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Category Archives: Gould-Morton

Morton Gould (1913-1996) was an American conductor, composer, and pianist.  He was recognized as a child prodigy very early in his life, and as a result he published his first composition before his seventh birthday.  His talents led him to become the staff pianist for Radio City Music Hall when it opened in 1932.  He went on to compose movie soundtracks, Broadway musicals, and instrumental pieces for orchestra and band while also cultivating an international career as a conductor.  Among the honors he received were the 1995 Pulitzer Prize, the 1994 Kennedy Center Honor, a 1983 Gold Baton Award, and a 1966 Grammy Award.  By the time of his death in 1996 he was widely revered as an icon of American classical music.

Gould wrote Ballad for Band in 1946 on commission from Edwin Franko Goldman and his Goldman Band.  They premiered it on June 12 of that year in New York City. It is constructed from original melodies (as opposed to using existing folk material as Gould often did) based on his impressions of African-American spirituals.  He elaborates:

I have always been sensitive to and stimulated by the sounds that I would call our “American vernacular”—jazz, ragtime, gospel, spirituals, hillbilly. The spirituals have always been the essence, in many ways, of our musical art, our musical spirit. The spiritual is an emotional, rhythmic expression. The spiritual has a universal feeling; it comes from the soul, from the gut. People all over the world react to them … I am not aware of the first time I heard them. It was undoubtedly a sound I heard as a child; maybe at a revival.

Ballad is cast in a broad ABA form, with each slow A section unfolding at a leisurely, unhurried pace.  The central B section is lively and rhythmic, but seems only like a brief episode interrupting the reverie of the outer sections.  Gould again had something to say about this structure:

Ballad for Band is basically an introverted piece that starts slowly, is linear, and has a quiet lyricism; it is not big band in the sense that there is little razzle-dazzle. A discerning listener who is programmed to appreciate the nuances and subtlety of a contemporary piece would respond favorably to this, but others merely find it from relatively pleasant to slightly boring. Only certain listeners respond to what this piece represents musically.

The President’s Own United States Marine Band plays Ballad:

To see where Gould got his inspiration from, here is a choral version of the famous spiritual, “Oh Freedom”:

Read more about Ballad at SUNY Potsdam, GIA Publications, WindBand.org, the US Marine Band, and the Wind Repertory Project.

There are several short biographies of Gould on the Internet.  Each one is more glowing than the last:

Wikipedia – concise biography and list of works.

G. Schirmer – Gould’s publisher gives a much more eloquent account of the composer’s life (which wikipedia seems to have stolen and mangled).

Kennedy Center – Heaps yet more praise on the composer.

There is even an entire book dedicated to the biography of Morton Gould, by Peter W. Goodman.  It is called American Salute.

Google books preview of the book here.

Review of said book here.

Morton Gould (1913-1996) was an American conductor, composer, and pianist.  He was recognized as a child prodigy very early in his life, and as a result he published his first composition before his seventh birthday.  His talents led him to become the staff pianist for Radio City Music Hall when it opened in 1932.  He went on to compose movie soundtracks, Broadway musicals, and instrumental pieces for orchestra and band while also cultivating an international career as a conductor.  Among the honors he received were the 1995 Pulitzer Prize, the 1994 Kennedy Center Honor, a 1983 Gold Baton Award, and a 1966 Grammy Award.  By the time of his death in 1996 he was widely revered as an icon of American classical music.

Cowboy Rhapsody exists in both an orchestral version (the original) and a band version, arranged with some edits by David Bennett.  The band version was premiered by the University of Michigan Band under William Revelli in 1940.  This performance reportedly inspired Gould to write more for band, leading to his several famous contributions to the literature.  Cowboy Rhapsody uses several famous cowboy songs, including “The Trail to Mexico“, “Little Old Sod Shanty“, “Home on the Range“, “Old Paint“, and others, to create a piece that straddles the line between tone poem and medley.  Gould’s treatment, especially the off-stage echoes in the middle, captures the wide-open atmosphere of the cowboy lifestyle of legend.

I performed this with the Arizona State University Concert Band on March 1. You’ll hear a lot of trumpet given the camera placement, but otherwise this is a solid performance that represents how the piece is supposed to go:

“The Trail to Mexico” performed by country music legend Foy Willing:

“Little Old Sod Shanty” performed by Yodelin’ Slim Clark

“Home on the Range”, still famous across the USA:

A good deal of my Cowboy Rhapsody information came from this dissertation.  It also gets a mention in these program notes, and it is featured (in its orchestral version) on this compilation.  It is a piece that deserves more study and performance.

There are several short biographies of Gould on the Internet.  Each one is more glowing than the last:

Wikipedia – concise biography and list of works.

G. Schirmer – Gould’s publisher gives a much more eloquent account of the composer’s life (which wikipedia seems to have stolen and mangled).

Kennedy Center – Heaps yet more praise on the composer.

There is even an entire book dedicated to the biography of Morton Gould, by Peter W. Goodman.  It is called American Salute.

Google books preview of the book here.

Review of said book here.

