Musicians@Google: The West Point Band

Uploaded by AtGoogleTalks on 18.04.2011

Bill: I'm thrilled to have Kristen Mather and the West Point Band here.
I don't know what people's conceptions are of military bands,
but this is an amazingly loose, fantastic band.
And the music they're going to play is great by Raymond Scott,
who is a good Jewish boy from Brooklyn.
Who, like all good Jewish boys, changed his name [laughter]
supposedly because he had a brother,
and he was worried about nepotism and other things.
Some of you may know the music that was used in some of the Looney Tunes.
But the thing about the music, is its incredibly happy, upbeat music
but really, really hard to play.
Thank Kate for arranging for this, and Kristen and her colleagues.
And you can take it from here.
Brian Boelmann: [snaps fingers] One, two, three.
♪ [upbeat jazz music]
Denver Dill: We appreciate you spending your lunch time with us.
We are West Point Band's Quintette 7.
We are something a little different
if you haven't figured that out already from this music.
We're really glad to be here.
And right off the bat, we were playing all last week in the deep, deep, dirty South.
And then we came back Sunday
and we were playing up in Saugerties, New York, way past New Paltz,
and this lady comes up to me and she says
" I received a letter from your commander,
and frankly I find it embarrassing he doesn't know how to spell the word 'quintet'."
Well, have no fear.
Our commander probably knows how to spell the word quintet.
I haven't asked him.
But the way we spell 'quintet' is an homage to Raymond Scott and his quintette.
You'll see a picture here.
There's six gentlemen sitted around playing their instruments
with Raymond Scott at the piano.
And he had a quintet for this group of six musicians.
So, what would normally be a sextet
but in his 1930's sensibility,
he thought that the audience would be distracted by hearing the word sex
before [chuckle] [audience laughs] hearing his music.
And, you know, he didn't want to distract from his great music.
So we decided to have a little fun with that and we made it our Quintette 7.
Raymond Scott was this, and that was a great introduction.
Thank you so much Bill.
Was a great musician and he graduated from Julliard at 22 and,
immediately following that,
he took over working at the CBS radio orchestra.
His music sold like mad.
Elvin Jones, jazz drummer, used to play with Raymond Scott.
Toots Thielmans, he's a jazz harmonica player, unbelievable.
All sorts of really, really, really good jazz musicians were paying their dues
and getting a paycheck playing this music.
Like you said, it's extremely, extremely difficult.
We wanted to go ahead and show just a little bit of the diversity this music offers
before we get into more about who we are
and the type of wackiness we really like to get into.
Even though we're wearing uniforms,
we didn't want you to think that we were too "in the box",
but we have to give you a little in the box so you'd keep paying your taxes.
So, here we have two pieces:
one by this classically informed,
wonderful virtuoso pianist about the opera "Carmen" in this "Quintette Plays Carmen";
and then an original composition,
just sort of text painting musically called "Siberian Sleighride."
We hope you enjoy both of them.

Brian Boelmann: [Snapping fingers] One, two, uh, uh, uh.
♪ [Band plays "The Quintet Plays Carmen"]

♪ [Band plays "Siberian Sleighride"]

