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Monthly Archives: June 2013

Larry Daehn (b. 1939) is a composer, teacher, and music educator from Wisconsin.  Daehn’s program notes for As Summer Was Just Beginning (Song for James Dean) (1994) are moving and descriptive, so I defer to him:

I liken him to a kind of star, or a comet that fell through the sky, and everybody talks about it yet today. – Julie Harris

He seems to capture that moment of youth … where we’re all desperately seeking to find ourselves. – Dennis Hopper

He is not our hero because he was perfect, but because he perfectly represented the damaged but beautiful soul of our time. – Andy Warhol

James Byron Dean (1931 – 1955) experienced the brightest and briefest movie career ever. In 16 months he made three movies: East of Eden, Rebel Without a Cause, and Giant. Only the first had been released when he was killed in a car accident at age 24. His death on September 30, 1955, sparked an unparalleled outpouring of sorrow. For three years after his death, Warner Brothers received more letters to him than to any living actor.

And the James Dean phenomenon has never really ended. Thousands still come to the little town of Fairmount, Indiana, to see the farm where he grew up and to visit his grave there. His familiar image appears worldwide on posters and T-shirts. He has been the subject of many books, songs, TV documentaries, plays, movies, and hundreds of magazine articles. Forty years after his death, James Dean is still a hero to his own generation and to succeeding generations who keep his legend alive.

People were robbed of him. Whenever you’re robbed of something, it lingers with you. – Martin Landau

A bronze bust of James Dean by artist Kenneth Kendall stands near Griffith Park Observatory in Los Angeles, California. There is a Greek inscription on the right shoulder which, when translated reads, “As Summer Was Just Beginning.” This sentiment, from a painting by John La Farge, is a Greek epitaph concerning the death of a young person. I chose it as the title for this piece.

I loosely based the main melody (heard at the beginning and at measures 33 and 57) on an old British Isles folksong, “The Winter it is past, and the Summer’s here at last.” I chose it because Dean’s Quaker heritage goes back to England, Ireland and Scotland, and because this simple bittersweet song about summer seemed appropriate for remembering James Dean.

The North Texas Wind Symphony presents As Summer Was Just Beginning with near perfection, as usual:

More on the piece at Literature for Small Bands (an excellent resource!) and a University of Michigan report (.doc).

As he says in the program notes, Daehn based As Summer Was Just Beginning on the British Isles folk song “The Winter it is past“.  Here is a sung rendition of that:

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David Holsinger was born in Hardin, Missouri, December 26, 1945. His compositions have won four major competitions, including a two time ABA Ostwald Award. His compositions have also been finalists in both the DeMoulin and Sudler competitions.  He holds degrees from Central Methodist College, Fayette, Missouri, and Central Missouri State University in Warrensburg. Holsinger has completed course work for a DMA at the University of Kansas. The composer was recently honored by Gustavus Adolphus College with the awarding of a Doctor of Humane Letters Degree for lifetime achievement in composition and the Gustavus Fine Arts Medallion, the division’s highest honor, designed and sculpted by renowned artist, Paul Granlund. Holsinger, as the fourth composer honored with this medal, joins a distinguished roster which includes Gunther Schuller, Jan Bender, and Csada Deak. Holsinger is the Conductor of the Wind Ensemble at Lee University, in Cleveland, Tennessee.

(short biography courtesy http://americanbandmasters.org/award/HOLSINGER.HTM)

Some more of my own thoughts on Holsinger: he is nothing if not a prolific composer for band. While he has his occassional tics (ostinatos, an “everything including the kitchen sink” approach to percussion), his music is consistently thrilling to play. His faster pieces blaze by in a whirlwind of excitement, and his slower numbers are thoughtful and genuinely beautiful. It is for these reasons that he is a favorite of players and audiences alike.

Holsinger has his own website: davidrholsinger.com, which answers really ANY questions you might possibly have about him, including a fascinating testimonial about the search for his birth mother. There is much multi-media content as well, including videos of him ruminating on expressive performance.  Definitely check it out!  Also, Absolute Astronomy did an extensive profile on him that is worth a look.

Holsinger provides his own program notes for 1994’s Gypsydance:

Once again this composer draws inspiration from his admiration of the piano works of Bela Bartok for young players.  Many times in the early “Mikrokosmos“, we find Bartok attempting to free [his son] Peter’s mind from the “box” mentality by shifting accents in established meters or, as is done in Holsinger’s GYPSYDANCE, shifting keys within a single key signature.  The key signature says E-flat, but no… we obviously start in F minor, hop and skip our way through the home key… and end the piece in B-flat!  GYPSYDANCE also lets the student stylistically explore parallel staccato and full value melodic lines.

Holsinger goes on with learning objectives about style and tonality/modality.  To paraphrase: students should be able to play eighth and quarter notes in staccato, accented, and non-legato (regular, unmarked) style.  The piece explores modes, particularly F dorian and E-flat major (ionian), and it includes a scale exercise for wind players to help spell that out.

A middle school plays an admirable performance of Gypsydance:

For professional recording, see the J.W. Pepper page about the piece.  Also see GIA publications and this extensive lesson plan for more information about the piece.

Bartok’s Mikrokosmos, from which Holsinger drew his inspiration, is a progressive piano method spanning six volumes that begins with the very simplest melodies and progresses to full-fledged virtuoso concert pieces.  It uses Hungarian folk songs for much of its melodic material.  Here are some examples from volume 2:

Flautist and composer Anne McGinty (b. 1945) writes prolifically for bands of all levels, especially elementary and middle school.  She studied at Ohio State University and Duquesne University, where her teachers included Joseph Wilcox Jenkins.  Among many other honors in her career, she was the first female composer to be commissioned to write for the United States Army Band.  She has recently opened her own publishing company, McGinty Music.

From the conductor’s score of Clouds (1994):

   CLOUDS is an original composition based on the imagery of different cloud forms.  The first section depicts cirrus clouds, the white delicate clouds usually found at high altitudes.  Thunderclouds begin at measure 23 and the accents and tone clusters are used to symbolize the increasing electricity associated with these thunder and lightning producing clouds.  Eventually the sun comes out and the sky has the rounded cumulus clouds that gracefully float away.

See more about the piece at WynnLiterature and the Wind Repertory Project.  Also, watch this great performance by a sixth grade band:

Clouds  depicts three different types of clouds: the cirrus, thundercloud, and cumulus.  Cirrus are long, thin, and whispy:

What McGinty calls “Thunderclouds” are known scientifically as cumulonimbus clouds.  They are tall, dense, and unstable, which makes them produce rain, lightning and thunder:

Cumulus clouds are the cumulonimbus’s fluffier, happier cousins. They do not tend to produce rain:

See more about Anne McGinty at Queenwood, MySpace, Wikibin, LinkedIn, and Twitter.