Skip navigation

Category Archives: 2005-06

John Barnes Chance (1932-1972) was born in Texas, where he played percussion in high school.  His early interest in music led him to the University of Texas at Austin, where he received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees, studying composition with Clifton Williams.  The early part of his career saw him playing timpani with the Austin Symphony, and later playing percussion with the Fourth and Eighth U.S. Army Bands during the Korean War.  Upon his discharge, he received a grant from the Ford Foundation’s Young Composers Project, leading to his placement as resident composer in the Greensboro, North Carolina public schools.  Here he produced seven works for school ensembles, including his classic Incantation and Dance.  He went on to become a professor at the University of Kentucky after winning the American Bandmasters Association’s Ostwald award for his Variations on a Korean Folk Song.  Chance was accidentally electrocuted in his backyard in Lexington, Kentucky at age 39, bringing his promising career to an early, tragic end.

Incantation and Dance came into being during Chance’s residency at Greensboro.  He wrote it in 1960 and originally called it Nocturne and Dance – it went on to become his first published piece for band.  Its initial incantation, presented in the lowest register of the flutes, presents most of the melodic material of the piece.  Chance uses elements of bitonality throughout the opening section to create a sound world mystically removed from itself.  This continues as the dance elements begin to coalesce.  Over a sustained bitonal chord (E-flat major over an A pedal), percussion instruments enter one by one, establishing the rhythmic framework of the dance to come.  A whip crack sets off furious brass outbursts, suggesting that this is not a happy-fun dance at all.  When the dance proper finally arrives, its asymmetrical accents explicitly suggest a 9/8+7/8 feel, chafing at the strictures of 4/4 time.  In his manuscript (and reprinted in the 2011 second edition score) Chance provides the following performance note pertaining to these passages:

Because there is no musical notation to indicate a “non-accent,” it may be necessary to caution the players against placing any metric pulsation on the first and third beats of the syncopated measures of the dance: to accent these beats in the accustomed way will destroy the intended effect.

He goes on to demonstrate the first two bars of the dance as written in 4/4, then rewritten as the accents would suggest: 3/4, 3/8, 2/4, 3/8.

Incantation and Dance has been extremely popular with wind bands ever since it was written.  Wikia program notes has a page about it. David Goza wrote an indispensable, must-read article about the piece.  Even the blurb at Hal Leonard is informative.

Some links on the composer:

Listing of a John Barnes Chance CD on Amazon.com with an extensive customer review at the bottom that is required reading.

Also, here’s John Barnes Chance’s wikipedia bio.

The Tokyo Kosei Wind Orchestra plays Incantation and Dance:

Advertisements

Massachusetts native Frank Perkins (1908-1988) made his name as a composer while working for Warner Brothers in Los Angeles.  His works crossed genres from songs, notably “Stars Fell on Alabama”, to light classics like Fandango to a wealth of television and film music.  He was nominated for an Oscar for his work on 1962’s film version of Gypsyin which he served as conductor, arranger, and music supervisor.  He graduated in 1929 from Brown University (with an economics degree), then toured Europe as a pianist in the 1930s before returning to the US and forming his own dance band.  Subsequent work with Fred Waring and the Pennsylvanians led to the job at Warner Brothers in 1938, where he stayed until retirement in the late 1960s.

Floyd Werle (1929-2010) was a University of Michigan alumnus who served as the arranger for the US Air Force Band for 32 years.  He created hundreds of arrangements and was renowned for his harmonic daring and orchestrational finesse.  He arranged Perkins’s Fandango in 1954.  Here it is (with the first 8 or so bars cut off) performed by a very fine German band:

And here is Perkins’s own orchestra performing his original version:

The fandango is a song and dance form from Spain and Portugal that originated in the early 1700s.  It became popular as an instrumental form for serious treatment by composers by the end of the 18th century.  It is a 3/4 dance that is accompanied by castanets and often features a descending harmonic progression.  See one early treatment by Luigi Boccherini:

And another that focuses on the castanet-bearing dancers:

Sadly, Fandango for band is currently out of print.  Write a review of it on the JWPepper site so we can push to get it back!

