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Category Archives: 2013-2014

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791) was a child prodigy born in Salzburg, Austria who toured Europe as a boy, playing keyboards and violin for nobility and the general public.  He began composing at age 4, amassing an impressive output of over 600 pieces by the time of his untimely death at age 35.  His compositions encompassed solo keyboard works, symphonies, operas, string quartets, concertos, chamber music of all stripes, and religious works.  He famously died while composing his Requiem, K. 626.  It is possible that he believed himself to be writing his own funeral music, but it is unlikely that he was poisoned by the composer Antonio Salieri, as is asserted in the film Amadeus.  In life, he had a reputation as a prankster, which shone through in his music at times (witness the 4-voice canons Difficile lectu and O du eselhafter Peierl).  He is remembered today as perhaps one of the greatest composers who ever lived.

The Serenade K 361 (370a) has long been known by its more famous nickname, Gran Partita.  This was not Mozart’s invention: his manuscript for the piece originally had no heading, but some unknown hand scribbled the nickname on it, and it has stuck.  It means, essentially, “big wind symphony,” which is not inaccurate: the Gran Partita uses an unusually large ensemble (13 players) for the era, as well as a seven-movement form that is larger than either a four-movement symphony or the more conventional six-movement serenade or divertimento that formed the core of the wind repertoire at the time.  In addition to the usual harmonie ensemble of two oboes, two clarinets, two horns, and two bassoons, the Gran Partita adds two more horns, a pair of basset horns, and a string bass.  The seven movements consist of a sonata-allegro with an adagio introduction, a minuet and double trio, an adagio, another minuet and double trio featuring an obvious ländlera tripartite Romance, a theme and variations with a curious interruption, and a spritely finale, totaling nearly an hour of music.  Its composition date remains in dispute: it could have been as early as 1780, although it was not performed in any form until March 23, 1784, when it was presented at a benefit concert put on by famous clarinetist Anton Stadler.  This is the only known performance during Mozart’s lifetime, and it only included four of the movements!  Thankfully, the manuscript has survived in complete form to the present day, and it has become a cornerstone of the repertoire for chamber winds.

There are many performances of the Gran Partita out there, and no two will interpret it the same way.  Answers to the questions of eingangen (little cadenzas), double dotting, ornamentation, grace notes, tempos, and more can only be guessed at, since we have no concrete and specific style guide from the period, let alone any recordings.  I chose the recording below because of the fabulous assortment of period instruments they used (despite the fact that there is no conductor).  Each movement is a distinct video, so you can start anywhere.  Listen, but also watch!

I. Largo – Molto allegro

II. Menuetto I

III. Adagio

IV. Menuetto II

V. Romance

VI. Tema con variazioni

VII. Finale

Now for the links I promised.  The Gran Partita has its own pages at Wikipedia and Windrep.org. You can get certain versions of the score for free at the International Music Score Library Project.  It is also featured in program notes from the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, as well as this article by Roger Hellyer, who tries to get a fix on the elusive composition date.

As for Mozart himself, see Wikipedia, The Mozart Project, Studio-Mozart, and the Dallas Symphony Orchestra kids site for something a little more interactive.  All of this only scratches the surface.

I couldn’t write about Mozart without including a scene from Amadeus.  Here, the fictional Salieri recounts his feelings on first hearing the adagio from the Gran Partita, which aptly serves to demonstrate the young Mozart’s genius:

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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.

Educated at the University of Michigan, composer Frank Ticheli (b. 1958) has become one of the biggest names in new wind band repertoire.  Since 1991 he has been a Professor of Composition at the USC Thornton School of Music and, until 1998, Composer in Residence of the Pacific Symphony.  He is the recipient of many awards, including first prize in the 2006 NBA/William D. Revelli Memorial Band Composition Contest for his Symphony No. 2and a 2012 Arts and Letters Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

Rest came about in two stages.  It was originally written as a choral piece, There Will Be Rest, composed in 1999 and based on a poem of the same name by Sara Teasdale.  According to Ticheli it was “dedicated to the memory of Cole Carsan St. Clair, the son of my dear friends, conductor Carl St. Clair and his wife, Susan.”  The band version came about in 2010, the result of a commission from Russel Mikkelson and his family in memory of their father, Elling Mikkelson.  Ticheli provides the following program note:

Created in 2010, Rest is a concert band adaptation of my work for SATB chorus, There Will Be Rest, which was commissioned in 1999 by the Pacific Chorale, John Alexander, conductor.

