The French Horn Guy

So here we are on Saturday night, Rob Robinson of Channel D, Jeff Joseph of Joseph Audio, and myself of something or other, chilling in the ridiculously oversized chairs in the Omni Jacksonville's lobby near the elevators, awaiting the arrival of Rob's wife Claudia so we can all head out to Thai dinner, when Jacksonville Symphony French horn player Aaron Brask, aka "Last Horn," appears out of nowhere and on your mark-get set-go begins telling us how absolutely, positively, and totally stoked he is that we have brought all these high-end audio exhibits to Jacksonville. It seems that, given that artist Brask is unable to talk while his embouchure is otherwise occupied with his instrument's mouthpiece, the boy has seized the opportunity to gush, and I mean gush, over his chance to finally hear the equipment, big and small, that he had been reading about and lusting after for all these years.

I'm having fun here, but truly it was a joy to encounter a dedicated musician who was finding our labor of value. I never felt better about what we're doing than after speaking with the French Horn man.

Aaron and I had some good, mutually validating exchanges about hall acoustics and the sound of different orchestras. When I expressed my dismay at the LA Phil's noisy recent showing in San Francisco's Davies Symphony Hall, he told me about someone he knew who, when auditioning for the LAP, had intentionally altered the tone of his instrument to sound more like an MP3. We had a good laugh over that one.

I learned from Aaron that one of the reasons I was dissatisfied with the sound of the Jacksonville Symphony's Jacoby Hall is that its acoustics were tuned to an audience capacity of at least 75% capacity, which is not what the performance I attended drew. He in turn had another light-bulb moment when I told him that the acousticians for Disney Symphony Hall in LA put fabric on the bottom of the folding seats so that, even when they were empty, they would absorb sound rather than reflect it and skew the hall's tuning. As I said, mutually validating.

On Sunday, I encountered Aaron in the fourth floor hallway, this time in casual dress. I'm not sure why he was still carrying his French horn, but there are so many stranger things on the face of the earth that I didn't bother to ask. (Besides, if you ask about strange things in my neighborhood, you're likely to get shot). I've since spoken with several exhibitors who have confirmed, oh yes, the French horn guy came to our room, and more than once, and we chatted about all sorts of things. If Steve Davis ever decides that AXPONA needs a mascot or flag bearer—gosh, even a cheerleader—I nominate Aaron Brask.

lmanley's picture

Har Har. The LA Phil could certainly use some work, but I highly doubt they could sound like an MP3.

As noted elsewhere, the sound of an orchestra can vary with the conductor, and Charles Dutoit certainly did very well with the orchestra recently, as he most always does with the different orchestras I have heard him conduct.

That's not to say that Dudamel is any slouch - the so-called Mahler Project aside, he and the LA Phil have played some really fine performances, and do some really good work, and I am sure will continue to do so.

Glad to see a real musician diggin' what we do though - that is really encouraging.

Dr. AIX's picture

It was certainly a joy to spend about 20 minutes with Aaron in the AIX Records 5.1 surround room. He confided in me that most of the so-called "high end" rooms didn't sound that convincing when playing classical material...but he loved the sound of the horn on the recordings that I shared with him ('it's best to avoid the term "French" when talking to a horn them there is no other brass instrument that deserves the term".

I played some of our woodwind quintets and orchestral productions and he commented that we actually "nailed" the sound of real orchestral instruments. A really great comment for what was described by Colin from as a room "with sheer sound perfection." The B&W 802Ds and the natural sound of our tracks certainly made an impression.