Vincent Persichetti (1915-1987) was a piano and organ prodigy who was supporting himself with his musical talents by age 11.  A lifelong Philadelphia resident, he took full advantage of that city’s music institutions.  At age 20, he was simultaneously the head of the music department at Combs College, a conducting major with Fritz Reiner at the Curtis Institute, and a piano and composition student at the Philadelphia Conservatory.  His distinctly original compositions began to be recognized internationally before he was 30.  His skyrocketing reputation led to his appointment at the Juilliard School, where he became the chair of the composition department at age 47.  He died in 1987, leaving behind a unique body of work in almost every musical medium, including a number of masterpieces for the wind band.  Among these is Pageant, written for the American Bandmasters Association.

To quote the score:

Pageant, commissioned by the American Bandmasters’ Association, was completed in January, 1953, and was [Persichetti’s] third band work.  It opens in slow tempo with a motive in the horn that is used throughout both sections of the piece..  The slow chordal section is succeeded by a lively “parade” section introduced by the snare drum.  In the final portion of the work the principal subjects are developed simultaneously to a lively climax.

The first performance of this work took place on March 7th, 1953, at the American Bandmasters’ Association Convention in Miami, Florida.  It was performed by the University of Miami Band, with the composer conducting.

The New York premiere took place on June 19, 1953, with the Goldman Band playing and the composer conducting.

Pay attention to that last factoid.  Not many pieces print their New York premiere in the program notes!  These days some pieces don’t even get a New York premiere…

Further to what the program note says, Pageant’s two sections use different compositional techniques, which result in remarkably different textures.  The initial slow section uses the opening horn call to germinate long phrases supported by chordal harmonies.  These phrases are then passed around between small choirs of instruments.  The tonal center shifts as often as the instrumentation, finally settling in B-flat on the very last chord.  The subsequent “parade” does indeed begin with the snare drum, which sets up the rhythmic motive for much of the material to come.  This section is a study in polytonality: even the first chord is in both A-flat and B-flat at once, and the final chord has B-flat and E-flat at its core, but with an A-flat in the bass and an A-natural-E-natural perfect fifth at the top.

There is some spotty coverage on Pageant out there: the Wind Repertory Project, WindBand.org, and the OCU Band Program Notes Database all shed light on the piece.  But by far the most in-depth article I’ve seen comes from David Goza, the Director of Orchestral Studies at the University of Arkansas.  It’s very technical (to give you an idea, it opens with a quick refresher on the relationship of quartal and pentatonic harmony), but it should be a fun read for anyone interested in music theory.

A listen will certainly help us understand what all that stuff sounds like, so I give you the North Texas University Wind Ensemble with Eugene Corporon conducting:

You can find out more about Persichetti himself at Theodore Presser, Wikipedia, and his own Society’s website.

I first came  across Piazzolla’s music in 2001, while working for the Little Orchestra Society of New York.  The conductor, Dino Anagnost, had heard Gidon Kremer‘s version of Piazzolla’s Four Seasons of Buenos Aires (Cuatro Estaciones Porteñas) for string orchestra and violin solo, and wanted to perform it.  There was no published version of it, just the arranger’s manuscript.  So, as the “music assistant” I got to sit at the Maestro’s computer for several weeks, creating the set of parts in Sibelius.  What could have been endless tedium was instead a revelation: I got inside every note of the piece and came away with an intimate knowledge of Piazzolla’s musical language.  He was romantic.  He was lyrical.  He would hover on astonishing dissonances, preserving them like the surface of smoothly rippling water.  He had a gift for counterpoint far beyond what I was expecting of a tango master.  This initial contact led me to study up on the man and his music.  Finally, in 2005, I arranged two of his tangos, Milonga del Angel and La Muerte del Angel, into a two-movement concerto for flute and band.  It premiered in 2006, with Leonardo Hiertz as the soloist.  And now, in 2012, we get to do it again!

