Skip navigation

Monthly Archives: February 2014

Belgian composer Benoît Chantry (b. 1975) writes music for wind bands, musical theatre, and more, with a penchant for mixing styles.  He started music study early at the Tournai (Doornik) Conservatory, where he is now a professor and director of the wind band.  He also teaches at the Belgian Royal Conservatory of Music in Brussels.  Read more about him at windmusic.orgTierolff publishing, and the European Contemporary Orchestra.  He also has a MySpace page where you can hear more of his music.

Chantry wrote Les Cités obscures in 2013 for the 20th anniversary of Hafabra Music (which published the piece) and its founder Louis Martinu.  The piece is based on a collection of graphic novels of the same name by the Belgian comic book artist François Schuiten and writer Benoît Peeters.  The series takes place on a counter-Earth in which individual city-states have developed independent civilizations and architectural styles.  Chantry’s piece attempts to depict the differences between these civilizations, obscured as they are from us and each other.

Listen to a partial recording of Les Cités obscures at Hafabra Music.  It is not on YouTube yet!

The graphic novel series was originally written in French, but translations are available in most Western European languages.  In English, early versions are called “Cities of the Fantastic” or “Stories of the Fantastic”, although more recently fans have started calling them “The Obscure Cities”, a closer (but still approximate) match to the original French.  New volumes are still appearing, since both creators are still very much active.  Read more on wikipedia or The Obscure Cities, a site run by the American publishers of the series.  For a more complete picture of the series, check out a Google Image Search!

California native Paul Dooley (b. 1983) has received many awards for his music, which has been performed by ensembles of all stripes around the US.  Early experience in percussion and improvisation led him to study composition with Frank Ticheli while at the University of Southern California (where he also received a math degree).  He is currently a lecturer in performing arts technology at the University of Michigan, where he is working towards a doctorate in composition, with Michael Daugherty among his teachers.

Dooley’s music tends to blend Western classical traditions with other world and contemporary musics, and Point Blank is no exception.  Dooley describes it well in his own program notes.  From his website:

Point Blank (2012) for band was commissioned by a consortium of wind bands organized by Gary D. Green and the University of Miami Frost Wind Ensemble.

Point Blank, is inspired by the sounds, rhythms and virtuosity of New York City-based new music ensemble Alarm Will Sound, who premiered a chamber version of the piece in 2010. Featuring synthetic sound worlds and tightly interlocking percussion ideas, the drum set, timpani and strings whirl the ensemble through an array of electronically inspired orchestrations, while the winds and brass shriek for dear life. Point Blank is a central processing unit of floating point tremelos, discrete pizzicatos, multi-threading scales and random access modulations.

In the score he adds:

Point Blank for wind ensemble is inspired by electronic music, in particular a style called Drum & Bass.  I explore the interaction between computer generated musical material and the human performer.  For the wind ensemble’s percussion battery, I transcribe tightly interlocking electronic rhythmic material.  The drum set, mallets and timpani whirl the ensemble through an array of electronically inspired orchestrations, while the winds and brass shriek for dear life!

Point Blank exists in versions for large chamber ensemble (the original, written in 2010), wind ensemble (2012) and full orchestra (2011).  Links are to each page on Dooley’s website, each of which contains a recording and score.  For those who prefer to SEE their performances, here is the Baylor University Wind Ensemble:

And the premier of the original version by Alarm Will Sound (notice a fair bit of difference, especially at the end):

And the orchestra version (please forgive the conductor view):

Finally, here is just one example of what Drum & Bass sounds like.  This is just one example, so please explore further for a better, fuller picture:

Paul Dooley has a website of his own and biographies at the Wind Repertory Project and the University of Michigan.

Carter Pann (b. 1972) is a celebrated composer and accomplished pianist who has written music from solo works to large orchestra and wind ensemble pieces.  His works have been performed around the world.  He is on the faculty of the University of Colorado at Boulder, where he continues to write distinctly original music.  He provides the following program note in the score of The Three Embraces:

The Three Embraces (2013) was commissioned by current and former students and dear friends in celebration of Allan McMurray‘s final concert after 35 years as Director of Bands at the University of Colorado.

In three movements, these pieces are songs for band. Within The Three Embraces I strived to explore completely new musical territory – different from that of my previous works for winds.

The first and second movements are titled “Antique, Calming” and “With Quiet Longing,” respectively, and are to sound like aural aromas. The players are given a long trail of the softest dynamics – full fortes are rare events in these pieces. Requesting the utmost dynamic restraint from wind and brass players is a risk I have learned to relish taking. The musical reward is so great and the timbral beauty so rich and ever so right to my ears. These first two movements also feature harp and celesta as the two prevailing colors suffusing the music, giving them what I hope to be an aura of ancient, inward elegance (Maurice Ravel lurks in the shadows of these two model Renaissance compositions).

The final movement is a celebration, beginning with three bold proclamations for saxophones and high brass. As the movement unfolds there are pastoral melodies juxtaposed over more modern, angular harmonies.

In describing this piece to Allan at the beginning of rehearsals I made a quip that I now find quite apt: A chance encounter between Schubert and Stravinsky on the Appalachian Trail. This is not the first work I have had the fortune to dedicate to my him, but it has become the dearest to me – a final expression for a colleague, mentor, and friend. Over the years I have come to learn of Allan’s path through music over time, the key mentors of his past, and his performing experiences around the world. I have even had the pleasure of meeting him in faraway places to share a gig. It is through this kind of time with him (and some very special time on his back deck overlooking much of the Boulder/Denver area) that I have learned this gentleman’s values, both in music and in life. His humor is magnetic and ever-present, his magnanimity so humble. I count myself a lucky one to have had a window of time on faculty with such an extraordinary musician and giving person as Allan McMurray.