Denver Dill: Thank you very much.
It's really interesting compositions.
Something that I learned in studying this music was,
well, to call it composed is really interesting.
What he would do is he would sit at the piano and he would play ideas
and these fantastic musicians would improvise ideas
as either responses or to augment what he was playing.
And then he would write it down and then they would never, ever change it again.
So, when we're standing up and playing these solos,
they're not improvised.
And it's not because we don't have that ability.
It's because Raymond Scott was a task-master and he demanded,
"I needed the exact same way every time."
And this type of rigidness is really, really, really interesting to me,
because well, I have a boss and my boss has a boss, all the way up.
I don't know if you can believe this, but there's a lot of bureaucracy in the Army.
[laughter] And so, I have [chuckle] to be careful with what you do
and what you do with your craft.
It's always on your mind and I think the spirit here atGoogle
is much freer than that or we interpret that.
But I imagine if you went too far rogue, somebody's there to reel you in.
Even our cadets at West Point,
which is who we're there to support, they got in the spirit of this.
This is from "The West Point Story",
a movie that Raymond Scott did the music to.
And there they are, goofing around.
They have several events that the cadets are allowed to cut loose
and the gentlemen on both sides are wearing one of the standard cadet uniforms.
But this guy in the middle,
he's been left out and he's completely shoeless.
These are just college kids trying to become Army officers
and though they are some of the best and brightest and amazing,
they like to have a good time.
And if you haven't used your product, the Google, [chuckle]
to look them up, they have amazing videos out there.
I've seen water balloons flying into port-o-pots and knocking them over.
And more recently, we recently had two cadets make the news
for being stranded on a mountain, rappelling.
But they're all over the place there, they're quite amazing.
So, Google truth number three as I found it is "fast is better than slow".
I read that as one of your ten truths, or ten ideas that you know to be true.
We believe the same thing here and this piece, as Bill had mentioned,
all this music is hard.
But we decided this one, this one we hold this to be true as well.
This is "Dedicatory Piece
to the Crew & Passengers of the First Experimental Rocket Express to the Moon."

[Denver Dill on trumpet blowing single note]
Male band player: [Snapping fingers] One, two, one, two, three.
♪ [Band plays]
Thank you.
Every time we start that,
we just hope to survive it just like a normal moon mission.
It's quite exciting.
It's a lot of fun.
So we were in what I like to refer to as the dirty South,
and that's not a derogatory statement,
it just happened to be low-down dirty blues.
And it was really excellent.
We were in New Orleans the whole last week,
and we were playing at several universities and colleges
because part of our job is to train, educate, and inspire not just at West Point,
but out throughout America and throughout the world.
And it was a really good time,
but we came back to the United States of America as Brian likes to call it.
But we came back to New York [laughter]
and we were reminded of why we love it here.
And you see this pigeon perched here
and I lived in New York for a good time, from 2000 to 2004.
And pigeons became my kind of surrogate pet.
And so I would feed them and cultivate their droppings, if you will.
Because then they would be left there on Julliard's property just gathering
and I would get in trouble and it was great. [chuckle]
Raymond Scott wrote this piece called "Birdlife in the Bronx"
and it doesn't match any of these other pieces.
You guys are familiar with and you're going to hear more from the music
that was picked up by Warner Brothers and Looney Tunes.
But this one right here, this very subtle piece,
my grandma likes and we gave her our CD.
And there's all this really hard trumpet stuff,
and it was like "Oh, grandma, you're gonna love this.
You get to finally hear your grandson sound awesome.
"'Cause it's been edited, relentlessly. [laughter]
And [chuckle] it has.
and so she puts it in and "that 'Birdlife in the Bronx,
'that's great.
I can tap my feet to that."
So, enjoy this casual piece called "Birdlife in the Bronx."

