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Category Archives: Traveling East Concert

Fall 2011 is done.  What fun it was.  I did 2 big programs with the Columbia University Wind Ensemble:


LIGHT – Sunday, October 23 at 2pm, Roone Arledge Auditorium, Columbia University

(By the way, look carefully and you’ll see a dramatic arc to this program, from total darkness to blazing, brilliant light.)

Overture from Dancer in the Dark – Björk Guðmundsdóttir, arr. Vince Mendoza(and transcribed by me)

Shadow Rituals – Michael Markowski (senior choice for Jason Mogen)

Angels in the Architecture – Frank Ticheli (conducted by Columbia senior Berkley Todd)

Divertimento – Vincent Persichetti

Lux Aurumque – Eric Whitacre

Beacon Fires – Rob Smith

TRAVELING EAST – Sunday, December 11, 2011 at 2pm, Roone Arledge Auditorium

Orient et Occident – Camille Saint-Saens

Variations on a Korean Folk Song – John Barnes Chance

Come, Drink One More Cup – Chen Qian

Selections from Princess Mononoke – Joe Hisaishi, arr. Kazuhiro Morita

Festal Scenes – Yasuhide Ito

The Sun Will Rise Again – Philip Sparke was supposed to be on this program.  But the music never arrived, despite the fact that we ordered it in September.


We also traveled to Brown University on Sunday, November 20, for a joint concert with the Brown Wind Symphony.  We played a little music from each of our big concerts, as follows:

Orient et Occident – Camille Saint-Saens

Variations on a Korean Folk Song – John Barnes Chance

Lux Aurumque – Eric Whitacre

Festal Scenes – Yasuhide Ito


In addition, I traveled to Columbus State University in Columbus, Georgia for a conducting symposium with Jerry Junkin, Kevin Sedatole, and Jamie Nix on December 3 and 4.  I conducted the following:

Molly on the Shore – Percy Grainger

English Folk Song Suite – Ralph Vaughan Williams (2nd movement)

Divertissement for Winds – Emile Bernard (1st movement)

That was one of the best conducting workshops I’ve been to, ever.  Aspiring conductors: keep this one on your radar!


Finally, Columbia Summer Winds played a pet parade the day after the fluke October snowstorm.


Mamoru Fujisawa is not a name that rings many bells.  Yet, he is the most famous film composer in Japan, with over 100 features to his credit, including almost every film by anime guru Hayao Miyazaki.  Professionally, Mr. Fujisawa goes by Joe Hisaishi.  In Japanese, the last names go first, so he is Hisaishi Joe.  The way that’s spelled in kanji, it could also be pronounced Kuishi Joe.  That is the Japanese transliteration of a certain famous African-American musician’s name, Quincy Jones.  So, Japan’s top film composer is Quincy Jones.  (QED, BTW).  And this is no accident: Hisaishi was a big fan of Jones growing up, so when the time came to choose a stage name, it seemed like a natural choice.  Hisaishi was born in 1950 in Nagano, Japan.  His early interest in music led him to experiment in many genres before teaming up with Miyazaki on Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind in 1983.  Thus began a long and distinguished career.

Princess Mononoke (originally Mononoke Hime, 1997) is one of the many collaborations between Hisaishi and Miyazaki.  As is typical of Miyazaki films, it features stunning landscapes and fantastical, godlike creatures, and it explores themes of feminism and the relationship of humanity to technology and nature.  It is a historical fantasy of sorts, set in the late Muromachi period (roughly early 1500s) of Japan’s history, with numerous fantasy elements added.  The hero is Ashitaka, a young prince of the Emishi clan.  His village is attacked by a Tatari Gami (Curse God), a forest deity (in this case a boar god) overtaken with hate and rage.  During the battle, Ashitaka touches the Tatari Gami and becomes infected with its curse, which is destined to slowly kill him.  He finds an iron bullet embedded in the god’s body: to find its maker, and to search for a cure for his affliction, he must leave his village forever and travel west.  He eventually arrives at Iron Town and the surrounding forest, where humans are at war with the forest gods.  He also meets San, the Princess Mononoke of the title (in Japanese, Mononoke means angry spirit).  She is a human that has been raised by Moro, the wolf god, and her pups.  San hates the humans for all the damage they have inflicted on the forest and its mystical inhabitants.  As the plot unfolds, it becomes less and less clear whether the humans or the forest gods are in the right.  By helping both sides, Ashitaka gains both of their contempt.

