Trumpet Recital in the Age of COVID

Yesterday evening I drove over to my school–Colorado State–in my suit. I haven’t worn a suit in a long time. It took 45 minutes to pick out the right combination of shirt and tie and my wife’s help to get ready. I had cleaned my B-flat, oiled the valves, packed my iPad, page-turning foot pedal, my bell cover and puppy pads, and I drove over to the nearly-deserted music building.

Media students were putting video cameras into place, our audio engineers were getting the booth ready, but nothing else was going on, because no one can gather together these days. When everyone was ready, I started to play at 7:00. I played for the nearly empty house as naturally as I could. If something didn’t go well, I stopped, called out the next starting place and the “take.” After one hour, we took a thirty-minute-break for air exchange. Then, from 8:30 to 9:00, we recorded again. For 90-minutes of this session, I estimate that I got about 25 minutes of actual music recorded.

Student videographers set up their cameras for my recital recording inside Griffin Hall at CSU

All of the music for this trumpet “recital” is unaccompanied. Choosing unaccompanied pieces for this year was a good decision, because I didn’t have to collaborate with a pianist with a lot of protocols in place. However, unaccompanied music for trumpet is generally demanding, and these pieces are no exception to that. I recorded everything will a bell cover on, which made it impossible to use any mutes that I would normally have been require to use (although I could still do “wah-wah” effects with my hand for Adolphus Hailstork’s Variations for Trumpet).

The editing process for this session begins today. The engineer sent me a link for the entire audio file last night. I have to go through and listen to the whole session again, writing down all of the cues that work with their time stamps. I’ll also listen for any overall audio qualities that might need to be changed (EQ, noise, ambience, etc.) When I’m done, I’ll send that back for the rough first edit. They will also begin to match the video with the audio for last night’s session. In the meantime, I will continue to prepare for the remaining two sessions next week.

The next session will arguably be the most demanding, because I intend to record a new piece for trumpet with computer-generated audio. I hope it won’t take too long to get all of the wires setup and the audio correctly balanced. For that piece, I will have to wear a pair of earphones and operate two foot pedals–one for the page turns of the eight-page score on my tablet and the other for cuing the computer. Despite all of this high-tech, I am looking forward to playing this piece, because it will sound so different from what I normally do.

Overall, I’m actually excited about this series of recording sessions. I get to make music. I get to work with great people. And I will get to release this stream next month as my recital this year.¬†Hopefully things will be back to “normal” next year, but for now….this is the way.

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