Morton Gould (1913-1996) was an American conductor, composer, and pianist.  He was recognized as a child prodigy very early in his life, and as a result he published his first composition before his seventh birthday.  His talents led him to become the staff pianist for Radio City Music Hall when it opened in 1932.  He went on to compose movie soundtracks, Broadway musicals, and instrumental pieces for orchestra and band while also cultivating an international career as a conductor.  Among the honors he received were the 1995 Pulitzer Prize, the 1994 Kennedy Center Honor, a 1983 Gold Baton Award, and a 1966 Grammy Award.  By the time of his death in 1996 he was widely revered as an icon of American classical music.
There are several short biographies of Gould on the Internet.  Each one is more glowing than the last:

Wikipedia – concise biography and list of works.

G. Schirmer – Gould’s publisher gives a much more eloquent account of the composer’s life (which wikipedia seems to have stolen and mangled).

Kennedy Center – Heaps yet more praise on the composer.

There is even an entire book dedicated to the biography of Morton Gould, by Peter W. Goodman.  It is called American Salute.

Google books preview of the book here.

Review of said book here.

From the score of the Symphony for Band:

This Symphony was composed for the West Point Sesquicentennial Celebration, marking 150 years of progress at the United States Military Academy.  The composer was invited to contribute a composition for this event by the Academy and Major Francis E. Resta, commanding officer of the United States Military Band and director of music at the Academy.

Composed during the months of January and February, 1952, this Symphony was first performed on April 13th of that year at the Academy with composer conducting the United States Military Academy Band.

The Symphony is in two movements.  The first, “Epitaphs”, is somber and reflective in character, looking backward on the generations who have served at West Point and inspired by the cemetery on the grounds.  It goes on to build a huge, multi-layered passacaglia texture that features a marching machine in the percussion section.  “Marches” opens quietly to an upbeat march rhythm, which grows as the movement progresses.  Gould’s Symphony is a masterwork for winds.  It is among the earliest American symphonies for bands, but it was in good company: Paul Hindemith, Vincent Persichetti, Alan Hovhaness, and Vittorio Giannini all composed their first symphonies for band in that same decade.

Listen to William Revelli and the University of Michigan Symphony Band perform the first movement of the Symphony:

As well as the second movement:

Read more about the Symphony at G. Schirmer, The Wind Repertory Project, and windband.org.

Morton Gould (1913-1996) was an American conductor, composer, and pianist.  He was recognized as a child prodigy very early in his life, and as a result he published his first composition before his seventh birthday.  His talents led him to become the staff pianist for Radio City Music Hall when it opened in 1932.  He went on to compose movie soundtracks, Broadway musicals, and instrumental pieces for orchestra and band while also cultivating an international career as a conductor.  Among the honors he received were the 1995 Pulitzer Prize, the 1994 Kennedy Center Honor, a 1983 Gold Baton Award, and a 1966 Grammy Award.  By the time of his death in 1996 he was widely revered as an icon of American classical music.

There are several short biographies of Gould on the Internet.  Each one is more glowing than the next:

Wikipedia – concise biography and list of works.

G. Schirmer – Gould’s publisher gives a much more eloquent account of the composer’s life (which wikipedia seems to have stolen and mangled).

Kennedy Center – Heaps yet more praise on the composer.

There is even an entire book dedicated to the biography of Morton Gould, by Peter W. Goodman.  Like the piece we are playing, it is called American Salute.

Google books preview of the book here.

Review of said book here.

American Salute the piece is based on the patriotic tune “When Johnny Comes Marching Home Again”.  Written in 1943, one can only guess that it was meant as a morale booster during the uncertainty of World War II.

Here is a sampling of three program notes on American Salute: the first is short and straightforward; the second is a bit more extensive; and the third is colorful, comes from a blog, and includes a recording of the orchestral version.

Now onto a video of a performance by the University of Alabama Honor Band 2010.  If they can do it, so can we!

Finally, some info on the source tune, “When Johnny Comes Marching Home Again”.  You may, of course, recognize the tune as “The Ants Go Marching”.  Well “Johnny” came first, thanks to composer and bandleader Patrick Gilmore.  More info, including the lyrics, can be found here on wikipedia.

Morton Gould (1913-1996) was an American conductor, composer, and pianist.  He was recognized as a child prodigy very early in his life, and as a result he published his first composition before his seventh birthday.  His talents led him to become the staff pianist for Radio City Music Hall when it opened in 1932.  He went on to compose movie soundtracks, Broadway musicals, and instrumental pieces for orchestra and band while also cultivating an international career as a conductor.  Among the honors he received were the 1995 Pulitzer Prize, the 1994 Kennedy Center Honor, a 1983 Gold Baton Award, and a 1966 Grammy Award.  By the time of his death in 1996 he was widely revered as an icon of American classical music.

There are several short biographies of Gould on the Internet.  Each one is more glowing than the last:

Wikipedia – concise biography and list of works.

G. Schirmer – Gould’s publisher gives a much more eloquent account of the composer’s life (which wikipedia seems to have stolen and mangled).

Kennedy Center – Heaps yet more praise on the composer.

There is even an entire book dedicated to the biography of Morton Gould, by Peter W. Goodman.  It is called American Salute.

Google books preview of the book here.

Review of said book here.

Santa Fe Saga was written in 1956 for a collaboration with ballet choreographer Elliot Feld.  It draws on the sounds of folk life in Santa Fe, New Mexico, painting a vivid picture of the city and its people.

Santa Fe Saga is not among Gould’s most played pieces, so for a long time there were no videos of it on YouTube.  Thankfully, that has changed.  Here is a live performance by the University of Kentucky Wind Ensemble: