to offer me admission,a full ride and a stipend. I started jumping up and down and jumped on christi and then ran over to my neighbor’s house where I jumped up and down and frightened her dog. Then I jumped up and down some more.
Then we took the framed fine-art scores to Christi’s office, cuz I always worry about things getting harmed when I have them and they’re not mine. when we got back, Christi told me that she had a long conversation with Lyn Liston of the American Music Center with at the Other Minds festival. Christi and I met Lyn at the Composing A Career confrence last spring. The AMC is holding three carrer building workshop thingees coming up soon. I think I posted the info to the call for scores blog, linked to in the left margin. Anyway, Christi and I will be unable to attend the SF one, because we have to play in Seattle right afterwards, but there’s one in Seattle the next weekend that we were going to go to. Lyn told Christi that the AMC has been advertising our “Meet the Composer” thingee in Seattle as an adjunct to their confrence. Obviously, they would comp us in to the festival since we’re featured, etc.
Blinking extensively at that news, I stumbled over to a computer where I had email from my dad telling me that he purchased me a whole case of Girl Scout Thin Mints.
I don’t think I’ve ever had a day quite like yesterday before. Certainly better than any day I had last year. It was just one good thing after another. My my fairy godmother’s sabatical just ended or something. I still have deadlines creeping up though, and yesterday was not a good day for working on stuff. I’m still blown away.

Tired

I was telling Nancy on Saturday that I was super tired from partying the last two nights and I would probably be partying that night too and so stay exhausted and she asked if I was whining or bragging. Good question. But I’m too tired now to update my blog except to say that I unscrewed the back of my tuba valves today at band practice (being very tired is as good as being drunk and anyway, if I combined the two, I might drop the tuba on the cement and harm it.) and the middle finger, ring finger and pinky valves all had green corosion in them. I put sewing machine oil on all of them. Tony Clements, my high school tuba teacher, told me to use sewing machine oil someplace on the surface of the valves, but I can’t remeber where, so I’ve just been putting sewing machine oil around the outside for the last two times I’ve played it. I think the valves are faster, but I’m not sure how to oil them and I’ve heard that using the wrong oil can actually hurt the valves. So I’ve decided to take my tuba to Best Music to get it serviced. It’s like a tuba lube job. I’m hoping that they will take it apart and clean it for me and I can ask questions about all the care and maintance things that I’ve forgotten. for example, I know you can’t get cork soaked, but I can’t remember what the inside of rotary valves have in them, so I don’t know if I could even submerge my tuba in a large bathub or not. You know that you’ve always wanted to sit in jacuzzi with a tuba. When I was a youngun, every couple of months or so, I would completely disassemble my trumpet and put all the pieces (except that piston valves, which have cork in them) and soak it in the bathtub. Then I would run a cleaning snake through all the pipes and clean the non-lacquered tuning thingees with brasso. I’d rinse the valves under the faucet and then I’d dry and oil the whole thing and re-assemble it. I’ve never done this with a tuba. First of all, I don’t have a snake that big. I could have used my parents’ giant bathtub. My high school tuba only got cleaned once a year, by a music shop. I’ve never cleane dmy current horm, as far as I can recall. And then I stored it a long time without planning to or preparing it, and now the valves are somewhat greenish. I only hope that it’s not damaged.
Right now, it seems like a good idea for me to become a professional tuba player and to get a harness for my lap horn so that I can stand up and play it at the same time. I’m also having thoughts of scheduling a lesson with Tony, so he can remind me of everything I’ve forgotten. I know that there’s work for tuba players out there. Yes there is. Maybe I’m just very sleep deprived. Apparently, when I woke up this morning, I angrily ordered Christi to sell the drumset on ebay. I have no memory of this, so my theory is that she dreamed it.
I’m trying to stay up till 10:00. I tried to explain why to Tiffany, but it didn’t make any sense. I’m sure I must have a good reason. Maybe to build endurance for when I’m touring with my tuba or something?

Possible Wesleyan Writing Sample

Evolution, Physics and Usage of the Wagner Tuba

The evolution of the tuba in the nineteenth century begins with the ophicleide. (See fig 1) This instrument, inspired by a keyed bugle, was invented in 1817. (Baines 198) It was an improvement on the Serpent, a brass-type instrument from the end of the eighteenth century. Variants of the ophicleide remain in use today, such as the Russian bassoon. But this instrument is best remembered as an ancestor to the tuba.

