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Monthly Archives: May 2014

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 humility regarding his musical training, he is gaining attention as a composer of unique and sophisticated works for wind band and other media.  His works are being performed across the United States, leading to an ever-growing list of commissions for new works.

The Cave You Fear was commissioned by the Gravelly Hill Middle School Bands and their director Arris Golden.  Markowski describes his inspiration for the piece on his website (also printed in the score):

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about all the opportunities we’re given day-to-day to try something new or to go somewhere we’ve never been before—the opportunity to take a spontaneous road trip, to go see a concert by a band we’ve never heard of at a venue we’ve never been to, to try that new restaurant down the street where the menu is in a language we don’t quite understand. Some people have an innate sense of adventure, who go-with-the-flow, who live life for the unexplored, and I couldn’t be more inspired by them.

For a long time, I was the opposite. I used to prefer to stay at home, working on my computer because it was the safe and responsible thing to be doing, listening to the same albums on my iPod, ordering the same meal at the same, familiar restaurants. And while there’s nothing necessarily wrong with having a routine or knowing what you like, I eventually realized that my life was starting to have a certain predictability to it. It was a few years ago, while I was still living in the same state that I was born and raised in, that I had the most terrifying epiphany that I think I’ve ever had. I was becoming increasingly bored and incredibly boring.

In film schools around the world, Joseph Campbell‘s book The Hero With A Thousand Faces is required reading for filmmakers, screenwriters, and storytellers because Campbell has single-handedly identified what we refer to as “The Hero’s Journey” — the series of events and conflicts that arise along a character’s path as he or she fights their way to some ultimate goal. After studying Campbell, it’s easy to question where we are on our own paths. What is our own story? What are we fighting for? What does it mean to be a ‘hero’ and how can we be more ‘heroic’ ourselves? When we hear our own call-to-adventure, will we jump up, prepared, or will we ignore it, sit idly and take the easy way out because we would rather life be quiet and comfortable? According to Campbell, each of our adventures are already out there, waiting for us. That’s not the problem. For him, “the big question is whether you are going to be able to say a hearty ‘yes’ to your adventure.”

So for the next four minutes, let’s take a chance, let’s venture into the dark unknown, let’s fight whatever monsters we find in there. And although we might not always prevail, at least we’ll have a story to tell by the end.

Everything you’ll ever need to know about The Cave You Fear 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, the program note I quoted above, and more.  Of special interest are the videos demonstrating some of the more unusual techniques he calls for in the score, which I will reproduce below.  These are especially useful, as this is a piece intended to be playable by middle school bands.

I had the great privilege of leading the Brooklyn Wind Symphony in a recording session for this piece.  My thanks to both their director Jeff Ball and Michael Markowski for getting me involved in the project!  Here is the wonderful result:

Now, those technical videos I promised.  First, the Amplified Lion’s Roar:

Next, the Saxophone Multiphonic:

Finally, two different demonstrations of the Superball Mallet.  First, on timpani:

Next, on tam-tam:

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In spring 2014, I continued my DMA studies in wind conducting at Arizona State University. I studied primarily with Gary Hill and Wayne Bailey, but I also worked with Timothy RussellWilliam Reber, and David Schildkret.  I was involved with the bands plus a lot of other very interesting projects!

The semester started with the combined forces of ASU’s Wind Orchestra and about half of the Wind Ensemble going to the Arizona Music Educators Association conference on January 31.  They played Percy Grainger’s Lincolnshire Posy under the direction of Gary Hill to an audience of band directors and music teachers from around the state.

2 days later on February 2, Serena Weren had her doctoral conducting recital, which included the Stravinsky Octet and the Octandre of Edgard Varèse.

10 days later, Serena and I and the orchestral conducting TAs conducted the Concert of Soloists, featuring the winners of the ASU School of Music’s Concerto Competition with full orchestra/band:

Concerto for Clarinet and String Orchestra – Henri Tomasi, conducted by me, featuring the amazing Kristi Hanno on clarinet

Concertino for Tuba and Wind Orchestra – Rolf Wilhelm, conducted by Serena Weren

and more!

The Concert Band, under my direction, had its first concert on March 1.  The original plan was to play outdoors and call the concert “A Sunny Afternoon”, not an unreasonable assumption in the desert.  However, Mother Nature was not pleased with my concert-planning hubris, and it rained torrentially that day, the first rainfall of 2014 in the Phoenix area.  So we moved the concert indoors to Gammage 301 and called it “Rain or Shine”.  We had a wonderful turnout, and played spectacularly well.  The repertoire was:

The Black Horse Troop – John Philip Sousa

Country Gardens – Percy Grainger, arr. John Philip Sousa

Alligator Alley – Michael Daugherty

Music for Shakespeare (first movement) – Edward Green, arr. Pease

Cowboy Rhapsody – Morton Gould, arr. Bennett

West Side Story Selection – Leonard Bernstein, arr. Duthoit

Fandango – Frank Perkins, arr. Werle

The Wind Ensemble (under Wayne Bailey) and Wind Orchestra (under Gary Hill) together presented “Under the Influence” on March 4, featuring music influenced by other music.  Selections included:

Wind Ensemble:

Chimes of Liberty – Edwin Franko Goldman

If Thou Be Near – Johann Sebastian Bach

Impercynations – Steven Bryant, conducted by me

Blue Shades – Frank Ticheli

Wind Orchestra:

Variants on a Medieval Tune – Norman Dello Joio, conducted by Serena Weren

The Frozen Cathedral – John Mackey

Gone – Scott McAllister

Point Blank – Paul Dooley

On March 15, Gary Hill conducted Mozart’s Gran Partita KV 361 (370a) at the CBDNA West/Northwest conference in Reno with an ASU chamber ensemble made up of studio faculty and top students.  It was very warmly received, even getting a commendation from distinguished music historian Richard Taruskin, who was an honored guest at the conference.