Some background: Astor Pantaleón Piazzolla is widely regarded as the most influential tango artist of the 20th century.  His work borrows elements from tango, jazz, and classical music to form a new genre called  nuevo tango.  He was a virtuoso performer and a respected composer whose work is widely performed around the world.  He was born in Mar del Plata, Argentina on March 11, 1921, to Italian immigrant parents.  When he was 4 years old, they moved to Greenwich Village in New York City.  He picked up the bandoneón, the accordion-like instrument that would dominate his musical career, at age 8.  He heard a wealth of different kinds of music from an early age: his father brought Argentine tango records to New York; he heard jazz on the streets of the city; and by age 12, he was learning to play Bach on his bandoneón.  He returned to Argentina at 16, and moved to Buenos Aires the following year to try his luck on the tango scene there.  He found some success, but realized that his interests leaned more towards contemporary classical composers like Bartok and Stravinsky.  To that end, he studied composition with Alberto Ginastera and nearly dropped all tango activities.  Finally, in 1954 he left for Paris to study with the legendary composition teacher Nadia Boulanger.  She encouraged him to embrace his tango heritage.  He returned to Argentina inspired to elevate the tango to an artistic level.  He wrote original compositions for traditional ensembles, as well as for his own groups which ranged in size from quintets to nonets.  He toured the world with his music, and changed the tango forever.

Regarding the tangos in the arrangement, they both originated as incidental music for a play in 1962.  They eventually became part of a five-part series of “Angel” tangos, completed in 1965.  James Reel of allmusic.com neatly describes Milonga del Angel:

For Alberto Rodriguez Muñoz’s 1962 stage play Tango del Angel, in which an angel heals the spirits of the residents of a shabby Buenos Aires neighborhood, Piazzolla added two new pieces to an earlier tango that gave the play its name. This music reappeared in at least two different concert forms, but one of the unifying elements is the piece Milonga del ángel. A milonga is a sort of proto-tango, lighter and gentler than the more familiar form. This milonga is openly sentimental and begins with a lounge music feel with strummed bass chords; a simple, keening violin line; and a few tinkles from the piano. The bandoneón creeps in almost unnoticed, but takes control of the piece with a sad, nostalgic melody (at this point, one could easily imagine the piece being played in a jazz club). Just as the treatment of the melody becomes more complex and emotional, a secondary section arrives to allow some air around the music. It initially seems like a transition, but opens into a highly romantic and sensual violin solo. The bandoneón reclaims its place, offering its own variation on this melody, which is actually closely tied to the main theme, and musing on it with the violin and electric bass. A more intense passage leads to the coda, which strips the music down to a series of chords, much as the piece began.

Le Muerte del Angel comes from the same play.  It is notable for its opening fugue and its brisk tempo.

Here is the master himself performing Milonga del Angel on the BBC:

He and his quintet (similar to the group above) do La Muerte del Angel.  Wind players, watch the way he breathes with the bandoneón.

Now the copious links begin.  Piazzolla remains very popular as a composer, so there is much written about him on the internet.

Piazzolla info at wikipedia, his YouTube page (HIGHLY recommended!), todotango, IMDb, NPR, and allmusic.  Sadly, his foundation’s website, piazzolla.org, is about 10 years out of date.

Find out more about Milonga del Angel at allmusic (quoted above), jazz.com, the Fugata Quintet, and Albert Combrink’s Blog.  Also, go to this blog to see a video of a sword-swallowing routine done to this piece!

See more about La Muerte del Angel at Albert Combrink’s Blog, answers.com, and Piazzolla on Video (as a tribute to Piazzolla’s longtime pianist, Pablo Ziegler).

Joseph Wilcox Jenkins was born in the Philadelphia area in 1928.  He started composing at a young age as part of his piano lessons. His future in music was uncertain at first: he studied pre-law at Saint Joseph’s College while also taking composition classes with Vincent Persichetti at the Philadelphia Conservatory of Music.  But composition was his calling: he went on to 2 further degrees at the Eastman School of Music, where he studied with Howard Hanson, Bernard Rogers, and Thomas Canning.  Soon after finishing at Eastman, he enlisted in the U.S. Army, where he became an arranger for the Army Field Band.  Doctoral work at Catholic University followed, then another stint in the Army, this time as head arranger for for the U.S. Army Chorus.  Jenkins later received a Ford Foundation grant to serve as the composer-in-residence of the high school in Evanston, Illinois.  In 1961, the same year that his Cumberland Gap Overture won an Ostwald award, he joined the music faculty at Duquesne University, where he remained until his retirement in 2000.

American Overture was Jenkins’s first work for band, written in 1953 when he was 25 years old.  It came about during his first military stint.  As an arranger for the U.S. Army Field Band, he composed the piece to match their instrumentation, which was idiosyncratic in many ways.  For instance: he included not just a string bass, but also a cello;  there are three distinct baritone parts;  the flutes divide into 3; the clarinets and trombones each divide in 4.  But the stars of this piece are definitely the horns.  They famously leap an octave in the first measure.  His original edition had the first note slurred to the second (written G4-G5), virtually guaranteeing a strident glissando.  A 2003 revision eliminated this slur, but horn players everywhere still treasure or loathe that famous opening figure.  The rest of American Overture is a high-energy expression of bold optimism that puts every section of the band in the spotlight.

Read more about American Overture at Wikia Program Notes and The Concord Band.

Professor Jenkins has a biography posted here.  There is also a nice story about a 2007 Army tribute to him here.

And now a listen.  This one features nearly professional-quality playing!

Dmitri Shostokovich (1906-1975) was one of the great composers of the 20th century, and certainly the greatest to emerge from the Soviet Union.  His relationship with the Soviet government, especially Soviet premier Joseph Stalin, defined nearly every aspect of his life.  He was born in St. Petersburg and grew up in the last years of tsarist rule in Russia.  The Bolshevik revolution of 1917 came when Shostakovich was 11, but its influence stayed with him the rest of his life.  His rise to fame came at the hands of an aid to Leon Trotsky, a father of the revolution.  Shortly thereafter, Trotsky’s exile and the death of Vladimir Lenin left  Stalin in charge, and he ruled with an iron fist and no patience for dissent or criticism of any kind.  The arts were to reflect the official reality of Soviet existence, and thus “Formalist” works (that is, any work that displayed hints of modernism or abstract content) were at least frowned upon, if not banned outright.  Shostakovich made something of a game of pushing as far towards this line as possible, sometimes even drifting past it.  He was officially denounced by the regime twice, only to later rehabilitate his reputation through new, more apparently pro-Soviet works.  At times the regime used him as a mouthpiece, and he seemed only too willing to comply.  Yet his works often show signs of weariness or outright contempt for his government.  His controversial memoir, Testimony, seems to confirm the notion that Shostakovich did not wish to support the Soviet regime.  However, the memoir’s emergence 4 years after his death and the murky circumstances of its creation, not to mention its appearance at the height of the Cold War, all call into question its truthfulness.  Still, Shostakovich undeniably made beautiful music, including 15 symphonies, an equal number of string quartets, large quantities of film music, and 2 operas which he held dear for his entire life.

Shostakovich wrote Festive Overture in 1954 on a commission for the Bolshoi Theatre’s celebration of the 37th anniversary of the October Revolution (in 1917).  Shostakovich completed the piece in less than a week.   It opens with an exuberant, rising fanfare which transitions to a spritely, lyrical main theme at a breakneck tempo.  The overture speeds past, with a brief return to the fanfare figure before an energetic coda.

The original orchestral version:

The Hunsberger band version by the University of Michigan Symphony Band and Michael Haithcock.

Here’s a trumpet-only version: 8 trumpeters from Juilliard!

Festive Overture on wikipedia, Kennedy Center program notes, and BSO kids’ music curriculum.

Shostakovich bio on Wikipedia.