Fig 1 ophicleide this picture exists on my website

After the invention of valves, brass was changed forever. Keyed instruments have weaker sounds when they keys are opened, but a valved instrument is strong on every note. After the invention and improvement in valves, the ophicleide was modified into the Bombardon (see fig2). As you can see from the picture, it still retains the ophicleide shape. Unlike the ophicleide, keyed in B flat, the majority of bombardons “are in tuba pitch F” and are “up to 145 cm. tall with valve bore reaching 18 mm.” (250) The instrument as a whole is very close in profile and shape to its predecessor.
Fig 2 a bombardon this picture exists on my website

While the bombardons were still a relatively new invention, Moritz and Wieprecht produced the first tuba. This horn was also keyed in F, and had an unusual valve arrangement. (250) Most modern tubas follow the trumpet, where the first valve lowers by a whole step, the second a half step, and the third is equal to first two added together. On the first tuba, “the 1st and 2nd valves, for the left hand, lowered by a tone and a semi tone. The three for the right hand provided: a large tone, to make an exact two tones with the 1st valve; large semitone, to make an exact tone and a half with the 1st valve; and a perfect fourth.” (250) Although some argue that this is a more useful valve arrangement, it soon was replaced with the one we are more familiar with.

The tuba, thus introduced, continues to evolve to this day. But in the nineteenth century, several people tried modifications to the tuba, with varying degrees of success, which no longer survive in regular uses. One of these people was Adolphe Sax. Sax did not primarily work on the tuba. His plan was to integrate the wildly divergent band instruments of the time into a single family of Saxhorns. These tuba-influenced instruments are narrower in bore than generally found on modern tuba. As his ideas were more of unification than modification, especially among the tenor and tuba size instruments, his changes did not significantly alter the sound or structure of the bass instrument. However, all of his changes were soon incorporated by other instrument makers into their own horns, so whatever improvements he made remain with us today, even if by a different name. (253)

Despite all this comparison between the bore of a particular horn and the “modern tuba,” there was and still is a lot of variance in layout, size and bore. Two tubas in the same key with widely differing bores would be called by the same name but have a great difference between them in timbre. With this in mind, the various re-namings and deviants of tuba seem to be of less importance. They are all variations on a theme with pretty much the same sound. Yet one mutant tuba does stand out, the Wagner tuba.

The Wagner Tuba stands out not in its legacy to modern instruments, but in the wild divergence it possessed. The Wagner tuba has several construction differences which greatly later its tone. The most immediately striking thing about the Wagner tuba is the almost complete absence of a flared bell. In fact, the instrument is completely conical, including the valves. How does this change the sound? “The [sound] waves passing down a cone without a bell have their curvature suddenly changed at the open end.” (Richardson 77) This makes the Wagner tuba less efficient at transmitting sound. It also affects the timbre. “If you give a tube a large flare you reduce the intensity of the upper partials in the note and render it more mellow.” (78) The Wagner tuba would then have a brighter sound than either the French horn or a more standard tuba.

The next major difference between a Wagner and a standard tuba is method of sound production. “They are intended to be played by French horn players using their own mouthpieces.� (Morley-Pegge) This certainly affects the tone of the instrument in a way different from other tuba-variants. “On mouthpieces of the horn type there is no flange and therefore nothing definite to form an edge-tone, hence the player is deprived of its help, with the result of a soft tone” (Richardson p 72) Therefore, we have simultaneously a bright sounding instrument with a soft tone.

While the shape of the mouthpiece is important, it is not as important as the dimensions. “The cup volume and the diameter of the constricted passage [of the mouthpiece] have significant effect upon the performance of a given mouthpiece, with the shape being a much less important variable.” (Fletcher and Rossig 369-370) The depth of the French horn mouthpiece is 44 mm (Richardson 74). The higher Wagner tuba is in approximately the same range as the horn, so this is not striking. However, the lower Wagner tuba is in the same range as a tenor trombone, which has a cup depth of 64 mm (74). The varied cup volume and constriction of the French horn mouthpiece would also give a French horn sort of sound to the instrument.

It is important not to underestimate the mouthpiece in sound generation and tone. Figure 8a shows the input impedance for a particular tube. Figure 8b shows the impedance for a particular mouthpiece. The impedance of the horn resultant when they are joined together and in figure 8c. As one can see, the mouthpiece has a profound affect on the impedance of the horn and the sound of the horn in general. The impedance, as modified by the mouthpiece, is also closely linked with the flare of the bell. (Fletcher and Rossig 372) The total sound of the Wagner tuba, therefore, will be unlike anything else in the orchestra, not like a tuba, and not like a French horn, but similar to both.