Brian Boelmann: [Snapping fingers] One, two, uh, uh, uh.
♪ [Band plays "Birdlife in the Bronx"]
Denver Dill: What do you do when you write this music that is;
we said one hundred times now, so difficult and so tuneful?
And you're a task-master and you're really frustrating to work with,
and the drummer that we had pictured there, that's John Williams,
the composer of "Jaws", and "E.T." and "Jurassic Park" that.
And his dad played drums in Raymond Scott's Quintette.
So but what, he wrote about it, you should check it out.
Use the Google.
Use it to look him up.
He hated working for Raymond Scott, absolutely hated it.
So what do you do?
You go into electronic music.
No more musicians.
You make your own product.
He's pictured here with his Electronium, and he actually made a living at this.
And that when he was working at the CBS Radio Orchestra,
he eventually took it over as the conductor,
and worked with the first fully integrated [pause] orchestra.
So he employed African-Americans for the first time
and it was a real big deal, obviously, in this time period.
And he supported his electronic music habit by playing this music.
He would reform this Quintette,
and there was three versions, four versions,
and then he had a secret seven and it kept going.
As you can see here, IBM, Sony, General Signal, Xerox, and Atari
all referenced patents he had made on his Electronium.
And they did this in the 80's and early 90's.
So they were already, like he was that far ahead of his time
but just because he didn't like working with people.
It's amazing how resourceful musicians are willing to be
when it comes to their craft and they're not people persons.
We spend most of our time locked in a practice room
as I suppose a lot of you had spent,
maybe when you were in high school or early college coding or doing whatever,
just locked into your room.
This, "In an 18th Century Drawing Room," combines all of those ideas.
So this is toward the end in his compositional style,
where he was still working with musicians
and he takes this very famous Mozart piano sonata, Yalin...
[Yalin Chi plays Mozart Piano Sonata No. 1 on the piano]
Have you heard it before?
[Yalin Chi continues to play Mozart] Yeah, it's really tuneful.
And what happens is if you start a pianist, it's very hard to get them to stop.
So, [laughter] Thank you for stopping.
[piano music begins again, running up and down chords]
Yeah, see?
If there's ever a violinist or pianist in a room, watch out.
They're willing to play their whole repertoire for you at any point.
So, he takes that and he puts it to this Quintette
and he doesn't care about how it sounds on any of the other instruments.
I think we start off in like, B-major and we go through F-sharp major.
We go through all these ridiculous keys and it's expected to sound as fluent as that.
And I was complaining about this one day because my trumpet part's really hard,
and I decided to complain to our pianist, Yalin.
I was like, "Yalin, isn't that piece just really, really difficult?
Isn't that sick?"
And she's like, "No, my part's easy."
So, if you're heartless and you happen to be a piano player, enjoy this piece.

♪ [Band plays "In an 18th Century Drawing Room"]
Denver Dill: Thank you much.
So like I said, let me tell you more about who we are and what we're doing.
We are mainly comprised of members of our concert band here.
I'm the only one who's a rogue and I'm in a ceremonial group called the Hellcats.
And as you can see by the cheesy photoshopping,
we all have hobbies,
and we like to branch out and do different things.
And sometimes we are rewarded for that and other times it's like, you know,
I'm not really sure that the Army really wants to put that out.
But I thought you'd appreciate meeting the members of the group.
On piano, we have from the Julliard pre-college College and Masters,
and then artist-in-residence at Yale, Yalin Chi on piano.
On tuba, you're hearing a tuba player
play a walking bass line and making it his own.
And Nathan never, ever misses.
He's exceptional.
And I'd like you to ignore all of that because of this instrument right here.
This is a trumpet of tomorrow that Nathan decided to invent one day.
And you can see that there's the very large valve here and it gives the trumpet a tri-tone.
More important than that,
there is what he likes to refer to as a tone eagle, [laughter]
and I'm sure that'll be sweeping the nation very shortly.
Nathan Turner on tuba.
On our auxiliary percussion here,
there was only one piece that actually called for auxiliary percussionist,
"Siberian Sleighride" I think it was.
And Eric took all of our parts and composed his own parts
and it's mainly because he's lonely and he had nothing else to do.
And we're grateful to have him here.
And you see him cuddling his, well, it looks like a donkey or a horse?
I don't know what it is.
He's the principal timpanist in the concert band and please welcome Eric to the stage.
While we were in the South,
we had pictures up
because Army Recruiting Command had sent us around to these colleges to perform in.
And we had pre-Army pictures and post-Army pictures.
And our drummer is the same age as me.
But somehow or another, he graduated the Army in the 70's.
Look at this picture.
Have you guys seen Bill Murray's movie the "Meatballs"?
This bus looks like [singing] ♪ are you ready for the summer? ♪
Yeah, it's unbelievable.
Now this theme in Craig's life, he's an exceptional percussionist,
a lot of new music.
His wife is a dancer and he does collaborations with dance and percussion.
Again, ignore all of that.
Check out these glasses. [laughter]
Okay, before he joined the Army, he had really awesome glasses.
He joins the Army and he gets these birth control glasses [laughter]
And it looks amazing.
Please welcome Craig.
On clarinet, we have the charming member of the group.
This is Kristen Mather, and she has a thing about animals in uniform or animals in suits.
So we went ahead and said that that was her picture in the Army
when she first joined and here she is with the mascot.
Kristen's a wonderful clarinetist and I'm really glad that she brought us here.
Thank you so much, Kristen.
I was finally allowed to pick my own picture for the next one.
And so here I am, talking, zombiefied from the movie "Thriller".
I wish I had done it.
And then this is my Army band grainy-kind-of-sasquatch photo in the woods.
You see me but you're not really sure what I'm doing there.
If it's real, look for the footprints later.
My name's Denver Dill.
Thank you for having me here.
And somebody needs to be responsible for everything I say
and anything that we do
because it's the Army and accountability is important.
And that guy is right here on saxophone, Brian Broelmann.
And as you can see here on his Tour des leave and in Army language,
leave is vacation.
So what he does is he works out all his frustrations by taking really long bike rides.
And he does have a soft spot for the kiddies.
So we added that to the picture.
But more important than that,
we want to point out how happy he is just to be in the Army in this photo right here.

