Great new Euphonium Concertos

In the last few years, I’ve dug my Euphonium out of the closet and have started to get my chops back in shape.  One of the best parts of this has been discovering some of the new music that’s been written in just the last few years for euphonium, especially some great concertos. Here are three that I’m especially excited to play and learn.

1) UFO Concerto by Johan de Meij

I’m mainly familiar with this composer from his “Lord of the Rings” symphony. This concerto is perhaps even better. While there are some technical challenges, especially in the upper range, this concerto really shines in it’s soaring lyrical lines.

2) Euphonium Concerto by Karl Jenkins

This concerto is amazing. It’s the most technically challenging of the three concertos, but it also has some very tender sections as well. There is really a lot to sink your teeth into, and the first movement is especially fun.

3) Heritage Concerto by Anthony Barfield

This is the only concerto of the three I don’t have the sheet music for yet. I really appreciate the rhythms in this piece. The composer keeps breaking my expectations in a way that delights my ears.

Wrong, but Useful

One of my favorite essays of all time is “The Relativity of Wrong” by Isaac Asimov.  If you haven’t read it, I encourage you to take a few minutes and click the link to check it out.  A few years ago, my attitudes about being wrong shifted drastically, and it started with that essay.  I used to feel very bad when I was wrong about something, to the point that my ego would kick in and argue that I wasn’t really wrong at all.  This is not helpful to anyone.

There are two other things that really re-enforced this change in my beliefs. One was the short lecture “You have no idea how wrong you are“:

The other is the book “Being Wrong” by Kathryn Schulz.  It turns out, I had been very wrong about what it meant to be wrong.  The consequence is that today, I rarely look at things through the lens of Right/Wrong dichotomy.  These days, I try to consider the usefulness of the thing.

For example, in my previous post, I kind of stretched the definition of what constitutes a “prison.”  That might be distracting to some people, even to the extent that it makes them miss the point I’m trying to make.  But to me, it was a useful way to think about these things, and to the extent that it’s useful, it doesn’t really matter that it’s wrong.

But that can be a dangerous way to approach things.

Whether or not something is ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ is always important, especially because finding something that is ‘right’ is very rare.  We are wrong about practically everything, and we must never forget that.  We can be wrong about something being useful. Those are not static properties.  Something that was useful yesterday can be toxic today.  So the foundation that all these things must be built on is the conscious acceptance that you are wrong about everything, and the most you can hope to achieve is to become a little less wrong.  When you base things on that, it becomes much easier to put your ego to the side and truly consider the merits of something.  It becomes much easier to improve and get better.  And it becomes much, much easier to say you’re sorry.

The Most Potent Prison

The most potent prison is the one where the prisoner doesn’t even realize they’re in it.  It’s relatively rare for a prison to be a room with bars on it.  Much more often, a prison is constructed out of our fears, routines, and culture.  In my life, I find that I’ve build all kinds of patterns of thought that put artificial limits on what I do, with no good reason for them.  These are common prisons in my life:

  • I can’t write a letter to my friend right now, because I don’t have time to write it by hand.
  • I can’t go hiking today because it’s supposed to rain.
  • I can’t start that project because I need this thing before I can start.
  • I can’t go to the thing, because I need to work.
  • I can’t start writing because I haven’t finished the outline.
  • I can’t code this program because I haven’t decided how I’m going to deploy it.

Every one of those is wrong, but far too often they go unchallenged in my brain.  I have literally waited years to do somethings because of flawed reasoning like the above.

As I’ve grown older and more skeptical, it’s very useful to constantly “is that true?”  There is this idea that you should “question everything,” but I we tend to be too limited in what we include in “everything.”  We tend to think that “question everything” is limited to a domain like religion or politics or perhaps business.  But I think it’s most useful in the more mundane and more personal.

When I first moved into an apartment with a dishwasher, I was very happy because I hated doing dishes.  The reality turned out to be different.  I would wait to run the dishwasher until it was full, which might be a few days since I live by myself.  Then it would sit full for a few days, and more dishes stacked up.  This lasted for years through multiple apartments, until one day I realized my life would be much easier if I just washed my dishes after I used them.  It just hadn’t occurred to me to question my dish washing practices, but once I did, I was able to relieve a lot of pain in my life.  I haven’t run a dishwasher in years, and my kitchen is better maintained than it has ever been before.

It might seem weird to call these things “prisons.”  I think of it as being captive to thought patterns, cultures, or customs that are causing you pain that you tolerate because you don’t realize that there might be a different way.

I read a few years ago, though I don’t remember the source and can’t find it now, that the first step to escaping from prison is to recognize when you are in one.  I’m now constantly on the lookout for things that are causing me irritation or pain.  Then I question the assumptions of whatever it is.  I ask myself: what are the things about this I actually have control over. And then I break out of the place I had been.