Here’s a full rundown of the characters in Princess Mononoke.  In case it helps.

Also, here’s more info on IMBD, Wikipedia, and Rotten Tomatoes.

Hisaishi’s score helps add an expansive atmosphere to the film.  Here’s a trailer, which unfortunately doesn’t use Hisaishi’s music until the very end:

The Selections from “Princess Mononoke” that we are playing comes from an arrangement by Kazuhiro Morita.  Read his full account, translated by CUWE euphonist (euphist? eupher?) Sayaka Tsuna from the original Japanese:

I love the melody that Mr. Joe Hisaishi composes. I have previously arranged his music from Director Miyazaki’s animation movies, and each time I am extremely careful not to destroy the beautiful and inspiring melody created by Hisaishi. The first time I encountered Hisaishi’s work was in the fall of 1998, when I was approached by a high school music teacher in the Shizuoka prefecture and was asked to arrange music from the movie Princess Mononoke. Although I knew that the movie had been in the theaters the summer before with great responses, it was my first time listening to the music of the movie. The CD that I listened to was not the soundtrack of the movie, but a recording by the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra; after listening to the amazing performance, I was soon enthralled by the power of this piece just as the high school teacher was. Using the recording as an example, I rearranged the three movements “The Legend of Ashitaka”, “Tatari Gami”, and “Princess Mononoke”, which later became available as rental copies through Brain Co., Ltd [now called Bravo Music].

This particular score has a different composition than that of my original arrangement, because one of the performers of my first arrangement (Mr. Tomoki Ubata, the advisor for a wind ensemble at the Saitama Prefecture Ina Middle and High School) suggested that the 16-minute piece might be shortened, so it could be used in music contests. In the shorter version, I replaced the title of the third movement “Princess Mononoke” with “Ashitaka and San”, and created a clear transition from each theme in addition to changing a few minor details. It should be noted that the third clarinet part is written for novice players and does not require the use of a register key, but that the part is no less important to the piece. This piece could be performed even by a small group of musicians, so please enjoy the piece without omission of any parts.

Here’s the full arrangement in concert.  They go too fast in Tatari Gami’s section, but otherwise it’s good:

Finally, I couldn’t resist putting in one extra video.  This is a track from a death metal album, called Imaginary Flying Machines, playing the “Mononoke Theme” (which unfortunately is not in our selections).  The whole album consists of metal versions of famous Hisaishi tunes from Miyazaki movies.  Enjoy!

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 Gloriosa, which 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.

Ito wrote Festal Scenes in 1986.  He says he “was inspired to write Festal Scenes after receiving a letter from a wandering philosophical friend in Shanghai, who said ‘- everything seems like Paradise blooming all together.  Life is a festival, indeed.'”  The piece uses four Japanese folk songs from Aomori Prefecture, home of the famous Nebuta Festival, as its source material.  It also calls for 2 Japanese percussion instruments that are used in the Nebuta Festival: the Tebiragane, a type of antique cymbal, and the Nebuta-daiko, alarge drum played with long bamboo sticks.

Here’s a nice, punchy performance of Festal Scenes by what I can only conclude is a Japanese band.  I can’t read the Japanese text below the video, so I’m not sure.  Don’t be put off by the fast tempos in the outer sections, but DO listen very carefully to how crisply articulated everything is in the woodwinds!

Now to the folk songs: the first, called “Jongara-jamisen” by Ito, seems to be based on the playing of the shamisen, a banjo-like instrument with three strings.  Listen to this video to get an idea of the sound – this is the sound that Ito is going for in the opening bars of the piece!

The next song is “Hohai-bushi”, which you can hear in a modern version in this video.  One commenter (ok, the only commenter) aptly calls it “Japanese mountain music”.