Despite these very unique characteristics, the Wagner tuba is really a hybrid between the saxhorn or tuba and the French horn. Aside from sharing mouthpieces and players with the French horn section, “in bore they are midway between the horn and the saxhorn.” (Morley-Pegge) What lead Wagner to invent a hybrid instrument? In fact, “Wagner had already begun to compose Rheingold before he included the tubas.” (Baines 263) So initially, at least, he did not even have them in mind. But in October of 1853, Wagner visited Sax. “(September 1865) A letter from the composer to King Ludwig refers to the ‘extra instruments’ which he had been scoring for in The Ring and which he had become acquainted with . . . in Paris ‘at the maker Sax, whose, invention they were.'” (64) So at least by that time, Wagner had not thought of any innovations. Necessity, however, prompted him, as he was unable to find “those ‘Sax’schen Instumente’ or even possible substitutes for them in the military bands in Munich, or in Vienna either.” (264) As he had already begun to compose for the Saxhorns at this point, he was faced with a dilemma.
When he finally had the instruments built, he used them as a quartet, with two Bb instruments and two F. When they are used in The Ring, “they are played by the second quartet of horns, horns 5 and 7 playing the B flat instruments, and 6 and 8 those in F� (Morley-Pegge) Unsurprisingly, given Wagner’s history of building his own opera house specifically for one opera, he only uses the mutant tubas in The Ring and nowhere else in his work.
Bruckner and Strauss both made some use of the Wagner tuba. Bruckner uses them in the adagio movement of his seventh symphony and also in his ninth. Strauss made use of the horns, but later revised them out. “The Tenor Tuba in Don Quixote was evidently first to have been a Wagner tuba: Strauss tells in Instrumentationslehre how several times he has written for a B flat tenor horn, and had found that as a melody instrument the ordinary Bariton (euphonium) was preferable to the ‘harsh, awkward Wagner-tubas with their demoniac [sic] sound'”(Baines 265)
Despite Strauss’ criticism, it was Bruckner’s seventh symphony that became his first commercial success, which must be attributed, at least in part, to the role of the tubas.
Wagner failed to create a consistent transposition for his instruments. “In all the parts . . . of Rheingold, they sound . . . respectively a tone and a fifth lower than written.” Yet, “In the other scores they appear in E flat and B flat, sounding a sixth and a ninth lower.” (264) He apparently though the second version would be easier for the conductor. But in yet another “exception is in the Prelude to Gotterdammerung, where they are written in B flat and F in brass-band style . . . and sound a ninth and a twelfth lower.” (264) This lack of consistency may indicate a lack of certainty on Wagner’s part about the best way to notate his new instrument.
In Das Rheingold, Wagner uses D flat major for the tonality around Valhalla, as it is suggested “as the most obvious contrasting tonality for the framing scenes . . . before Valhalla . . .” (Bailey 54) Thus, the Valhalla theme is in D flat.

Wagner scores this for his tuba quartet. This theme, as is this key are paralleled in Gotterdammerung and the tubas are again used. As Bailey sates, Wagner uses many such parallels between the two, “The appearance of D flat, then, at the beginning and end of the main action of Das Rheingold serves to define the dramatic structure of the work, but at the same time Wagner reinforced the structural parallel of this opera with Gotterdammerung by concluding that opera in D flat also. The parallel uses of D flat are reinforced by the association of the Valhalla music with that tonality-music which is scored for the special sound of the so-called ‘Wagner Tubas’ in both operas. ” (54) In fact, the first time the tubas get the melody in Das Rheingold (in the beginning of the second scene) it is a variant of the Valhalla theme in D flat major.
Bruckner makes more diverse use of the Wagner tubas in his seventh symphony, which, as stated above, undoubtedly lead to its commercial success. The second movement opens with a Wagner tuba quartet. Their part is marked hervortretend, which means �from the heart�. Bruckner uses the Wagnerian tubas in this way, primarily to carry emotion, and especially sorrow.

Bruckner dedicated that movement to Wagner because he died while Bruckner was writing it. The use of “the Master’s” weird little tubas is undoubtedly done in tribute to him. The use of sorrow in the tuba parts is then a reflection of Bruckner’s sorrow over Wagner’s death.
When he makes use of the tubas, it is in the low register and often with only minimal support from the orchestra. Their solis introduce both the first and the second theme of the movement. His tubas are scored richly and tragically.
Aside from its use by the composers mentioned above, the Wagner tuba has undergone a bit of a renaissance and is currently being used for film and television scores. Most of the other historic brass mentioned above is still here and there also. Nothing in music ever gets obsolete.

This paper sucks. Also, I no longer posses any graphs of mouthpiece impedance. How do I write around figure 8? And the bibliography is toast! arg