Brian, please welcome Brian to the stage.
So, Army life, what's it all about?
We were down there and we were trying to explain this to the students.
Really, you guys have all these degrees.
You went to these conservatories.
You went all over the place.
What do you do?
What's it really like?
Do people really yell at you?
Do you do pushups every morning and throw up blood?
No, we try not to.
We try not to do any of that but we have to do some of it.
And we were telling them, well yeah, you do go to basic training.
And then they want to know, what's basic training like?
What do we do in basic training?
Is it like "Full Metal Jacket" or is it like "Sgt. Bilko"?
It's a little of both, in my opinion. [laughter]
But instead of tell you about it,
we found experts who had already done that.
So here's Ren and Stimpy showing you what basic training life is about.
♪ [Band plays upbeat jazz music]
Denver Dill: So, now you know what it's like to be in the Army,
go through basic training.
It's exactly like that. [laughter]
Don't believe anything else anybody tells you.
You shave missiles, it's fine.
What do we do specifically at West Point?
Well, we're there for the cadets and the academy and to meet their needs first,
and then we serve the surrounding area.
And it's almost a 300 mile radius, but if the right mission comes in,
we'll go even further than that.
We travel, like I said, we were down in the South.
We go out to California.
We have exceptional talent there.
Just wonderful, amazing musicians and support staff.
And on Sunday, I don't know if anybody saw it on CNN,
but one of our audio engineers was awarded a Grammy for an album she had done,
Best Engineered Album in the classical category.
We're very fortunate to have her,
but this is the caliber of musician that we are able to work with.
It's really great.
Some of the other groups that you see, these are our primary groups.
We have a jazz band here.
This field music group, the Hellcats, that's what I'm a member of.
I'm back here in the back, holding a bugle.
Down here we have the concert band which is what everyone else is a member of.
And this is a Trophy Point Concert.
If you ever need a place to go to get away from the city,
50 miles north, go to West Point and come to a Trophy Point Concert.
We have fireworks, outdoor plumbing, everything;
everything you could ever hope for. [chuckle]
And then here, when all of these groups come together,
we have a marching band and it is the same musicians.
It's not just a separate group of musicians.
And we do football games and we do these official reviews.
And what a review is, is like the head, the CEO,
or in our case it's a Superintendent, a Lieutenant General,
a three-star General stands in front of the cadets
and in front of the band and he inspects us.
So he looks at our uniform.
He checks out our marching.
He's forced to listen to the music that we play, so in a way, he's inspecting that as well.
But what happens is, is that people graduate from West Point
and they have no other real interaction with the band.
And so they don't know what it's like to be a band member on the day that there's a review.
Well, we decided we'd make a video that would showcase
just what goes into the band putting on this review.
And we hope you enjoy that.

♪ [Band plays "Powerhouse"]
Denver Dill: Thank you very much.
We hope you all enjoyed that.
And yes, that is the type of panic
and Nathan, our tubist, did decide to slice off half of his thumb
and we had to rush him to the hospital there to get it taken care of.
And that's not a joke.
He really did.
It was awesome. [laughter]
The next piece we're going to play for you is called "Peter Tambourine."
Now, I have no idea why they called it that
other than there is this really annoying tambourine part throughout the whole thing.
And we went down to these colleges,
and we're talking about it and they were like,
"Oh, is this a concerto for tambourine?"
"Is this your feature instrument?"
"Eric, did you go to Northwestern and practice the tambourine
for years and years and years and years and years?"
He did.
He's a dork.
We hope you enjoy "Peter Tambourine."

♪ [Band plays "Peter Tambourine"]
Denver Dill: I talk about some of these people and poke fun of them.
And I think I made fun of Eric, being kind of neurotic.
And I've said well, he studied tambourine and that seems very self-obsessed
to lock yourself in a practice room and just obsess about yourself.
I want you to know that I'm being sincere and honest when I say that.
This is what Eric's desk looks like at our work.
He has taken to making paper dolls, which is demented.
But he has taken to making paper dolls of himself.
So he's got his own little Army tribute to himself that he commands all over his desk.
And we have to go in and endure that from time to time.
So I just try to avoid him at all costs.
That's the type of people we work with.
Eric has also been teaching himself other things
and we decided we would incorporate one of them.
We wanted to celebrate where we're from.
We wanted to celebrate Manhattan
and Raymond Scott wrote this really awesome piece called "Manhattan Minuet."
And Eric has been teaching himself Flash
and so if there are any Flash ninjas in this room,
please talk to him afterwards.
But we hope that you can enjoy a brief tour of New York City without the wind,
and without the cold,
and without the melted snow in the garbage underneath.
Here's "Manhattan Minuet."

♪ [Band plays "Manhattan Minuet"]

Denver Dill: As enlisted folk in the Army, we do have an obligation to our public.
And I don't know what you expected,
if any of you knew that the West Point Band was coming to Google today
and if that's what drew you here.
If you knew the music of Raymond Scott or if you thought,
today's the day to go see what those crazies are doing in this particular room,
which is, I think how I would have approached it.
We like to give the public what they want [chuckle].
We found that people like patriotic tunes when the Army band comes into town.
And so we have a "La Petit Fantasy du Stars and Stripes Forever."
Written, arranged I guess would be more appropriate by our tubist.
And we hope you enjoy a Quintette's 7 take on a classic.

[Band plays "Stars and Stripes Forever"]
Denver Dill: [inaudible] Thank you for coming and spending your lunch with us.
We're really grateful to be here.
And we have a representative from the Association of Graduates
if you'd like to talk to her about anything having to do with West Point at all.
Our boss, our commander is here if you'd like to talk to him.
You can complain about us in any way, shape, or form.
There he is.
He raises his hand.
Thank you for having us.
So what we'd like is-- we're handing out party favors.
The final number that we'd like to play for you
is Raymond Scott's "New Year's Eve in a Haunted House."
And it's a great celebration of terror behind me.
[laughter] [drum roll]
Acting like I should be terrified, but no.
And what this is is us having a good time.
It's a real reflection of who we are.
Please make sure that you have something.
You'll know when it's the right time to throw anything or to blow on anything.
And thank you for having us, we're really grateful to hear you.

[Band plays "New Year's Eve in a Haunted House"]
[applause] [party horns blowing]