Taste: a dangerous area for the unwary…

My book was never intended to become a philosophical work. Nevertheless, I believed it to be important to establish a common ground regarding objectivity because I was aware that ideas about music and art are often hopelessly subjective.

Here’s a quote from the part of the book dealing with ‘Composition’, where the detailed studies of the preceding chapters are finally brought together.

Individuals often protest ‘I know what I like!’ To what extent is this point of view valid as a form of objective appraisal? If an individual regards anything he produces as being automatically of artistic merit, simply because he created it, then all schools of art and music, together with the whole idea of development and improvement, become redundant. As we develop, our sensibilities become sharper and more discriminating, with the result that we obtain more pleasure from what we like than an individual with a less highly developed awareness. (It is quite common for an arranger, having analyzed and transcribed a piece of music, to find that he has developed a greater appreciation of its appeal.)

Even this belief is a hazardous one to hold. Since the purpose of art is to provide pleasure, then are we necessarily better than our neighbours simply because they require a constant stream of trivial sensations as opposed to our predilection for a more substantial diet, both methods providing a similar amount of pleasure? Philosophers, and oppressive regimes, have striven over the centuries to devise a basis for the appraisal of art based on morally or socially acceptable values. All of these attempts have failed and if we condemn on moral grounds many of our great artists would have their finest work reduced to ashes on the political bonfire.

Of all the musical styles that have emerged over the centuries, the most extraordinary development occurred in the USA at the turn of the last century with the birth of Jazz. Its black-African roots grew in a mixture of European-style harmonies spiced with the more angular, percussive rhythms influenced by Spanish colonialism, played on redundant military band instruments from the Civil War.

Superficially, it was just another example of folk music and eventually became the popular music of its day. But there were important differences. Jazz musicians made no attempt to create something consciously designed to have selective appeal. The musicians were involved purely in self-expression, although they were aware of the factors governing their own successes and those of their ‘competitors’ across the street and so, it might be argued, were commercially-minded, up to a point, at least. Their sometimes extended, improvised solos produced a charged, kinetic form that existed in time and space, virtually without programmatic references, although the music is not abstract. Its melody/harmony relationships can be formalized without too much difficulty.

Another remarkable characteristic was the way musicians pushed progress, firstly by extending the capabilities of their instruments to achieve undreamed of levels of virtuosity and then by using harmonies and orchestral styles that had never been attempted. These innovations broke many of the ‘rules’ and those committing these sins never paused to consider whether or not they were doing anything wrong and wouldn’t have cared anyway! Previously, folk music had been content to be just that. It wasn’t long before ‘serious’ composers began to take notice and incorporate jazz influences into their work, a sure testimony to the artistic validity of the vulgar upstart.

Of course, they weren’t really breaking rules. What music educators referred to as ‘rules’ comprised a catalogue of the habits and preferences of established composers, a tendency that prevailed until quite recently. It’s incorrect to say that certain rules apply to certain styles. Any worthwhile rule would apply to music past, present and future. My own approach in the book is to help readers understand the rules behind the rules. When composers truly understand musical resource – when they speak the language – they can shake themselves free from unhelpful constraints and compose by working with the very forces that shape music. The only criterion that matters is the existence, or otherwise, of a clearly defined, strong artistic purpose. You need to know what you’re trying to do and to know how to do it!  

Viewers of popular TV shows designed to showcase the talents of the ‘boy and girl next door’ (and to make millions for the men behind them) will be familiar with the formulated styles that have arisen. Many years ago an argument raged in the readers’ letters columns of a popular music publication regarding whether or not radio DJ’s were creating trends or merely following them by reflecting popular taste. I’ve no doubt money changed hands on occasion – if things can happen they generally do. But the main issue here is the matter of ’taste’, especially where the general public is involved.

It’s fair to mention that popular music, too, has added to the range of musical possibilities, especially with the emancipation of the rhythm section. Flirtations such as jazz-rock and the virtually seamless bond between jazz and Latin American styles bear witness to this.

So what’s the problem?

Here’s a quote from one of my earlier blogs:

Jazz is in danger of becoming a caricature of itself from the outside looking in, with bluesy riffs and raunchy ensembles all too often taking the place of the truly innovative work of the best writers of the past. Many contemporary arrangements for the big band sound as if they were all written by the same computer. In many cases, the music is reduced to becoming a fashion statement for the clientèle of bistros and cafés.

In other words, it’s easy to play and easy to listen to.