The debate about Shostakovich and his allegiances rages on…

From Mychael Danna’s website:

Mychael Danna is recognized as one of the most versatile and original voices in film music. This reputation has led him to work with such acclaimed directors as Ash Brannon, Chris Buck (Surf’s Up), Jonathan Dayton, Valerie Faris (Little Miss Sunshine), Atom Egoyan (The Sweet Hereafter), Catherine Hardwicke (Nativity), Scott Hicks (Hearts in Atlantis), Neil LaBute (Lakeview Terrace), Ang Lee (The Ice Storm), Gillies MacKinnon (Regeneration), James Mangold (Girl Interrupted), Deepa Mehta (Water), Bennett Miller (Capote), Mira Nair (Monsoon Wedding), Billy Ray (Breach), Todd Robinson (Lonely Hearts), Joel Schumacher (8MM), Charles Martin Smith (Stone of Destiny), Istvan Szabo (Being Julia) and Denzel Washington (Antwone Fisher).

Recent work includes 500 Days of Summer (Marc Webb), The Imaginarium of Dr Parnassus (Terry Gilliam) and The Time Traveler’s Wife (Robert Schwentke).

He studied music composition at the University of Toronto, winning the Glenn Gould Composition Scholarship in 1985.

The composer has this to say of his music from Mira Nair’s Monsoon Wedding:

Baraat is the hindi word for the wedding procession of the bridegroom to the bride’s village, with the groom on horseback, surrounded by his family and friends and musicians, singing and dancing with the joy of the occasion. Traditionally, the music that would accompany this noisy journey would be the exciting rhythm of the dhol drums. But since the time of the British military brass bands, the more affluent weddings use this strange yet typically Indian absorption of marching band instruments into Indian popular songs… musical proof that outside influences will come and go, but there will always be an India. This piece was written by me in that style for Mira Nair’s film Monsoon Wedding.

I arranged this piece for band with the composer’s blessing for a 2005 Columbia Wind Ensemble concert.  This will be its second run of performances.

Mychael Danna on wikipedia, IMDB, and Amazon.

Monsoon Wedding on IMDB, wikipedia, rottentomatoes, and its own official site.

Now, from YouTube, the opening credits of the movie and a bit of the first scene.  The credits feature the theme song – enjoy!

Finally, here is my band arrangement of it, performed by Columbia Summer Winds in 2011 at Bryant Park with me conducting.  That white noise in the beginning is the fountain right behind us.

Paul Hindemith (1895-1963) was an influential German composer who explored the fringes of tonality through his music and who was teacher to many a great name in composition.  He grew up and began his career in Germany, but a complicated relationship with the Nazi regime in the 1930s sent him elsewhere.  During that period, he was invited to Turkey, where he helped to reorganize the music education system there.  In 1940, he emigrated to the United States, where he taught primarily at Yale University.  He became an American citizen in 1946, but moved to Zurich in 1953, where he remained for the rest of his life.  He developed his own system of tonality that was not diatonic, but which ranks musical intervals from most-consonant to most-dissonant while still relying on a tonal center.  While this approach sounds purely academic, it resulted in playful, accessible music in Hindemith’s hands.  He was very interested in understanding instrumental technique, to the point that he is said to have learned to play every one of his instrumental sonatas (and there are many, including trumpet, clarinet, trombone, harp, tuba, flute, violin, viola, and bass) on the instrument for which he wrote it.

The Symphonic Metamorphosis on Themes of Carl Maria von Weber came into being in 1943, while Hindemith was living in America.  He was first invited to arrange the music for a ballet on Weber’s themes.  That project fell through when it became clear that he and the choreographer, Leonide Massine, did not see eye to eye.  This left Hindemith free to take Weber’s source material in the direction he pleased.  He used themes from Weber’s little-known piano duets and from his incidental music for the play Turandot, which had also inspired Puccini’s famous opera.  Hindemith casts the Symphonic Metamorphosis in four movements.  The final “March” made its way into the band repertoire in 1950 when the director of bands at Yale, Keith Wilson, completed his arrangement.

The original orchestral version conducted by the composer himself:

And the version we’ll be playing, arranged by former Yale band director Keith Wilson:

Find out more about Hindemith at Wikipedia, the Hindemith Foundation, Schott Publishing, and DSO Kids.

Read up on the Symphonic Metamorphosis at Wikipedia and the Los Angeles Philharmonic.