In making this version, I preserved almost everything from the original: harmony, dynamics, even the original registration.  I also endeavored to preserve carefully the fragile beauty and quiet dignity suggested by Sara Teasdale’s words.

However, with the removal of the text, I felt free to enhance certain aspects of the music, most strikingly with the addition of a sustained climax on the main theme.  This extended climax allows the band version to transcend the expressive boundaries of a straight note-for-note setting of the original.  Thus, both versions are intimately tied and yet independent of one another, each possessing its own strengths and unique qualities.

The original poem:

There will be rest, and sure stars shining
Over the roof-tops crowned with snow,
A reign of rest, serene forgetting,
The music of stillness holy and low.
I will make this world of my devising
Out of a dream in my lonely mind.
I shall find the crystal of peace, – above me
Stars I shall find.

The band version:

And the choral original:

You can look at a virtual score and hear a recording at the same time here.

Frank Ticheli’s personal website, Frankticheli.com.

Ticheli bio on Wikipedia.

Frank Ticheli’s Facebook fanclub.

A video interview with Ticheli in which he talks about composing.

Steven Bryant (b. 1972) is an acclaimed, award-winning composer whose works often straddle different media.  He is a three-time recipient of the National Band Association’s William D. Revelli Composition Award (2007, 2008, 2010). His first orchestral work, Loose Id for Orchestra, was “orchestrated like a virtuoso” according to celebrated composer Samuel Adler.  His epic work for wind band and electronics, Ecstatic Waters, has received more performances than any other piece of its kind.  His other work includes pieces for wind band (some with added electronics), orchestra, chamber ensembles, and electronic music.  He studied composition at The Juilliard School with John Corigliano, at the University of North Texas with Cindy McTee, and at Ouachita University with W. Francis McBeth.

Concerto for Wind Ensemble is a virtuosic showpiece for winds: each player is a soloist with a completely independent part.  Bryant has extensively documented his inspiration and his compositional process on his website.  First, his program note:

My Concerto for Wind Ensemble came into existence in two stages, separated by three years. The first movement came about in 2006, when Commander Donald Schofield (then director of the USAF Band of Mid-America) requested a new work that would showcase the band’s considerable skill and viscerally demonstrate their commitment to excellence as representatives of the United States Air Force. From the outset, I decided against an outright depiction of flight, instead opting to create a work that requires, and celebrates, virtuosity. Initial discussions with Cdr. Schofield centered on a concerto grosso concept, and from this, the idea evolved into one of surrounding the audience with three groups of players, as if the concertino group had expanded to encompass the audience. These three antiphonal groups, along with the onstage ensemble, form the shape of a diamond, which, not coincidentally, is a core formation for the USAF Thunderbirds Air Demonstration Squadron. As a further analog, I’ve placed Trumpet 5 and Clarinet 5 in the back of the hall, serving as an ‘inversion’ of the ensemble onstage, which mirrors the role of the No. 5 pilot who spends the majority of the show flying inverted. The musical material consists of a five-note ascending scale-wise motive and a repeated chord progression (first introduced in the Vibraphone about 2’30” into the work). The rhythm of this chord progression (inspired by a Radiohead song) informs the rhythmic makeup of the remainder of the movement.

As the piece took shape, I realized I wanted to write much more than the “five to seven minutes” specified in the original commission, so I intentionally left the end of the work “open,” knowing I would someday expand it when the opportunity presented itself. That chance came in 2009, thanks to Jerry Junkin: shortly after his fantastic 2009 performance of Ecstatic Waters at the College Band Directors National Association conference in Austin, we discussed my desire to write more movements, and he graciously agreed to lead a consortium to commission the project.

In expanding the work, I planned to reuse the same few musical elements across all five movements. Economy of materials is a guiding principle of my approach to composing, and I set out to tie this work together as tightly as possible. The original ascending five-note motive from movement I returns often (in fact, the number 5 insinuates itself into both the melodic and rhythmic fabric of the entire work).