To be fair, the majority of jazz orchestras are staffed by players who can’t earn a living purely by joining the band. They don’t always have time to master the unfamiliar to the extent that the level of facility of execution does not mar the experience of the listener. Some music has to be played perfectly to work at all.

Nevertheless, a listener’s imagery is permanently locked into life after dark in the big city, with the odd TV cop-car chase thrown in.

In my opinion, great art succeeds because it is bravely different. Having said that, ploughing a straight furrow requires tenacity. Poor Stravinsky experienced a mass exodus of angry audiences when his works were first performed!

Returning to my comments, above, regarding the emergence of jazz, it is therefore particularly disappointing to witness so many jazz artists and writers descending into predictability. But there are exceptions. A friend and colleague of mine recently introduced me to the Paris Jazz Big Band, an organization I was not even aware of, as I buried myself in my own concerns. This band manages to achieve startlingly original music without losing its hardcore approach. The standard of playing is also something that will astonish anyone seeking this band out, if they haven’t already done so.

Of course, since I don’t rely purely on music sales to earn a living, it’s easier for me to say all this. Or, perhaps it’s the other way around; because I don’t always compose the kind of music others like listening to, I’ve never had the chance. The biggest money earners for me were orchestrations for broadcasting and musical shows.

A perfect example of the power of advertising and the media to shape public taste occurred a few years ago. I had spent almost three days at a meeting of the American Auto Club. The organizers were so keen they refused admission to European and Japanese cars. Having been surrounded by the American-built product for so long it came as a profound shock when I drove out on to the main road to begin the journey home. The sight of so many blob-shaped, slant-eyed vehicles was an affront to the senses and yet these cars are still in great demand, despite the fact that many of them are intensely, almost deliberately, UGLY. Few vehicles present more practical design constraints than the design of modern fighter aircraft and yet the rich variety of forms reveals there is still scope for producing things of beauty.

Similarly, when an audience is exposed to an unfamiliar style of music, it will need time to adjust and time, in this context, comprises the duration of a live performance. It’s unlikely anyone will purchase and absorb anything that doesn’t immediately grab them. There are simply too many other priorities in life.

‘The King is in the altogether…’

http://www.arranging-composing.com

A view from the trenches…

Musicians spend a huge chunk of their lives sitting at rehearsals and paying attention to instructions from the MD. In my experience, MD’s have generally been fairly competent. What I’d like to do here is to provide them with a little feedback; a view from the trenches.

My early experiences were with various big bands and jazz combinations but I currently spend a great deal of time working with English-style brass bands. As most people will know, many of these bands achieve stunning levels of competence, made all the more remarkable by the fact that very few players are ‘professional’.

We’re in the contest season again, where bands compete, firstly, in their local regions. The top three bands in each group ­– Championship, 1st., 2nd, 3rd, and 4th – then go on to the Nationals.

I have mixed feelings about competition in the arts but it has always been with us and probably always will. On the one hand, rehearsing a piece of music over and over again, each time digging further and further into the subtleties we hope will bring us success, improves a band technically and, especially, teaches us to pay attention to dynamics and other markings. On the other, beating the living daylight out of a composition to the extent that we still hear it in our sleep isn’t what I had in mind when my father loaned me the money to buy my first (second-hand) trombone in 1957 (£7 and I had to pay him back).

I’ve played in brass bands at all levels – it’s very satisfying for me, aged 74 years, to be called into one of the top bands – but most of my time is spent in a local 4th section band. It’s always a pleasure to walk into the rehearsal room and be greeted by so many friendly faces. There’s a bar, too! We performed in a local contest Sunday 9 March and were placed 13th out of 20. At least it was an improvement on last year.

A typical problem involves having to make a ‘tactical’ choice between playing a piece the way we’d like to play it and/or providing the subtleties the adjudicator might be looking for. At the start of our Thursday 6 March rehearsal, the cornets sounded gorgeous. I wondered if I’d strayed into the wrong rehearsal. But they were slightly louder than the dynamic marked on the score. When they dropped the volume they lost their sound. Playing down to stalling point means players can lose the note and they can’t sneak back in. You think no one will notice little you, but they will (especially the adjudicator).

This is the point (as I see it, of course): when a performance is imminent, whether paid for or not, the rehearsing stops and we concentrate, instead, on the finished result. We’ll get the criticism we deserve at the next rehearsal. In any case, surely we will lose more marks for an inferior sound than would have been lost because we played slightly louder than we should have done? Added to which, dynamics are relative; it’s the range of dynamics that is important (volume is also linked to the size of a venue or when playing outdoors, and one human being = 1 sq. metre of acoustic tile). Whenever I sit with a top band the first thing I notice is how unbelievably loud the loud bits are. One of Stan Kenton’s musicians once commented that, when you play with Stan, you have to wear your virility on your sleeve!