Pann is often very specific in the instructions for the piece, insisting, for instance: “Please do not assign the PIANO part to a timid, furtive, frail player.”  This makes the score a colorful read beyond the notes.

Here is an unnamed ensemble playing a complete performance of The Three Embraces:

You can also listen on Soundcloud or Pann’s website for the piece.  Further exploration there will show you his full bio, a works list, and much more.  You can also read about him on Wikipedia, his faculty page at CU Boulder, and Theodore Presser.

Yasuhide Ito (b. 1960) is one of Japan’s premier composers of original music for wind band.  He is best known for his 1990 suite for wind band Gloriosawhich is performed frequently all over the world.  He has written several dozen other pieces for band and other media, including symphonies for band and at least one full opera, going back to his first band work, On the March, of 1978, written when he was in his third year of high school.  Ito is also a renowned pianist, conductor, lecturer, and translator.

Below are the program notes from the score of Ito’s 2012 Jalan-jalan di Singapura.  Note that I had to edit the rehearsal letters mentioned in the notes, since they seemed to point to the wrong places:

Singapore is a vibrant city.  Though modern buildings line its streets, cultures of Chinese, Indians, and Malays can still be found everywhere.

The cheerful march has been composed to capture this crosslink of cultures in Singapore.  The title Jalan-jalan di Singapura is in Malay and translates literally to “A Walk in Singapore”.  Singapura-ku, a melody from Singapore, can be heard at the end of the march at rehearsal letter [J].  A motif from Movement 2 of Sinfonia Singaporia (Singapore Symphony, composed [by Ito] in 2005) can also be heard from rehearsal letters [F] to [H].  With this short march, the composer aims to capture a variety of musical characteristics that are clearly unique and symbolic of Singapore.

This work is commissioned by and dedicated to the Band Directors’ Association, Singapore.  (BDAS) The premiere was performed on the 25th of July 2012 under the baton of the composer with the NYWO (Singapore Youth Wind Orchestra) during the Opening Ceremony gala of the concert of the 17th Conference of the Asia Pacific Band Directors’ Association held in Singapore at the SIA Theatre of Lasalle College of Arts.

Interestingly, Jalan-jalan di Singapura has no snare drum part, yet Ito indicates that “percussion can be substituted by players’ own idea”, leaving the door open to that and much more.

Here is the march itself, recorded by the NYWO in rehearsal:

Ito very clearly quotes his own Sinfonia Singapuriana in the middle of the march.  Below is the second movement:

Singapura-ku is a national folk song that is popular enough to have been performed in this spectacular context:

It is worth it to read up on the history of Singapore, a small and prosperous island city-state on the crossroads between Malaysia and Indonesia, to understand the cultural influences that led to the creation of this march.

More on the composer on wikipedia, Bravo Music, and his own (mostly Japanese language!) website.

Composer Michael Markowski (b. 1986) claims that he is “fully qualified to watch movies and cartoons” on the basis of his bachelors degree in film from Arizona State University.  Despite this non-musical training, he is gaining attention as a composer of unique and sophisticated works for wind band and other media.  City Trees was commissioned in 2012 by the Lesbian and Gay Band Association “to commemorate 30 years of Music, Visibility, and Pride.”  It was premiered on September 15 of that year in Dallas, Texas by the LGBA 30th Anniversary Band.  Markowski describes the origin of the piece:

I had just moved from Arizona to New York City when I began sketching the first fragments of City Trees. After being born, growing up, and living in the desert for 25 years of my life, moving to New York so suddenly was and continues to be one of the most challenging things I’ve ever done. I think it has also been one of the bravest. I left my friends, my family, and my ridiculously cheap rent all without much planning.

Every time I walk down a street in New York, I notice the trees shackled by the sidewalk. Some have little fences around them, many have trash nestled up next to their exposed roots, and others have grown so big and become so strong that they have broken right through the concrete pavement. As I pass beneath them, they all seem to wave their leafy pom-poms in the wind, a thousand leaves applauding, cheering me on as if I had just returned from the moon.

These trees have learned how to brave the concrete jungle, and it gave me solace knowing that they had flourished in such a challenging environment. Over time, the impossibilities of the city have become familiar, and although I continue to learn new lessons everyday, I’ve slowly begun to assimilate, finding my way around, discovering new places, and making friends while still keeping close with those who aren’t close by. The music in City Trees began to take on a growing sense of perseverance, embodied by the expansive melodies that sweep over the pensive, rhythmic undercurrent.

For me, City Trees is a reflection of the bravery that it often takes to venture into new worlds, embrace other cultures, and lovingly encourage new ideas. I am deeply honored to dedicate this piece to the Lesbian and Gay Band Association. Although I may never completely understand the unique challenges my friends have faced and had to overcome, I am inspired by the overwhelming courage that has been so firmly planted for 30 years and that continues to grow, perhaps slowly, but always stronger.

Everything you’ll ever need to know about City Trees is on Markowski’s comprehensive website for the piece, which includes a recording, an interactive sample score (here’s the pdf version), a SoundCloud recording, an analysis by Dr. Marc R. Dickey, the program note I quoted above, and more.

Now, in case you didn’t already find it among the links above, here is City Trees on video: