30 Nov 2013

The Secret Life Of The Orchestra: Part One: Brass

From RNZ Music, 4:00 pm on 30 November 2013
Layout of an orchestra

Layout of an orchestra Photo: Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons

The Orchestra is a mysterious beast. Developed over hundreds of years from instruments with diverse origins; assembling massive numbers of musicians playing instruments that require many years of practise to master; capable of changes in sound and colour that range from a whisper to a jet engine...

When it all comes together, the results can be startling, but how does it all work?  And where did it all come from?

In this four-part series Karl Steven explores the longitude and latitude of the four families of orchestral instruments: brass, percussion, woodwind, and strings. Along the way Karl finds out about how they work, their unusual past, and meets some of the players who devote their lives to them.

The Secret Life Of The Orchestra: Brass

Karl Steven explores the secret world of the brass family and talks to some of New Zealand's shiniest brass players - Huw Dan, John Gluyas, and Emma Richards of ACE Brass and the Auckland Philharmonic Orchestra - about their instruments. Delve into the history of trumpets, trombones, horns, and tubas and their kin, explore Tutankhamun's burial chamber, and learn about musical military signals, as well as listening to a truckload of brazen and beautiful brassy music.

Emma Richards plays French Horn and fellow Blackbird Ensemble member Elizabeth Stokes on Trumpet courtesy of Laura Forest
Emma Richards plays French Horn and fellow Blackbird Ensemble member Elizabeth Stokes on Trumpet. Photo  courtesy of Laura Forest

The Secret Life of The Orchestra: Percussion

Karl Steven continues his four-part investigation of the orchestra, this time delving with the experts into the exotic and far flung origins of the percussion family, scouring the world for its origins, investigating the birth of the modern drum kit and learning from experts including Gareth Farr, Chris O'Connor, and Miguel Fuentes about the many, many things that have been hammered, beaten, and whacked in the name of music.

The Orchestra Percussion Chris O Connor by Sacha Stejko
Percussionist Chris O'Connor. Photo by Sacha Stejko.

Secret Life Of The Orchestra: Woodwind

Karl Steven continues his four-part investigation of the orchestra, this time exploring the woodwind family.  From snake charmers to bagpipes, from pan pipes to concert halls, this family has been causing controversy wherever it goes…for over 35,000 years...

The Orchestra Woodwind

Casey Gsell and her bassoon.

Secret Life Of The Orchestra: Strings

Karl Steven concludes his four-part investigation of the parts of the orchestra with the enormous string family, unlocking the mystery of the heart of the orchestra and learning how violinists came to be associated with the devil.  

violin RNZ / Diego