My remaining comments refer to practical problems encountered during rehearsals:

Playing bass trombone I often have to take in a huge gutful of air. So there I am, lungs exploding, and the MD brings the band in. Then he stops, to make a point he’d omitted. I then have to expel this air and breathe in again. Before this process is complete I find myself half way through another count-in.

A similar problem involves mutes. It works both ways – mute in, mute out – but let’s say I’ve removed a mute because the succeeding passage requires an open horn. Then the MD decides, at very short notice, he’d like to repeat the section just played and starts counting in again, immediately. My mute is back on the floor at this stage.

And that reminds me: Arrangers please note that the trombone requires both hands on the instrument, most of the time, so please allow enough time for inserting mutes.

There’s nothing like a good moan.

 

http://www.arranging-composing.com

Facebook is not secure: Part 2

Many people will already have been one jump ahead of me as I face my dilemma but, if we allow the principle that one shouldn’t require in-depth knowledge of I.T. in order to use social networking sites, there must be many who will be interested in my account of how I solved the problem. 

Internet companies are, of course, victims of their own success and expanded at a rate that would once have been unimaginable, in fact they are now valued by their anticipated earnings. The problem is that providing individual, personal attention, globally, to hundreds of millions of people becomes a serious problem. Of course, we could say ‘that’s their problem, not ours’. After all, companies reap the huge rewards that go with it all. Realistically, it won’t happen, which takes me back to why I’m writing this.

OK. I was getting nowhere and, although I’d reported the problem - which isn’t easy because they ask you questions you probably won’t know how to answer – I realized I’d have to solve this problem myself. Will I get a message from a Facebook human being saying ‘we’re sorry to hear about your problems. Just do this and that and all will be OK’. Nah!

Anyone using Facebook will know how difficult it can be to find anything, with options ‘hidden’ behind illogical headings, or not there at all. Eventually, I noticed an email in my inbox confirming my changed password with the comment that, if I hadn’t authorized the change, I should click here (in a tiny type size) to secure the account. I had authorized the change but not under the name given, which was my mystery hacker. So this stage of the process has not been thought through properly by the Facebook designers. Nevertheless, I clicked the link – what else could I do – and went through the tortuous process, requiring two renewed attempts to get where I was trying to go. For example, I had to find my service-provider password (which I last used around four years ago) and, while I was searching my little book for that, the Facebook site timed-out. Not only that, but each time I tried to use the new passwords created at Facebook’s request they were rejected because they now already existed (from my previous attempts!).

Facebook should provide an easy-to-find link which itemizes all we might need before we begin.

When I’d finished Facebook’s procedure I still had to get rid of the cartoon of a blond woman appearing instead of me. Replacing the header image was easy but, when I replaced the profile picture with my own mugshot the option to ‘save’ did not appear and when I reopened the site the girl had taken my place again. I tried once more and succeeded in putting my own image in place but all the thumbnail images had become generic.

Now, the rest of this procedure is unclear (I succeeded but I don’t know exactly how). At one stage a dialogue box popped up and I noticed a little book graphic. ‘What’s that?’ I thought but I clicked it anyway to relieve the boredom of cycling through the same pages and getting nowhere. A strip of HTML guff appeared at the bottom of the page and I noticed a comment which I think implied that the problem with my mugshot might be solved with the script de-bugger. I pressed this because, by this time, I was thinking ‘good riddance to Facebook’. Thereafter, my mugshot was secure, as it still is.

Another email informed me I’d been hacked via my email program. This round possibly goes to Facebook. I use Windows Live Mail and had never used a password. I do now and have a little book 6mm thick with all my login details etc. Few could commit so many to memory. Having said that, there are occasions where, quite legitimately, both Facebook and Live Mail might need to be open at once as I work on my networking. Whenever we close Facebook we get a notice asking us if we’d like to save the login details, so is this safe or not? Presumably it is, or they wouldn’t ask. I DON’T SAVE THEM!

However the problem occurred, Facebook is not providing the protection we need which is especially galling to me because Twitter recently sent out indecent images in my daughter’s name when her account was hacked.

Twitter, you seriously upset my daughter and an apology would be nice. No chance.

Any chance of organizing a global strike? Shall we all agree to stop using Facebook and Twitter for a month?

Only joking…

Facebook is not secure

My Facebook page has been hacked. It has been reported to them but, because the problem has actually arisen, I’m not confident that the Facebook response alone will solve the problem.

I shall therefore value any advice that can be offered by those who have had a similar experience.

De-activating the site and changing my password didn’t work. I also replaced the hacked name with my own.

Thanks to all, and be warned!

John Morton.

The rise and rise of the English Brass Band

The English-style brass band is unique in its origins and instrumentation. Men who performed heavy duty work in hostile environments found it easier to pick up brass instruments than orchestral instruments such as violins and woodwinds and their employers often encouraged them to do so, providing rehearsal facilities and sponsorship. High-achieving bands were associated with the company, often sharing its name, and helped to promote an image of commercial success and philanthropy. Musical activities also diverted employees’ energies away from trade union and political interests.

In recent times many bands have lost their sponsorship, especially those associated with the mining industry. In the nineteen seventies, Prime Minister Edward Heath’s Conservative government was effectively brought down by the miners which created a determination in the Party that it must never happen again. Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher was so incensed that Conservative ideology could be thwarted in this way that she set out to systematically destroy the mining industry, smashing communities and wrecking lives. The fact that she appeared to enjoy every minute of the procedure has caused lasting resentment to this day. (During her funeral procession through the streets of London in April last year many people turned their backs as the hearse bearing her body passed by.)

Brass bands encourage young players to sit-in and free instruments opened the door to a world that must have seemed hopelessly inaccessible to boys from poor backgrounds. For many years the brass band movement was male-dominated (one of the top bands had a female secretary but she was never allowed to travel on the bus with the men!). Today, there are many excellent female performers.

Men would often be absent from rehearsals and performances because of shift patterns, industrial injury and occupational disease, which required bands to produce an acceptable ensemble sound with a reduced personnel. This also helped to ‘carry’ inexperienced players as they learned from those around them. The instrumentation has a built-in safety-in-numbers feature but that isn’t the whole story since some advanced arrangements utilize all players to maximum effect.

For many years there was a dichotomy between the closed-world of the brass band movement and other areas, especially the more intuitive jazz orchestras, but younger players today are much more musically aware, partly because of the ubiquity of mass media. Cultural isolation also influenced style; excessive vibrato in brass bands irritated ‘straight’ ears and also caused intonation problems in unison passages (although this never worried Duke Ellington’s sax section in the early days). In brass band orchestration, there is generally much part-doubling in ensembles which therefore act as inner unisons. Wise conductors control excessive vibrato with the result that it is increasingly found only in solo and lead-instrument parts, where it belongs. Another problem was the inability of many brass band performers to ‘swing’ due, quite simply, to lack of exposure to the jazz idiom. Most arrangers will know that, if they don’t write a part exactly as they wish it to be played, their vision won’t be realized. In contrast, jazz musicians don’t need to be told how to phrase correctly. Write even quavers throughout (unless a shuffle rhythm is desired) and the players will just know what to do with them, changing style in mid-arrangement (dotted/even), as necessary.

I recently attended a rehearsal of one of my pieces featuring a smooth four-part counterpoint after the introduction. I hadn’t written legato or placed slurs, so the unison cornets tongued every note. OK, I should have been more explicit but my soul would have been in distress playing it the way they did. There’s no Earthly point in saying ‘well, that’s how it’s written’ when the end result is so unmusical.

Nevertheless, the top-ranking brass bands are magnificent by any standards and feature a level of competence equal to anything found elsewhere in music. The wide range of music featured nowadays, coupled with the increased level of flexibility and musical awareness, has resulted in wider acceptance of the idiom.

The instrumentation of a typical band, from the top down comprises:

E♭ Soprano Cornet

8/10 B♭ Cornets (including soloist(s) and the so-called Repiano Cornet)

Flugel Horn

Three E♭ Horns

Two Baritones
Two Euphoniums

Two Tenor Trombones
One Bass Trombone

Two E♭ Tubas
Two B♭ Tubas

Drum Kit

Tuned Percussion

The Soprano Cornet not only adds sparkle at the top of the ensemble but is capable of great delicacy in solos and duets.

Trumpets are rarely used but the Bcornets, because of their more conical bore, are capable of amazing dexterity.

The E horns are called ‘Tenor Horns’ in English brass bands, despite the fact that they spend most of their lives in the alto register.

Similarly, the so-called Baritone actually has the same compass as the Tenor Trombone!