What Ito calls “Tsugaru-aiya-bushi”, and interprets as a lyrical melody, appears to come from another shamisen tune.  The closest I could find to the melody as in Festal Scenes comes in this performance:

The fourth folk song is impossible to track down, given that Ito calls it “Nebuta-festival”, which also happens to be the name of the very lively and ongoing festival which inspired it.  Suffice it to say, it appears alongside the long section of Nebuta-daiko drumming from 125-151, and it is very expressive and lyrical, with grace notes galore and an octave jump at the end of each phrase.  In lieu of the song itself, you’ll have to settle instead for a video of some Nebuta-daiko-like drumming.  Watch the moves!

And finally, more Nebuta-daiko drumming (and so much more) in a video from the 2010 Nebuta Festival:

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

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.

The OCU School of Music Band Program Note database offers this note on Variations on a Korean Folk Song:

While serving in Seoul, Korea as a member of the Eighth United States Army Band, Chance encountered “Arirang,” a traditional folk song sung by native Koreans when experiencing circumstances of national crisis. The Korean word “arirang” means literally rolling hills, and the song relates the story of a man who is forced to leave his significant other, despite her persistent pleas to accompany him. Chance overheard “Arirang” while riding a public bus in Korea and later incorporated it into his work, Variations on a Korean Folk Song.

Variations on a Korean Folk Song is comprised of a theme and five distinct variations. Though the theme is of Eastern origin, Chance maintains a traditional Western tonal function based on triadic harmony and a pentatonic melody. Formal techniques used in the piece are canon, inversion, imitation, augmentation, ostinato, and polymeter. Chance maintains the theme’s Eastern influence by featuring distinct percussive instruments like gong, temple blocks, cymbals, timpani, vibraphone, and triangle. In 1966, Variations on a Korean Folk Song was awarded the American Bandmaster’s Association’s Ostwald Composition Award and the piece remains a standard of band repertoire today.

The piece has Internet presence of its own via wikipedia, the Wind Repertory Project, the Wikia Program Notes site, and a Facebook page.  Some anonymous saints have even put an extensive set of rehearsal notes and a teaching unit about it!

Some links on the composer:

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

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

A rousing performance by an anonymous band:

Wikipedia has a bunch to say about the original folk song, “Arirang”.  And there are several videos of the song on YouTube, of varying degrees of authenticity and antiquity.  Here’s a modern version done in South Korea by their National Classical Orchestra and singers from their Traditional Songs Institute:

This was a senior choice for tenor saxophonist and CUWE co-president John Meyers in 2005.  In 2011, it will be conducted by Sarah Quiroz.

Philip Sparke (b. 1951) is a prolific British composer, primarily of works for wind band and brass band.  He studied at London’s Royal College of Music, where he played in the wind orchestra and started a student brass band.  He has been commissioned by top world bands, including the Tokyo Kosei Wind Orchestra and the US Air Force Band, and his compositions have won many awards, including the Sudler Prize (Dance Movements, 1997) and the NBA Revelli  Composition Contest (Music of the Spheres, 2005).

Sparke describes the impetus for The Sun Will Rise Again in his own program notes:

On March 11th 2011 a massive 9.0- magnitude earthquake occurred off the coast of north-eastern Japan.

I’m writing these programme notes barely a week later and the death toll caused by the quake and resulting tsunami already exceeds 6000, with thousands of people still unaccounted for.

I have many friends associated with many bands throughout Japan and one of these, Yutaka Nishida, suggested I write a piece to raise money to help those affected by the disaster. I was immediately attracted by the idea and have arranged Cantilena (a brass band piece recently commissioned by the Grenland International Brass Festival, Norway) for wind band, giving it a new title to honour my friends in the Land of the Rising Sun.

I will be donating royalties from this piece to the Japanese Red Cross Society Emergency Relief Fund and am delighted to say that my distributors, De Haske, who will generously also donate all net profits from sales of this piece, have pledged a substantial advance payment to the Red Cross so that what little help this project generates can be immediate.

It is my sincere wish that this ‘Band Aid’ project will allow wind bands around the world support the people of Japan, where bands are a way of life for many, in this difficult time”.

Here’s the band version:

You can also read about (but not listen to) the original brass band version here.

Philip Sparke has an extensive website that is worth a look.

