william lang



thoughts on trombone playing and such

Making Stuff Part 3 and thoughts on ITF (7/23/17)

So after performing at the International Trombone Festival I would love to take a minute to reflect on my experience, and share a new video I made while recovering in Michigan. Huge thanks and respect to Andrew Glendening for running the festival - everything seemed like it ran super smoothly, and the rides to and from the airport were very much appreciated! I saw some great sets from Felix Del Tredici and Eric Starr - both up and coming experimental trombonists who are really searching for new things to say.

For the downsides, I saw a lot of new music for trombone and piano that quite frankly all sounded the same. Very melodic with a Debussy-esque piano accompanienment. There's a time and place for that music - but hearing 10 pieces with the same exact sound world tends to make it all blur together in the dreaded "nice" category of music.

Also, all the venues were super close together, with the exception of the black box theatre were most of the new music ended up, which was a 10-15 minute walk away from everything else. I don't believe this was the intent at all - but the new music recitals felt a little shunted off. There were a few cool pieces nearer to the center - a show of two huge solo pieces by Jen Baker and Jim Miller comes to mind, as does a playing meditation led by Abbie Conent in the walking labyrinth, but I still wish it was a little more mixed up.

I was very happy with my set for once! I had ample time with most of the pieces I premiered - including works by Paul Clift, Reiko Fueting, Jeremy Howard Beck, and Anthony Vine. Anthony actually came up from San Diego to workshop his piece for trombone and five foot-controlled cassette decks (!!!) and it went beautifully. Also turned out it was his birthday! So a good day all around.

Recovering the week after in Michigan I took advantage of the farm land I was staying on and seridipitously recorded Debussy's Syrinx in an abandoned silo! The acoustics were lovely, and there was a hole in the wall just big enough to put my cell phone and make a quick video. I just played it from memory, and got in and out quickly - cause I wasn't quite sure how the silo would hold up! Anyways, I'm not too upset with how it turned out - if you want give it a listen. :)

William Lang plays Debussy's Syrinx

Making Stuff Part 2 (6/12/17)

So I had a really great afternoon last week - managed to write, record, and edit a new work for 11 trombones titled obscure (b). I simply used the recording device on my cell phone and audacity to pull everything together. I like the sound world - it's inspired by recent divings into rough textures - I would compare it to a Richard Serra sculpture conceptually if I had to make a reference.

If you listen I hope you like it, and if you have any questions please let me know!

obscura (b)


Making Stuff (6/2/17)

I've been contemplating what being a musician in the 21st centuary means lately, and what we're "allowed" to do. I mean as a trombonist, I'm supposed to fill a certain role depending on my training. I studied orchestral music, then contemporary music in my degrees. I am supposed to play with orchestras, operas, brass quintets, and the occasional Broadway shows.

I am not supposed to play concertos unless I have a big orchestral job - and even then it should be rare. I am not supposed to play recitals, because who wants to hear a trombone recital outside of school? I am not supposed to compose - there's a different degree for that. I am not expected to improvise - my training has been too rigid and uptight for such ideas. 

But the truth is I'm a musician - and I play solos, I perform with orchestras, I improvise, and I compose. Doing all this doesn't mean that I'm fully accepted as such - but we get to decide who we are. Acceptance sometimes comes much later.

To this end, lately I've found myself in a creative place. As a concert musicians I'm proud to announce works that have come in from such wonderful composers as Jason Eckhart, Paul Clift, Heather Stebbins, Jeremy Howard Beck, Reiko Fueting, Anthony Vine, and the incomparable Eve Bulgarian. Several of these pieces will be presented at ITF 2017 at the University of the Redlands, alongside classics from Timothy McCormack and Iannis Xenakis.

My first improv album, Grinding, Tearing, Gnashing, Rending is now for sale on Bandcamp.

I have also had a premiere of a new work, "on drifting" by my ensemble loadbang, with video uploaded to youtube.

I have also written and recorded a version of a new work for solo Euphonium, obscure, which you can listen to on soundcloud.

Thanks for reading - and remember we can all do what we want to.


On Buzzing (5/19/17)

I believe buzzing can be a helpful tool for a specific playing style, and also as a diagnostic tool for learning to control the instrument and one's own airflow.

Buzzing vs. Style.

To speak to the first issue, that of style. I believe that buzzing encourages a very set and down the middle of the horn embouchure and air flow, and that style of playing a note (right down the middle, very well slotted and true to the partial) is of the greatest use in orchestral playing and audition taking. As most orchestra parts and playing is "steak and potatoes" playing, that is to say your job is to sound like a great trombone and then get out of the way, playing every note with the same timbre and consistency is a needed skill set. Buzzing each excerpt or part of the orchestral work you're playing can increase consistency and encourage a very set and safe approach to the job.

To my own ears, while buzzing does help excerpts and orchestral parts solidify, it can lead to a boring and risk-averse style of playing. To play interesting solos or long phrased lines I believe that one should have more flexibility in the embouchure and airstream. As I dive further into a solo and chamber career I strive to open up my sense of timbre and flexibility of overtones. I find myself using more "untraditional" airstreams and vibratos, and when I come back to buzzing I realize that I personally lose a bit of the excitement of live music making.

Buzzing as a diagnostic tool.

I believe that for developing trombonists learning to create a clear and centered buzz on the mouthpiece alone can be a valuable lesson. The ability to create a clear and immediate tone is one of the weaknesses I see around the country at many schools I visit. Learning to immediately center a buzz on pitch can be a great tool to overcome this. I also find that there are issues with holding notes absolutely steady in a lot of players. Learning to stabilize a buzz on the mouthpiece can increase a player's ability to hold a clear and beautiful tone with efficiency. 

I am also a big believer in creating a large steady and consistent tone in the orchestral tradition before moving on to expressive ideas. To me buzzing is a tool to create this ur-sound, and once achieved, I think that buzzing can be left behind in the search of more expressive and creative approaches to sound, while still leaving behind a rock solid technique for the many jobs that require that (and that is 95% of all trombone jobs!)