I just had an interesting experience I'd like to share with the brass banders of the world. I'm teaching two classes in Classical Music Appreciation in night school (http://www.buffam.com/NightSchool/ClassicalMusicAppreciation/ ). I thought this would be a good opportunity to raise the profile of brass bands and introduce brass music to an orchestral-oriented group. So with some apprehension, I introduced my first class to Holst's Moorside Suite. To my surprise and delight, they liked it. Not only liked it, but two of them (there were only 6 students) rated it their favorite piece of the entire class. One of them even went onto the Chandos site and bought the CD (Grimethorpe, Brass from the Masters Vol 2, CHAN 4553). And this from a class of Americans who'd never even heard of a brass band before. I must say that it really helped them understand the piece to have my map in front of them, with me checking off the milestones as we passed them (see http://www.buffam.com/NightSchool/ClassicalMusicAppreciation/Introductory_I/Handouts2.pdf). "Okay," I thought, "this is great. People who appreciate classical music can relate to brass bands. I can really promote the medium through this class." Ha! Then came the let down. In my second class, I followed through on the plan and introduced Prometheus Unbound as an illustration of a tone poem. I was surprised and disappointed that the universal reaction was "boring." They didn't get it at all. (And one of the students in the second class also took the first class -- and she'd liked Moorside Suite.) I'd made no map of the piece this time -- just let them listen to it with my program notes (http://www.buffam.com/NightSchool/ClassicalMusicAppreciation/Introductory_II/Handouts2.pdf ) to help provide some explanation. "All right," I thought, "maybe the lack of a map left them a bit disoriented. It can't be the brass sound that's putting them off. After all, the first class really liked Moorside, and this class really liked the Phillip Jones Brass Ensemble playing Elgar Howarth's Rose without a thorn by Henry VIII." So I forged ahead and used Belmont Variations to illustrate the theme-and-variations form. To my dismay, that fell flat as well, in spite of my map (http://www.buffam.com/NightSchool/ClassicalMusicAppreciation/Introductory_II/Handouts3.pdf). In discussing their reactions with the students, I got the feeling that the unfamiliar instrumentation was at the root of their failure to relate to it. The brass band ensemble sound is quite unfamiliar to them, and it doesn't resonate with them. Looking back, I think I can identify with feeling disoriented by unfamiliar sounds. I myself was a brass band bigot until I was forced to get to grips with orchestral music to get my music O-level (even though I'd been playing in the local youth orchestra for 4 years). But having the Haydn 102 force fed to me eventually led to my really liking orchestral music. Okay, let's get back to the brass thing. They liked Moorside Suite. They liked Rose Without a Thorn. They didn't like Prometheus Unbound or Belmont Variations. Why? What's the difference? Here's my working hypothesis: the pieces they liked are thinly scored. The pieces they didn't like are densely scored. (Okay the Holst march is fairly dense, the Belmont 6th variation is mostly thin, but you get my drift). The students seemed to agree with this hypothesis. The thin scoring gives a transparency that lets them appreciate individual instruments. The dense scoring yields a rich ensemble sound that hides the identities of individual instruments in an aggregate that their ears are unprepared for. I haven't yet figured out where to go from here, but I wanted to run this experience and tentative hypothesis by all you brass band aficionados out there and get your reactions and insights.