Ask any MD which instrument he would keep if he had to lose the others and he would choose the Euphonium every time. The modern 4-valve instrument has an extraordinary range. It used to be called the Tenor Tuba. (Baritones are also becoming available with four valves.)

The Bass Trombone has more of a baritone sound. It can be clumsy in execution trying to follow dextrous Tuba parts in the extreme low register (I know. I play one). But its legato, cantabile style can be magnificent in slow ballads, however low it goes (within reason).

Brass bands call the Tubas Basses. Four Tubas are regularly used in order to make it easier for them to support the huge weight above without suffering from early fatigue or blowing themselves inside out.

Another curious brass band habit is to treat the Tenor Trombones as B♭ transposing instruments and write the parts in treble clef! All other brass instruments, except the bass trombone (which is written in bass clef as it sounds) are also written the same way but there’s a good reason for this: when transpositions are carried out all the three valve instrument parts require the same fingering for the written notes, enabling players to switch instruments with reasonable ease*, the only problem being the need for a little determination adapting to different sized mouthpieces. But all this doesn’t apply to slide trombones.

*Multi-instrument versatility also helps keep the band going when key players are absent.

American low brass players generally prefer bass clef parts in ‘concert’ pitch, something publishers have become used to. Some bands in the USA also use ‘French’ horns instead of the ‘Tenor’ Horn. In orchestral circles, they just call the French Horn a horn.

The most characteristic feature of the brass band is that all the wind instruments, except the trombones, belong to the same family**. This enables a great deal of flexibility in orchestration – almost any combination ‘works’ – although it can also result in a ‘sameness’ of sound. Section-by-section writing, with a mixture of voiced parts and unisons/octaves, helps to avoid this, as does the use of mutes and tuned percussion.

(**The huge B♭ tuba and the little Soprano Cornet are distant cousins.)

Interestingly, the cornet did not evolve out of the hunting trumpet but is a member of the bombardon family.

 

http://www.arranging-composing.com

Fellow trombonists please note

This post is for the benefit of fellow trombonists, especially those who are middle-aged and older. It concerns a problem that many players experience.

For some time I’d been suffering from a pain in the neck and the back of my head. It turns out I have spondylitis but the important thing to realize is that it isn’t necessarily caused by bad posture, in fact professional players get it more than most others. It’s worth looking at a fellow blogger’s information on this topic at: http://8thposition.wordpress.com/#!

The 50,000+ miles I used to drive didn’t help, either. Racing drivers do neck strengthening exercises.

When the slide goes in and out a trombonist has to ensure the instrument doesn’t wobble around all over the place, which disturbs the embouchure. Achieving this ideal means ‘freezing’ the neck position, during performances and rehearsals, for two hours or more.

Obviously, whether or not one practises the so-called pivot system the instrument has to pivot up or down a little as the player ascends or descends in order to project the air stream towards the rim or towards the throat of the mouthpiece, depending on the register. This isn’t a post about brass technique and I’m sure most players are aware of the dangers of over-pivoting or, for that matter, of being too consciously aware of any physical aspect of playing. I know this from bitter experience but, to be fair, part of my problem was irregular teeth, which I got fixed, aged almost 30. The difference it made was worth the money. As a matter of interest, the most significant part of my dental treatment involved grinding off the tip of a badly rotated tooth which occurred right where the rim of the mouthpiece rested. This can’t be done on younger people but the inner, soft core of teeth shrinks as we get older. Try this too early in life and the result would be a lot of pain. An x-ray determines the feasibility.

Because neck pain is sometimes an indication of more sinister goings-on an MRI scan of both neck and head was called for. My brain scan was normal but an amount of degeneration in the neck portion of the spine was identified.

Here in the UK we get all this ‘free’ via the NHS (i.e. we pay via our taxes). I know there’s opposition to the British system from some quarters but, over here, we believe that people who find themselves in financial trouble are not always to blame for their own predicament but we all experience the same pain. Fit employees are more efficient, too, and are less likely to end up on benefits, so the argument (like most arguments) is not as straightforward as it appears to be. Having said that, there’s little doubt that in the majority of cases privately-funded health care is much better, if you can afford it. You get the same specialists but a lot quicker. Results also come back within a week instead of a month.

The bottom line here is that I was out of action for around three months and faced a slow process getting back to my former self, whatever that was: ten minutes, then a rest, then another ten minutes… etc. gradually building up to avoid strain. Two band rehearsals later, I’m almost there. The amazing thing is that the mental aspects of playing had deteriorated almost as much. I need to sharpen up.