The weekend of April 10-12 ASU played host to the Arizona All-State festival.  UMKC director of bands Steve Davis conducted the All-State band in Vincent Persichetti’s Symphony no. 6 and other works.

On April 17, the Wind Orchestra hosted special guests John Mackey, Steven Bryant, and Joe Alessi.  They were in residence for several days, attending rehearsals and other special events.  Mr. Alessi did a trombone masterclass for the ASU players.  Bryant and Mackey were joined by Michael Markowski for a question and answer session with the ASU composition studio.  Bryant and Mackey also joined Gary Hill in an interview with KBAQ classical music radio.  All of this was buildup for “Carnival V: Concertos”, featuring two massive and wonderful pieces:

Harvest: Concerto for Trombone – John Mackey

Concerto for Wind Ensemble – Steven Bryant

On April 22, the Wind Ensemble (under Wayne Bailey) and Concert Band (under me) presented “Wet Ink”, featuring new wind band music written since 2010.  In preparation for this, the Wind Ensemble got to work with John Mackey, and the Concert Band with both Michael Markowski and Chris Lamb, who wrote a new piece especially for us.  The repertoire:

Wind Ensemble:

Xerxes – John Mackey, conducted by me

Rest – Frank Ticheli

The Three Embraces – Carter Pann

Concert Band:

Jalan-jalan di Singapura (Singapore Walkabout March) – Yasuhide Ito

City Trees – Michael Markowski

Les Cités obscures – Benoît Chantry

Crypto-Atlas – Chris Lamb

All in all, it was a great semester filled with music spanning over 200 years.  This DMA experience has NOT disappointed!

Chris Lamb (b. 1989) is an award-winning, American-born composer who has lived in various locales around the United States and the world (which you can read about further on his wonderful website).  His compositions include several works for band, a handful of orchestral pieces, a wealth of chamber music, and a three-act opera.  2014’s Crypto-Atlas was written on a commission from Andy Pease (yes, that’s me) and the Arizona State University Concert Band for their Wet Ink concert, meant to feature new compositions for band.  Asked for a grade 3 work using extended techniques, Lamb incorporated aleatory, hisses and tongue-clicks, and instrumental air sounds into the piece, making for a truly unique yet accessible sound world.  He provides the following program note:

Across the United States mysterious beasts are sighted every year.  From a Nessie-like creatures in the Chesapeake Bay and Lake Powell, AZ to a Giant Killer Octopus in Oklahoma and a Winged Alligator-Snake in Washington State, these beasts have enraptured our land and captured our imagination.  The question of “what lies beneath that body of water” haunts us and the unexplained phenomena that can only be attributed to the presence of such mythical creatures.

These wondrous beasts enhance our country’s rich history.  The answer the unanswerable and inspire awe in believers and skeptics alike.  They are America’s mythology, supernatural, and tall-tales all wrapped up into a legend that will live for years to come.

Below is the world premiere performance, with ASU Concert Band under my baton on April 22, 2014.  I encourage you to read along in the perusal score that Lamb provides!  Note that it starts VERY softly – give it a minute or so to get going.

Florida native Scott McAllister (b. 1969) is an Associate Professor of Composition at Baylor University.  His award-winning music has been featured at festivals and in performances in the United States, Europe, and Asia.  He has been commissioned by organizations around the world.  A personal tragedy ultimately led him to composition, as he explains in the program notes (compiled from his website and the Wind Repertory Project) to 2013’s Gone:

Gone for wind ensemble is a transcription of the sixth movement from my sixty-minute concerto for clarinet, the Epic Concerto. Each movement of the concerto relates to different pillar moments of my life as a clarinetist. In 1994, my playing career was ended in an automobile accident. Gone is about loss and the emotions and process of healing and learning to move on after a life-changing event.

This unique work in the concerto and wind ensemble version challenges the musicians and the audience to experience the music in a meditative and prayerful way. My goal was to draw memories of loss and comfort for those who experience the composition.

The inspiration for the wind ensemble version was the death of my mentor James Croft, and the wonderful influence he was in my life with his encouragement to never forget about writing for the band.

McAllister achieves the meditative and mournful texture of Gone with extremely soft, sustained playing in every instrument, as well as spooky and distant percussion effects.  This makes it much more difficult than it looks on paper.  While it is technically a grade 4 piece, it takes extremely mature players to really achieve what McAllister is after.

Below, the Baylor University Wind Ensemble plays Gone.  Wait until the applause at the end to see just how quietly they are playing, a very difficult feat for even the very best wind players:

Gone was commissioned by the Baylor chapters of Kappa Kappa Psi, Tau Beta Sigma,Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia and Mu Phi Epsilon.