Met musician, sworn to silence, tells how opera colours instrumental sound

The musicians of the Metropolitan Orchestra have agreed to observe radio and social media silence while their negotiators are hammering out a deal with a retreating Peter Gelb.

The self-restraint, admirable as it is, does not mean musicians can’t talk about their craft. Principal trombone Demian Austin reminisces in this fascinating video portrait how all of his instrumental teachers were conditioned by vocal sound.

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  • The study of brass playing as related to song was a central element of the teaching of Arnold Jacobs already by the 1950s. He was the tubist of the Chicago Symphony and one of the foremost brass pedagogues of the 20th century. Demian Austin’s comments are a reflection of how influential Jacob’s ideas are. There is a book about Jacob’s work by Brian Frederiksen entitled “Song and Wind.” See:

    http://www.amazon.com/Arnold-Jacobs-Song-Brian-Frederiksen/dp/0965248909

    Here is an excerpt from the book:

    “My approach to music is expressed as Song and Wind. This is very important to communicate a musical message to the audience.

    “This approach is one of simplicity as the structure and function of the human being is very complex, but we function in a simple manner. When we bring it to the art form it becomes very simple.

    “Song, to me, involves about 85 percent of the intellectual concentration of playing an instrument, based on what you want the audience to hear.”

    (And of course, the hidden message in the video is to let us know about how hard the Met’s musicians works…)

  • Mr. Lebrecht,
    I appreciated your coverage of the Met Opera Orchestra during its difficult negotiations. And I appreciate your link to my video of the Met’s co-principal trombonist, Demian Austin. It was such an honor working with him and the other members of the orchestra on these videos. Not only are they world-class musicians, they are also talented negotiators, marketers, web designers, writers, photographers and supportive colleagues. Bravo to the Met Orchestra musicians and all their fellow artists and craftspeople at the Met Opera.

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