Chinese composer Chen Qian wrote Come, Drink One More Cup in 2007 on a commission from Thomas Verrier and the Vanderbilt Wind Symphony.  It is essentially a fantasy for wind band based on a Chinese folk song.  I first ran across it at the Hartt School of Music Conducting Workshop this summer, where I worked with Michael Haithcock, who had conducted the piece with the University of Michigan Symphony Band on their China tour.  The score comes with the following program note (I’ve added some links here and there):

Inspired by the famous poem by the well-known Tang poet and musician, Wang-Wei, this song has many different versions.  The main theme is from “Parting at the Yang-guan Gate” by Zhang-He of the Qin Dynasty (1867).  Wang-Wei wrote the poem when he said goodbye to his friend to serve in the army at Weicheng, a small town in Yangguan neighboring the border.  The poem expresses sadness, loneliness, and deep sorrow because the may never see each other again.

The morning rain at Weicheng dampens the light dust,
All the houses and willows look fresh after the rain.
Come, drink one more cup of wine before you leave
After you go west to Yangguan, there will be no more friends.

The poem is traditionally sung with music accompaniment played on the guqin (pronounced ku-shin).  The guqin is a plucked seven-string instrument that has been played since ancient times.  Understanding and appreciating the sound of the guqin and the style of guqin music is vital to the correct performance of this piece.

The Vanderbilt Wind Symphony plays Come Drink One More Cup, with all of the composer’s performance notes in mind:

In the interest of both appreciating the guqin and hearing the folk song in its original setting, here’s a video you’ll enjoy:

This site contains extensive analysis of this tune and others, and is especially interesting for its different translation of the Wang-Wei poem.

Chen Qian is mentioned all over the Internet: he has a relationship with the music department at Vanderbilt University, whose wind symphony commissioned this piece; there is a CD of his band music from 2004 (before Come, Drink… was written); but has no website of his own.  In fact a Google search for “Chen Qian Composer” lists this page as the first result!  The composer’s biography reads thusly (from the Kjos website):

Born in Guiyang, China, began violin lessons with his father at the age of three and started playing piano at the age of four. At seventeen, he worked as a pianist for the City Song and Dance Ensemble of Guiyang. In 1981, he was recruited by the composition department of Sichuan Conservatory of Music and became a student of Professor Huwei Huang. Currently, he is resident composer for the Military Band of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army. His range of works cover symphonic music, chamber music, music for television and film. He is recognized for the advancement of wind instrument composition, developing new techniques to make wind instruments more expressive. Among his works are Symphonies No. 1, No. 2, No.3, and No. 4 for the wind band; “Fissure” Double Concerto for trumpet and symphony band; “Crazy man” Concerto for Flute and Wood band; “Exploits,” a symphonic overture for the wind band; and a large number of other pieces for the jazz Big Band. His works have been performed in the United States, the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, Switzerland, Japan, Korea and Hong Kong. In 1997, he was honored with a concert of all wind music at the Beijing Concert Hall, which was the first of its kind in China, He believes that New Concepts and new techniques will lead to the creating of a style that will bring together modern music and the ancient civilization.

Camille Saint-Saens (1835-1921) was the French composer of such famous works as Carnival of the Animals, the opera Samson and Delilah, Danse Macabre, and the Organ Symphony.  He was a child prodigy who became France’s most renowned composer.  Late in life, he traveled to all corners of the world.  Orient et Occident (1869) was the first of three pieces that he wrote for wind band.  It is subtitled “grand march”, though in reality it is more of a Lisztian tone poem.  The piece has clearly-defined Western (Occidental) and Eastern (Oriental) sections.  It begins in the West, with a rousing march melody that leads to a stirring, processional legato.  The middle section is an homage to Turkish (what Saint-Saens considered Eastern) janissary music, with melodies in the double reeds and jangling percussion.  We return to the West with a fugue on the original theme that leads to an exciting, accelerating finale.

Florida State University’s Wind Orchestra plays Orient et Occident:

Further program notes on Orient et Occident from the University of Maryland Wind Orchestra.

Saint-Saens bio at the Classical Archives.

Saint-Saens on Wikipedia.

Another Saint-Saens bio on thinkquest.

Finally, for those wondering what Turkish janissary music is: