Music for woodwinds/brass + voice only?
July 31, 2013 4:53 PM   Subscribe

I'm looking for examples of musical traditions or performances centered around (i) the human voice, and (ii) an instrument (or instruments) played by blowing (flute, trumpet, pan pipes, whatever). It's okay if other instruments are involved too, but they have to be secondary to the breath + voice combination. The platonic ideal of what I am after would be a thriving folk tradition in which a single performer alternates between singing and playing a flute.

Other examples of what I am looking for:
- A modern composition, not based on any particular tradition, combining vocals and woodwinds (e.g. Takemitsu's "Voice", although ideally I want pieces where the voice has more of a role to play than occasional accents + effects)
- A style of music where a chorus of trumpets (and nothing else) back a solo vocalist
- A style of music where a single reed instrument and simple percussion accompanies a choir
- Blues recordings featuring ONLY harmonica and vocals (no guitar)

Examples of what I am not looking for:
- Beethoven's 9th. There is a choir and an orchestra that includes brass + woodwinds, but clearly those instruments are not primary
- Japanese sankyoku. There is singing, strings, and sometimes shakuhachi, but the shakuhachi mostly just doubles the shamisen line; it's not primary and can usually be left out (and often is) without any problems
- Sonny Rollins' solo album. No vocals!

posted by No-sword to Media & Arts (15 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Jethro Tull has a lot of flute-heavy stuff, and it is a single person who's doing both the singing and the... fluting? There's even some stuff where the flautist/singer sings and flutes at the same time. Well, vocalizes and flutes, at least - hums and yelps and so forth, as he's flutifying.
posted by Flunkie at 5:01 PM on July 31, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: The Spectrum brass quintet recently released an album with a soprano.
posted by dr. boludo at 5:03 PM on July 31, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Or for something completely different, there's a style of folk (heavily influenced by pre-Columbian indigenous traditions) music in Northwest Argentina called baguala. It's always sung and accompanied by a small drum called the caja, but it is also sometimes accompanied by a natural trumpet made of animal horn called erkencho. Here's an example.
posted by dr. boludo at 5:10 PM on July 31, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Here's an example of a Tull song with a lot of the simultaneous fluting and vocalizing: Bourrée (based on Bach's Bourrée in E Minor). It's got a bit maybe a quarter way through that's primarily string-based, but most of it is primarily flute-based, along with various hums and yelps and faux-sneezes and other vocalizations from the flautist, simultaneous with the fluting.
posted by Flunkie at 5:10 PM on July 31, 2013

Best answer: Whirlpool.
posted by The World Famous at 5:31 PM on July 31, 2013 [1 favorite]

Your description sounds like Celtic music. They often use the penny whistle, along with harps, accordians, guitar, and other traditional acoustic instruments.

It is a very healthy musical form, mainly concentrated in Scotland and Ireland.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 5:32 PM on July 31, 2013

Best answer: I found a few harmonica+ vocals recommendations in this forum question, some with youtube links such as Crawling King Snake
posted by jacalata at 5:42 PM on July 31, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: There are a lot of classical pieces that call for soprano voice and clarinet with piano accompaniment, where the clarinet and voice are equally important. Schubert's "The Shepherd on the Rock" is probably the most famous of these, and it has the sort of call and response style you seem to be looking for.
posted by wondermouse at 5:53 PM on July 31, 2013 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: All right, this is going better than I thought it would!

Let me clarify a bit: when I say that the flute (etc.) and voice must be primary, what I really mean is that the piece should still work reasonably well if you take away everything else. I think Schubert's "Shepherd on the rock" is a good example, but a similar piece that used the piano as more than just a harmonic pulse (letting it carry the melody alone for stretches for example) would not be what I was after.

Chocolate Pickle, can you list any specific recordings of Celtic music that are penny whistle and vocals and nothing else? I've only heard recordings that are either instrumental only or vocals + all instruments harmonizing (with maybe a penny whistle solo or two).

Baguala + erkencho is amazing!
posted by No-sword at 6:52 PM on July 31, 2013

Best answer: Anton Bruckner's Mass no. 2 in e is scored for 8-part choir, soloists and wind orchestra (try the Credo on YT) or the recording under Jochum.
posted by mountmccabe at 7:02 PM on July 31, 2013 [1 favorite]

...the piece should still work reasonably well if you take away everything else.

That won't be the case for any Celtic music.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 8:27 PM on July 31, 2013

Best answer: It has some minor Jonny Piano backing, but I love the interplay between Thom Yorke's vocals and the rich improvisational flourishes of the Humphrey Lyttelton Band, jazz funeral style, in "Life in a Glasshouse." Includes trumpet, clarinet, and trombone. The one (and only) live performance is also very good.
posted by Rhaomi at 1:42 AM on August 1, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer:
penny whistle and vocals and nothing else?
The Clancy Brothers and/or Tommy Makem have some songs like this. Example off the top of my head:

The Rocky Road to Dublin

And many, many more if you allow for a little rhythm guitar. Example:

Port Láirge
posted by Flunkie at 4:57 AM on August 1, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: It's definitely possible with Irish music, though not the most common arrangement, especially among modern/young/most-known musicians. I'm trying to think of the right Cathal McConnell track to recommend to you. He's an excellent Irish traditional singer and flute/whistle player. While he played with Boys of the Lough and often does some fairly complex artistic arrangements of the traditional music, he's also of the older generation, a mindset that it more comfortable with unaccompanied music. His solo album is a mix of whistle, flute, and singing, but most of it (all? can't remember) is accompanied with guitar/bouzouki... though it's only rhythm chord-support, not melodic support. While he's got backup on the album, there are You-Tubes of him playing and singing with a lot less arrangement; a whistle+song would be the kind of thing I'd expect him to do, but I haven't combed through the search results to see what's not either all instrument or all song.
posted by aimedwander at 7:38 AM on August 1, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: The Four Freshmen were/are a male vocal quartet. They have several albums that may be of interested including 4 Freshmen and 5 Trombones has a jazz trio backing them (though the voices and trombones are at the forefront) but 4 Freshmen and 5 Saxes is just vocals and saxophones. (Reissue with those two albums together on Spotify). They have several other albums in this vein too (trumpets, more trombones, etc).
posted by mountmccabe at 9:19 AM on August 1, 2013 [1 favorite]

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