A Dictionary for the Modern Trumpet Player, by Elisa Koehler

Koehler, Elisa. A Dictionary for the Modern Trumpet Player. London: Rowman & Littlefield, 2015. ISBN 978-0-8108-8657-5. 219 pages. Publisher's website.

Elisa Koehler new book demonstrates her wonderful ability to convey and explain a wide range of information, some of it rather complex, to both informed and novice readerships. As the book is a dictionary, each of the hundreds of entries is limited in size, but Koehler has nevertheless managed to assemble a wide range of trumpet-related topics including famous players, composers, instruments, organological issues, performance practice, compositions, as well as key concepts and historical events. Drawing on the famous line, “poetry is what poets write,” Elisa Koehler has constructed her dictionary to embrace the totality of the trumpet family as anything that the modern trumpet player plays.  Rather than restricting the topic, as some taxonomic endeavors do, she has broadened it.

Granted all of these things, one could always quibble with a few of her decisions in particular (e.g. Why did she include this performer and not that one?). Such points aside, Koehler has assembled a remarkably in-depth and concisely written dictionary on all things trumpet. There is an effective slant toward the historical with many entries devoted to topics of which the average modern trumpeter may be unaware. This is a decided advantage for this publication in my opinion. For some reason all of the illustrations are drawings by M.T. Larsen; while these are done effectively, oftentimes photographs might convey a better sense of the object.

The hardcover edition is in large format (11 X 8 ½ inches) and printed on sturdy stock. An e-book edition is also available. In addition to the dictionary entries, the book includes four appendices: Timeline of Trumpet History, Gallery of Valve Diagrams (including detailed drawings of developments in valve construction), Mute Classification Chart, and a listing of Orchestra and Opera audition excerpts. There is also an extensive bibliography that is broken down by various topics. The brass community owes Elisa Koehler a great debt of gratitude. In her Dictionary for the Modern Trumpet Player, Elisa Koehler has drawn a picture of the trumpet, with a focus on its history as well as its contemporary use, in a detailed and eminently readable way.

-- Jeffrey Nussbaum