This is Not a Fanfare
for Trumpet in Bb or C and Piano
This piece is the result of a commission from Phil Sullivan for a short piece for trumpet and keyboard. The title and content are inspired by René Magritte’s painting, The Treachery of Images, which contains the painted French text “Ceci n’est pas une pipe,” usually translated as “This is not a pipe.” Though somewhat different in content, this piece is a brief exploration of the effect of titles on our experience of the music, and is specifically inspired by my interest in cognitive and decision making science, where this effect is called conservatism bias. Loosely, this is a flaw in human information processing in which we tend to under-revise our initial beliefs when presented with new evidence. Even though we are told in the title that the piece is not a fanfare, the idea of “fanfare” has been planted in the listener’s mind and the entire piece is evaluated in terms of whether or not it fits that particular listener’s idea of what a fanfare is.
On the most abstract level, the piece does fit some of the criteria for a fanfare. The bulk of the musical material is based on the resulting notes from alternating two combinations of fingerings on the valves of the trumpet and is thus very closely tied to the alternation of two overtone series, a staple of fanfares. I think most would agree that the actual sound world that results from this particular application of that compositional device does not result in music that would be called a fanfare by anyone who hadn’t already known the title in advance. The piano is in fact given most of the musical material that could be called fanfare-like; though the trumpet does get one mangled quotation of Reveille which is pushed out through the distorted overtone series resulting from the removal of one of the trumpet’s valve slides. Is this piece a fanfare, maybe?