Percy Grainger (1882-1961) was a piano prodigy turned composer who was known for his strange personal habits, his colorful prose, and his equally unusual music – his many admirers today still recognize that he possessed “the supreme virtue of never being dull.”  Born in Australia, he began studying piano at an early age.  He came to the U. S. at the outbreak of World War I and enlisted as an Army bandsman, becoming an American citizen in 1918.  He went on to explore the frontiers of music with his idiosyncratic folk song settings, his lifelong advocacy for the saxophone, and his Free Music machines which predated electronic synthesizers.  His many masterworks for winds include Lincolnshire Posy, Irish Tune from County Derry, Children’s March and Molly on the Shore.

Lincolnshire Posy is considered to be Grainger’s masterwork for wind band.  It is based on folk songs that he and Lucy Broadwood collected in Lincolnshire in 1905-06.  He intended it as a collection of “musical wildflowers” reflective not only of the songs but of the singers who sang them to Grainger and their personalities.  Thus style plays a big role in each movement.  Grainger uses every compositional device at his disposal to great effect: harmonies move unpredictably, meter is unstable or absent, countermelodies creep in and out of prominence, melodies go willfully in and out of phase, all in service of the singer’s implied interpretation of each folk tune.  Grainger recorded each singer on wax cylinders, using those recordings as reference to faithfully recreate each tune.  He began the process of assembling the various tunes into Lincolnshire Posy in 1937.  It was premiered by the Pabst Blue Ribbon beer factory worker’s band in Milwaukee that same year on March 7.  This premier was incomplete: as is often the case today, the PBR band was not up to the challenge of the harder movements.

Lincolnshire Posy has its own wikipedia entry, which mentions quite a few fun facts about it.  This page used to host the lyrics to each of the original folk songs, but they have sadly disappeared.  Instead, you’ll have to turn to individual sites for each movement:

I. “Lisbon” and “Duke of Marlborough” (actually another version of “Lord Melbourne”)

II. “Horkstow Grange

III. “Rufford Park Poachers

IV. “The Brisk Young Sailor” (also known as “A Fair Maid Walking”)

V. “Lord Melbourne

VI. “Lost Lady Found

The score of the Frederick Fennell edition of Lincolnshire Posy features an extensive program note that is a true treasure-trove of Grainger-isms.  It can be found in its entirety, along with extensive bonus material, here.

There are an incredible number of performances of Lincolnshire Posy on YouTube.  Most of them are no good, but thankfully Frederick Fennell and the Eastman Wind Ensemble and their classic recording of the piece have made their way onto YouTube:

Percygrainger.com – much general information on the composer with a focus on his wind band works.

International Percy Grainger Society – Based in White Plains, NY, they take care of the Grainger house there as well as the archives that remain there.  They also like to support concerts in our area that feature Grainger’s music.

Grainger Museum – in his hometown of Melbourne, Australia, at the University there.

Grainger’s works and performances available at Naxos.com

Finally, I know this is already up on the other Grainger pages, but it’s just so good:

One more look at Grainger on YouTube, this time performing on the piano:

Leroy Anderson (1908-1975) wrote several legendary classical-pops pieces that remain popular, many of which he also arranged for wind band.  Among them are Sleigh Ride, The Irish Washerwoman, Bugler’s Holiday, and Belle of the Ball.  Bugler’s Holiday (1954) is one of his most enduring classics.  Originally scored for trumpet trio and orchestra, it has been performed by groups of nearly every instrument imaginable, often to great comic effect.

LeroyAnderson.com – a treasure trove of information on the composer and his music, including a listening room.

Once Upon a Sleigh Ride – a PBS documentary about Anderson and his music.

Bugler’s Holiday at Answers.com.

There are so many performances of Bugler’s Holiday on YouTube that I just had to pick some that stood out.  I highly recommend going and looking at a bunch more if you have the time.  Here’s a YouTube search link for you.

An excellent performance by a German band that appears to have memorized their music. Watch out for the bari sax player!

One among many adaptations, this one for bassoon quintet:

Finally, I present without comment a choral version: