Sunday, March 19, 2017

Horn Ensemble Series: a Story of Horn Pure

Horn Pure was an up and coming horn ensemble from College of Music, Mahidol University in Thailand. Members were students from Dr. Darren Robbins' horn studio.

You might be wondering why I use past tense for this group. Yes, they are disbanded and have gone their own way. 'Isn't this normal?' you may ask. Well, yes, it is part of our live for things to come and go. But for this case, it is quite sad and might as well be a good lesson for many of us to think.

As mentioned above, Horn Pure was a highly dedicated in performing horn ensemble music from Thailand. Since its inception in 2009, they went on to win competition both nationally and internationally. The most notable prize was First Prize Winner of International Horn Symposium (IHS) Ensemble Competition 2010 in Brisbane, Australia. They were subsequently invited to appear as a feature ensemble the IHS 2012 in University of North Texas and IHS 2014 in London to a critical acclaim.

Here are some articles about this group.
- John Ericson's Horn Matter -
- 2 parts interview by James Boldin's horn world: Part 1, Part 2, blog dedicated to Horn Pure.

What made them won the competition and became more known was not only how well they played, they performed some of selected pieces by memory!! Very impressive back at that time.

Here are video recordings of their performances from IHS 2012 and 2014.

IHS 2012 at University of North Texas

IHS 2014 in London to a full house audience

Since they seemed to be doing so well, you might ask 'what went wrong?'

I would say nothing went wrong but it is how things go in today's music world especially in the country where classical music is not part of their cultural roots. So, the support was very limited. Even though they were invited to appear in both IHS but they still do need to find enough money to cover their flight and accommodation. Their school was able to give part of it so they went busking and looking for sponsors at different places. If you look on their facebook page, you will see a lot of their pictures performing in Malls or street sides. Yes, they were dedicated and wanted to do well for themselves and for the country too.

But after doing the same thing for few years, they were burned out. Besides, some of the members were graduating and need to decide on their future. Hence, the end came to the group.

Now, what can we learn from this?
  • Firstly, surviving as professional musician is difficult and especially in a place where there are limited supports. At the end, we all need steady in come in order to survive. One could argue that we could try doing it for the art/dream sake but how long can you keep it on for? Some balance need to be made.
  • My next question is, would they be able to survive if they were in other countries with more support such as European countries or here in the US? Honestly, I don't know. They may or may not. But, it will surely be easier and it would be harder to burn out.
  • In the world now, funding for arts seem to be the first thing that get cut. If that is the case, being in any place in the world would be almost the same. What should we do? 
  • Being creative in presenting or to find something new, and to stay active are, of course, one of ways to be able to survive. But if we look closely to those ensembles in my previous posts, all of them have their own full-time job where they earn steadily. True, there are string quartets, or soloist who could earn their living through performing only but would this happen to everyone? And can you really do that with horn ensembles? I am not sure.
These are questions that need to be asked and to think in order to help supporting these younger generations for their creativity so they won't get dishearten and slowly disappeared.

Now, there is a new group emerging from the same studio called Horn Corner. How would we help them to be able to sustain what they do?

Lastly, I would like to end with Ai Weiwei, Chinese contemporary artist, quote which I happened to see when I visit his exhibition at Meijer Garden in Grand Rapids, MI.

"Creative is part of human nature. It can only be untaught." - Ai Weiwei

So true, isn't it?  

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