Overcoming the difficulties of playing on straightened teeth many years ago also involved the mental aspect of playing. I once discussed this with the late high note trumpeter Maynard Ferguson, who had recently experienced the trauma of a drunk smashing a beer bottle into the bell of his horn while he was blowing. When the dentist enquired whether or not he would like an exact copy of his old teeth he just asked for ‘new teeth’. ‘Just pick up the horn and hock with it’ was his approach. This mind set came in useful when I resumed playing after my lay-off. With experience, players develop a store of ‘tricks’ (for lack of a better word) that enables them to get the job done. Dropping the volume a touch enabled me to last out during the two hour rehearsal. Fortunately, this first rehearsal wasn’t too strenuous.

http://www.arranging-composing.com

Two countries separated by a common language

The British don’t regard America as being a foreign country. Our common language and similar culture has produced a unique international bond despite the bad blood of the War of Independence. Not only this, but English is the international language, the official language of the European Union, Hollywood, Elvis, the Beatles, Frank Sinatra…the list goes on and on. It could be argued that the history of the western hemisphere is the history of English-speaking Anglo Saxons.

I’ve been a little upset to read that the British are increasingly regarded as an unreliable ally. We have our own opinions on world affairs and the long-term wisdom of trying to enforce standards by means of military intervention (we used to do that a lot). But it’s politics, so I’ll stay away from all that. 

The power of American influences can be felt in many aspects of British life. Increasingly, people over here refer to children as kids and I had to stop my daughter from referring to an autopsy. It’s a post mortem I told her. But there’s only one American habit that’s a bit of a problem to my wife and I and that is the pronunciation of the word aluminium. Please note: al-u-min-i-um, not aloominum. Kuh!

It doesn’t all go one way, though. Because of my interest in American cars I cringe when I hear the terms bonnet and boot (instead of hood and trunk).

My involvement with WordPress has reminded me that there are musical differences, too, and I was prompted to write this blog as a result of comments by fellow blogger Jim Gramze, concerning my book. His opinions can be found at:   http://nostolencatpictures.com/2013/11/24/the-composer-arranger-final/

Now Jim and I get along fine and, in any case, he’s a customer whose views are important to me.

Briefly, he finds my style of writing difficult to follow. OK. I need to look into this. As a matter of interest, a consultant editor in London, having seen the manuscript, said ‘the book has a practical directness that enhances the text’. I was pleased about this because the one thing above all else I’d tried to achieve was to simplify a subject that is often rendered to be obscure and unreachable (due to elitism, in my opinion).

My blog has a musical emphasis, so I’ll briefly mention problems that have cropped up in my discussions with fellow bloggers and in forums.

I use words such as crotchet and quaver instead of quarter note and eighth note. Firstly, my terms are shorter (one word instead of two) and my (our) terms precisely identify the type of note, regardless of time signature. In 12/8 or 5/4 time, referring to a crotchet as a quarter note obviously has little relevance and, in any case, using the semibreve (whole note in 4/4) as the target duration is questionable, considering that most folk music, from which other forms evolved, used 3/4, 2/4 and 6/8 signatures predominantly because of their use in various dance forms (polka, galliard, jig etc.).

OK. Music from the middle east also used 11/8 and mixtures of 6/8 and 3/4 etc.

I understand that the British terms can appear to be rather quaint to American eyes.

Another eyebrow was raised over the term cautionary notes (manually inserted accidentals) which many in America refer to as courtesy notes.

Despite a long and varied career, I only recently encountered the term quartel harmony, which I use quite a lot. I call it harmony of fourths, although I can’t claim that this is more convenient.

On a trombone forum, a discussion arose regarding falset tones, those notes that can be faked on trombone with practise (to cut a long story short). No particular problem here except that, in Britain, we say notes more often than we say tones. A tone is most often understood to be a specific interval comprising two semitones. I would rather say false than falset except that the notes aren’t really false. They’re actually there on the instrument. I’ve always called them fake notes because they need a bit of tweaking.

‘England and America are two countries separated by the same language’ Sir George Bernard Shaw.

There’s an interesting page about all this at  http://iteslj.org/Articles/Barton-UK-USwords.html

I had proposed to think of a few more examples but then, I thought, why not throw the idea to the reader?

All suggestions welcome!

Postscript:
Having read the reply from Jim Gramze I must admit that hemidemisemiquaver is a real mouthful. Having said that, I didn’t need such words once in writing the book. I would revert to US habits in these cases. Is life never easy?

http://www.arranging-composing.com