The Suit of Brass

Moving, Creating, Doing

Element: Fire • Platonic Solid: Tetrahedron
Colors: Red, Yellow, Black

The sound of a brass instrument is generated by the column of air vibrating within it in conjunction with the vibration of the player’s lips. Varying the tension in the lips allows the player to select the harmonic at which the instrument’s column of air will vibrate; the length of the horn’s tubing, often manipulated using valves or slides, finally determines its pitch. Unique to brass instruments is the directionality of their sound; while the sound of other instruments tends to spread more or less in all directions, the sound of a horn shoots straight out the bell.

Played soft and low, brass instruments can be mellow and velvety, and express a wide variety of moods—think trombone section, think Miles. As an instrument family, though, brass really finds its stride when it’s big and hot. There’s an excitement, an anticipation, in just seeing horn players on the stand—brass is the fire in the orchestra, and it wants to ignite. 

As a suit, Brass is about doing. It often involves the physical, but is not about things; it is instead about things moving. The other four suits are essentially nouns; Brass is a verb. When we paint a picture, for example, we may engage the feeling and the intellect, while residing in and sensing the physical body and the physical canvas. But the brush hitting the canvas? The picture actually being done? That’s Brass.

Below, from around 2:15 to 2:45—that's what I'm talkin' about!