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Thursday 4th July – 14.00
Lecture Theatre
Lecture / Presentation
Dr. Philip Norris
“The Performer’s Perception of Sound Quality”

Neville Young, Reporter
Dr Norris’s lecture this afternoon was an interesting introduction to his ideas on tone quality and what we do with it. It’s really a pretty simple concept, as he explained: we don’t hear our tone quality the way that everyone else does, and what we do when we try to change our tone quality doesn’t have the effect we think it does – in fact at times it’s something approaching the opposite!

Now, as you have probably guessed, I’m not, with that bald sentence, doing justice to Norris’ ideas nor to the complexity of his presentation of them. During the ninety minutes of this lecture Norris took us right through his personal journey in investigating sound quality, talked about working with students, and gave us a couple of demonstrations with the help of members of the audience. Good tone quality, Norris feels, comes from getting the resonance right, getting the thing buzzing freely. And - here's the paradox - this doesn't necessarily sound so great to us as we play. But then, we are coupled acoustically into the trumpet in a way that no-one else is so it's not unreasonable to acknowledge that we are going to hear it sounding differently. Norris believes that if we can program into our routine playing the ability to get this freedom of resonance - this bright, buzzing sound that sounds hard to us, but great to the audience - then we've got an important tool in producing the warm, full sound we want.

It's a pretty tough job to demonstrate something which only one individual at a time can perceive. You can't hear what I hear when I play the trumpet (which is probably a good thing) and vice versa. Nevertheless Norris had a couple of brave volunteers up to the front and talked them though some playing, with results that seemed pleasing. People were still talking animatedly about this some hours later, and I feel inspired to go off and experiment with these ideas, after rereading Norris' article in the January 2002 ITG Journal. In all, a most interesting lecture.