Dr Trevor Herbert - The Trombone

Written By: Edward Solomon Comments: 0

The Trombone by Dr Trevor Herbert, Staff Tutor and Senior Lecturer in Music at the Open University in Wales, is published in March 2006 by Yale University Press. Already received with critical acclaim, this book deserves a place on every trombonist's bookshelf. The synopsis states:

Dr Trevor Herbert - This is the first fully comprehensive study of the trombone in English. It covers the instrument, its repertoire, the way it has been played, and the social, cultural and aesthetic contexts within which it has developed. It explores the origins of the instrument, its invention in the fifteenth century, and its story up to modern times. And it reveals the hidden histories of the trombone and its players in different periods and different countries. The book looks not only at the trombone within classical music, but at its place in jazz, popular music, popular religion and light music. Herbert examines the development of written repertoires in the sixteenth century, the 'golden age' of the instrument in the seventeenth century, its descent into obscurity in the eighteenth century and its re-emergence in the expanded symphony and opera orchestras and military bands of the Romantic era. The popular music explosion of the nineteenth century brought amateur players and showmen soloists. The impact of jazz was fundamental to the trombone, providing an alternative to the conservatoire tradition. By the late twentieth century its techniques had filtered into the performance idioms of almost all styles of music and transformed ideas about virtuosity and lyricism in trombone playing.

The book was featured on the BBC's Music Matters programme, broadcast on Sunday 19 February 2006. In case you missed it, the programme featured interviews with Dr Herbert, members of the Guildhall School of Music and Drama trombone ensemble, as well as soloist Christian Lindberg, jazz trombonist Annie Whitehead and newscaster trombonist John Suchet and you can listen to the programme online until 5 March. BBC presenter Petroc Trelawny:

The trombone is often a neglected instrument ... perhaps all too often seen as lacking the cool chic of some of its colleagues elsewhere in the orchestra.

John Suchet:

What a sound!

Annie Whitehead:

It was the sound that attracted me.

Dr Trevor Herbert:

The trombone was one of the most used and certainly one of the most highly regarded of instruments that was used in the 16th century and the early part of the 17th century. Towards the end of the 17th century there's lots of evidence that it was falling out of fashion; lots of evidence that instruments were lying around in boxes broken and lots of evidence that players were put out of work. It started being regarded as an instrument used only by the waits as sort of loud, boisterous instruments in civic bands. It had a very bad reputation. It was not something that really had a tradition behind it, and so you find an enormous amount of the playing of trombone players in sections who were regarded as too loud, too brassy. The famous trombone solo in the Tuba Mirum in Mozart's Requiem, for example, was regarded by many critics in the 19th century as a mistake on the part of Mozart. Very often that particular solo was played on a bassoon rather than a trombone, because it was not credited that a trombone player could play it. In the 19th century, the military was custodian of by far the highest standards of brass playing of all types, so players, even though they were still criticised for being too loud, were able to play as a section of trombone players in a way that we hear them today.
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