I greatly enjoy going to gatherings of horn players such as the recent 2009  IHS Symposium in Macomb, hosted by Randall Faust. Besides the pleasures of oogling rooms full of instruments and having to take out a second mortgage because of sheet music purchases, it’s great to reconnect with old friends and to make a lot of new ones, and to tank up on new ideas and inspiration from all the energy and activity there. One of the inspirations I took home from IHS 09 was the exhortation to start a horn blog but none other than archblogger (bloggist?) himself, the indefatigable John Ericson, who has been blogging up a storm since 2006.

Many blogs are tropes on personal opinion, and there will be some of that, but I would like to use the blog as a spotlight to bring attention to interesting thoughts and information on all aspects of the horn – teaching, playing, equipment, and more. I suspect there will be a good bit of ‘fall-out’ from the University of Iowa Horn Studio web site (www.uiowa.edu/~somhorn), which I have had fun building up over the past three years. The Resources section has the most comprehensive set of (annotated) links to information on horn on the web (as far as I know), and as I run across interesting stuff, I may bring some of it here for commentary and to call attention to it. Below is some of that:

Who Plays What?

John advises me to be brief, frequent, and just talk about whatever has my attention at the time. With the help of a lot of people, I have started a list of  orchestral, university, jazz, and other well-known horn players from around the world (although it’s mainly US players) with what horn(s), make and model they play. There is a link to it on the home page of the UI Horn Studio web site; otherwise you can find it at Resources>Links>Instruments>Who Plays What?

It’s interesting to see what current players are using. It’s a very different list from one that might have been made, say, forty years ago. There are still some of the old stand-bys: Conn, Schmidt, Alexander, Paxman, but many names of new custom horn makers. The latter have blossomed during recent decades; many of them make Geyer models. In the Midwest alone we have Hatch, Lewis, DeHaro, Hill, Berg, Medlin, and Sorley – quite amazing! Many professional players and teachers have clearly put their money where their mouthpiece is and are playing these horns. It is somewhat reminiscent of beer microbreweries (is it purely coincidence that both horn playing and beer really got their start in the same place, Bohemia?  ;  >   ). Not so long ago, almost all beer sold in the US was made by a very small number of very large companies. Enter microbrews, and, alleluia and mirabile dictu, the consumer had a much greater choice and vastly broader palette of types and flavors of beer and ale. As we have seen with the banking industry and other industries, bigger is not necessarily better or wiser or healthier. It’s grand now that players have so much choice of so many fine instruments. The competition also keeps the big companies on their toes.

Another thing that the list shows is the widespread popularity of triple horns of various makes and models, as well as descant horns (strictly speaking, a descant is a single high F horn, but in popular usage it means a Bb/high F double).

I’m also happy to see the monolithic sentiment of only one make/model of horn ‘allowed’ in a section is breaking down. People should play what they are most comfortable on. Too many people judge sound with their eyes (there have been a number of blind tests over the years demonstrating this). A given piece of equipment may sound very different depending on who’s playing and their concept of sound.

If anyone has additions or corrections for Who Plays What, or wishes to comment on what they infer from the listings, I’m delighted to have them.