In Movement II, this scalar passage is stretched vertically, so that its total interval now covers a minor seventh instead of a perfect fifth. The F# Phrygian harmony eventually resolves upward to G major, acting as five-minute expansion of the F#-G trills introduced in the Clarinets at the beginning of Movement I. The second movement exploits the antiphonal instruments for formal purposes, as the music gradually moves from the stage to the surrounding instruments. Extended flute solos permeate the movement.

Movement III is bright, rhythmically incessant, and veers toward jazz in a manner that surprised me as it unfolded. The accompaniment patterns revisit the Vibraphone rhythm from movement I, which various scalar threads swirl around the ensemble. The melodic material for this movement comes from a trumpet solo my father played years ago, and which I transcribed in 2006, while composing the first movement. I knew from the beginning that this would end up in the work, though my original plan was to set it in toto in the fourth movement. Instead, it wound up in the much brighter third movement, and led the music into a completely unexpected direction.

Movement IV’s weighty character, then, comes from that initial plan to set my father’s solo, however, I realized it wasn’t going to sound as I had anticipated – I had envisioned something similar to IvesThe Unanswered Question, but it simply wasn’t working. Once I let go of the solo and focused on the surrounding sonic landscape, the music formed quickly, recalling various fragments from earlier in the piece. The movement also pays homage to Webern‘s Six Pieces for Orchestra (elements of which appear in other movements), and Corigliano‘s score to the film Altered States. Both of these have been early, powerful, lasting influences on my compositional choices.

Movement V returns to the opening motive of the entire work, this time with a simmering vitality that burns inexorably to a no-holds-barred climax. Where the first four movements of the work only occasionally coalesce into tutti ensemble passages, here, the entire band is finally unleashed.

I owe a debt of gratitude to Jerry Junkin and the consortium members for allowing me the opportunity to create this work – all 54,210 notes of it.

Concerto for Wind Ensemble is a true one-on-a-part wind ensemble work. Exact instrumentation is listed here.

Read more about Concerto for Wind Ensemble, including a look at the score, at Steven Bryant’s website and his blog.  Read up on Bryant himself at Wikipedia.

Here is the piece in performance by the University of Texas and Jerry Junkin:

Bryant also kept a video diary from the composition process:

He talks about several influences in his program notes.  The Radiohead song he refers to is Pyramid Songwhich is based on a symmetrical but uneven rhythm:

Movement IV references both Anton Webern’s Six Pieces for Orchestra:

And Bryant’s teacher John Corigliano’s Altered States:

Bryant likes and is comfortable in electronic media.  He has a YouTube account, a Twitter handle, and a Facebook fan page.  He has a fantastic website with a blog attached.  He also numbers the revisions of his music like computer software: for instance, his latest version of Dusk is version 1.4.  In his words, “The old version (1.2) is NOT compatible” with the new.  He also writes dedicated electronic music.  My favorite, which I heard when I sat in at his session at the Ball State University Conducting Workshop in 2012, is called Hummingbrrd.  Click the link to listen, and prepare to be amazed!

John Mackey (b. 1973) once famously compared the band and the orchestra to the kind of girl a composer might meet at a party. The orchestra seems like she ought to be your ideal woman, but she clearly feels superior to you and talks a lot about her exes (like Dvorak and Beethoven). The band, meanwhile, is loud and brash, but loves everything you do and can’t wait to play your stuff, the newer, the better! (I’ve rather poorly paraphrased Mackey – it’s best understood in his original blog post on the subject).

With this attitude and his prodigious talent, John Mackey has become a superstar composer among band directors. He has even eclipsed his former teacher, John Corigliano, by putting out more than a dozen new band works, including a symphony, since 2005. All are challenging, and all are innovative. Mackey’s works for wind ensemble and orchestra have been performed around the world, and have won numerous composition prizes. His Redline Tango, originally for orchestra and then transcribed by the composer for band, won him the American Bandmasters Assocation/Ostwald Award in 2005, making him, then 32, the youngest composer ever to recieve that prize.  He won again in 2009 with Aurora Awakes.  His compositional style is fresh and original. I once heard him state that he counted the band Tool among his musical influences.

John Mackey publishes his own music through Osti Music.  The website for this company doubles as his personal website and his blog, which is very informative for anyone looking for a composer’s perspective on new music. He is featured on wikipedia and the Wind Repertory Project.  He is also on Twitter 20 or so times a day.  And he has a Facebook composer page.

Mackey wrote Harvest: Concerto for Trombone in 2009.  It was commissioned by a consortium of bands organized by Chris Wilhjelm of the Ridgewood Concert Band and LTC Timothy Holtan of the West Point Military Academy and their famous band.  It was written as a feature for Joseph Alessi, principal trombonist of the New York Philharmonic, and premiered by the West Point Band in March, 2010.  Mackey provides his own program notes:

Harvest: Concerto for Trombone is based on the myths and mystery rituals of the Greek god Dionysus. As the Olympian god of the vine, Dionysus is famous for inspiring ecstasy and creativity. But this agricultural, earth-walking god was also subjected each year to a cycle of agonizing death before glorious rebirth, analogous to the harsh pruning and long winter the vines endure before blooming again in the spring. The concerto’s movements attempt to represent this dual nature and the cycle of suffering and return.

The concerto is set in three connected sections, totaling approximately 18 minutes. The first section begins with a slow introduction, heavy on ritualistic percussion, representing the summoning of Dionysus’s worshippers to the ceremony. The rite itself builds in intensity, with Dionysus (represented, of course, by the solo trombone) engaging in call and response with his followers, some of whom are driven to an ecstatic outcry — almost a “speaking in tongues” –represented by insistent woodwind trills. But when Dionysus transitions to a gentler tone, his frenzied worshippers do not follow. Their fervor overcomes them, and they tear their god to shreds in an act of ritual madness.

This brutal sacrifice by the ecstatic worshippers — the pruning of the vine — is followed without pause by the second section, representing Dionysus in the stillness of death, or winter. The god is distant, the music like a prayer.

The shoots of spring burst forth in the final section, following again without pause. The earth is reborn as Dionysus rises again, bringing the ecstasy and liberation that have been celebrated in his name for centuries.

Harvest: Concerto for Trombone is dedicated to Joseph Alessi.

Mackey scored Harvest for orchestral winds (sorry, saxes), brass (sorry, euphists), and percussion plus harp, piano, and string bass.  While it has been widely played by America’s top wind ensembles, its orchestra-friendly instrumentation has seen it played beyond the wind band sphere in such places as the Cabrillo Festival (which described it as “scored for solo trombone and orchestra without strings”), where legendary maestra Marin Alsop conducted.

You can look at the score and hear a recording of the piece at Mackey’s website.  You can also read about the piece at the Wind Repertory Project.  Mackey also talks in some detail about the piece on his very candid blog, including features on the original concept for the concerto, working with Joe Alessi, and the premiere.

Those who are averse to clicking a link can hear Harvest via YouTube here, as performed by Alessi and the West Point Band:

The rest of the commissioning consortium includes:

The Ridgewood Concert Band, The West Point Military Academy Band, University of Texas at Austin, United States Air Force Academy, Illinois State University, University of Florida, Miami University, University of Georgia, Texas Tech University, Case Western Reserve University, Ithaca College, University of South Carolina, University of Washington, Roxbury High School, University of South Florida, Florida State University, Baylor University, Syracuse University, McNeese State University, Arizona State University, University of Alabama.

John Mackey (b. 1973) once famously compared the band and the orchestra to the kind of girl a composer might meet at a party. The orchestra seems like she ought to be your ideal woman, but she clearly feels superior to you and talks a lot about her exes (like Dvorak and Beethoven). The band, meanwhile, is loud and brash, but loves everything you do and can’t wait to play your stuff, the newer, the better! (I’ve rather poorly paraphrased Mackey – it’s best understood in his original blog post on the subject).

With this attitude and his prodigious talent, John Mackey has become a superstar composer among band directors. He has even eclipsed his former teacher, John Corigliano, by putting out more than a dozen new band works, including a symphony, since 2005. All are challenging, and all are innovative. Mackey’s works for wind ensemble and orchestra have been performed around the world, and have won numerous composition prizes. His Redline Tango, originally for orchestra and then transcribed by the composer for band, won him the American Bandmasters Assocation/Ostwald Award in 2005, making him, then 32, the youngest composer ever to recieve that prize.  He won again in 2009 with Aurora Awakes.  His compositional style is fresh and original. I once heard him state that he counted the band Tool among his musical influences.

John Mackey publishes his own music through Osti Music.  The website for this company doubles as his personal website and his blog, which is very informative for anyone looking for a composer’s perspective on new music. He is featured on wikipedia and the Wind Repertory Project.  He is also on Twitter 20 or so times a day.  And he has a Facebook composer page.

Mackey wrote The Frozen Cathedral in 2012.  Jake Wallace provides the official program notes:

The Koyukon call it “Denali,” meaning “the great one,” and it is great. It stands at more than twenty thousand feet above sea level, a towering mass over the Alaskan wilderness. Measured from its base to its peak, it is the tallest mountain on land in the world—a full two thousand feet taller than Mount Everest. It is Mount McKinley, and it is an awesome spectacle. And it is the inspiration behind John Mackey’s The Frozen Cathedral.

The piece was born of the collaboration between Mackey and John Locke, Director of Bands at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. Locke asked Mackey if he would dedicate the piece to the memory of his late son, J.P., who had a particular fascination with Alaska and the scenery of Denali National Park. Mackey agreed—and immediately found himself grappling with two problems.

How does one write a concert closer, making it joyous and exciting and celebratory, while also acknowledging, at least to myself, that this piece is rooted in unimaginable loss: The death of a child?

The other challenge was connecting the piece to Alaska – a place I’d never seen in person. I kept thinking about all of this in literal terms, and I just wasn’t getting anywhere.  My wife, who titles all of my pieces, said I should focus on what it is that draws people to these places. People go to the mountains—these monumental, remote, ethereal and awesome parts of the world—as a kind of pilgrimage. It’s a search for the sublime, for transcendence. A great mountain is like a church. “Call it The Frozen Cathedral,” she said.

I clearly married up.

The most immediately distinct aural feature of the work is the quality (and geographic location) of intriguing instrumental colors. The stark, glacial opening is colored almost exclusively by a crystalline twinkling of metallic percussion that surrounds the audience. Although the percussion orchestration carries a number of traditional sounds, there are a host of unconventional timbres as well, such as crystal glasses, crotales on timpani, tam-tam resonated with superball mallets, and the waterphone, an instrument used by Mackey to great effect on his earlier work Turning. The initial sonic environment is an icy and alien one, a cold and distant landscape whose mystery is only heightened by a longing, modal solo for bass flute—made dissonant by a contrasting key, and more insistent by the eventual addition of alto flute, English horn, and bassoon. This collection expands to encompass more of the winds, slowly and surely, with their chorale building in intensity and rage. Just as it seems their wailing despair can drive no further, however, it shatters like glass, dissipating once again into the timbres of the introductory percussion.

The second half of the piece begins in a manner that sounds remarkably similar to the first. In reality, it has been transposed into a new key and this time, when the bass flute takes up the long solo again, it resonates with far more compatible consonance. The only momentary clash is a Lydian influence in the melody, which brings a brightness to the tune that will remain until the end. Now, instead of anger and bitter conflict, the melody projects an aura of warmth, nostalgia, and even joy. This bright spirit pervades the ensemble, and the twinkling colors of the metallic percussion inspire a similar percolation through the upper woodwinds as the remaining winds and brass present various fragmented motives based on the bass flute’s melody. This new chorale, led in particular by the trombones, is a statement of catharsis, at once banishing the earlier darkness in a moment of spiritual transcendence and celebrating the grandeur of the surroundings. A triumphant conclusion in E-flat major is made all the more jubilant by the ecstatic clattering of the antiphonal percussion, which ring into the silence like voices across the ice.

One feature that Wallace does not highlight but that is especially important to the overall impression of the piece is Mackey’s use of bimodal chords (both major and minor at the same time) and unprepared half step dissonances throughout the bigger sections of the work.  These add a shocking element to the grandeur and catharsis that Mackey portrays.  Also, Mackey added an organ part to the piece in 2013.  I was lucky enough to be in rehearsals and in the hall for the performance of this version with Arizona State University Wind Orchestra conducted by the amazing Gary Hill on March 4, 2014.

You can look at the score and hear a recording of the piece at Mackey’s website.  You can also read about the piece at the Wind Repertory Project.  Mackey also talks in some detail about the piece on his very candid blog.

Those too lazy to click a link can hear The Frozen Cathedral via YouTube here (it’s the same recording as above, without organ):

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.