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Tag Archives: 2010s

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 (and pictures of food). 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.

Sheltering Sky came into being in 2012, and was premiered on April 21 of that year.  It was a commission from two junior high school bands: Traughber (Rachel Maxwell, director) and Thompson (Daniel Harrison, director), both in Oswego, Illinois.  Mackey thus wrote the piece for players of junior high school ability, ending up somewhere around grade 3.  Somehow, it retains the usual Mackey-isms (functional harmony colored by diatonic clusters, unforced expressive lyricism, occasional unprepared sharp dissonances, harmonies that bloom from a single pitch) without asking too much from individual players.  Jake Wallace provides the usual excellent program note, featured both in the score and on Mackey’s website (links added by me):

The wind band medium has, in the twenty-first century, a host of disparate styles that dominate its texture. At the core of its contemporary development exist a group of composers who dazzle with scintillating and frightening virtuosity. As such, at first listening one might experience John Mackey’s Sheltering Sky as a striking departure. Its serene and simple presentation is a throwback of sorts – a nostalgic portrait of time suspended.

The work itself has a folksong-like quality – intended by the composer – and through this an immediate sense of familiarity emerges. Certainly the repertoire has a long and proud tradition of weaving folk songs into its identity, from the days of Holst and Vaughan Williams to modern treatments by such figures as Donald Grantham and Frank Ticheli. Whereas these composers incorporated extant melodies into their works, however, Mackey takes a play from Percy Grainger. Grainger’s Colonial Song seemingly sets a beautiful folksong melody in an enchanting way (so enchanting, in fact, that he reworked the tune into two other pieces: Australian Up-Country Tune and The Gum-Suckers March). In reality, however, Grainger’s melody was entirely original – his own concoction to express how he felt about his native Australia. Likewise, although the melodies of Sheltering Sky have a recognizable quality (hints of the contours and colors of Danny Boy and Shenandoah are perceptible), the tunes themselves are original to the work, imparting a sense of hazy distance as though they were from a half-remembered dream.

The work unfolds in a sweeping arch structure, with cascading phrases that elide effortlessly. The introduction presents softly articulated harmonies stacking through a surrounding placidity. From there emerge statements of each of the two folksong-like melodies – the call as a sighing descent in solo oboe, and its answer as a hopeful rising line in trumpet. Though the composer’s trademark virtuosity is absent, his harmonic language remains. Mackey avoids traditional triadic sonorities almost exclusively, instead choosing more indistinct chords with diatonic extensions (particularly seventh and ninth chords) that facilitate the hazy sonic world that the piece inhabits. Near cadences, chromatic dissonances fill the narrow spaces in these harmonies, creating an even greater pull toward wistful nostalgia. Each new phrase begins over the resolution of the previous one, creating a sense of motion that never completely stops. The melodies themselves unfold and eventually dissipate until at last the serene introductory material returns – the opening chords finally coming to rest.

The official recording, played by the Texas State University Wind Symphony conducted by Caroline Beatty:

You can read more about Sheltering Sky on Mackey’s website and this question and answer session with the composer.  I also highly recommend reading the glowing comments about the piece on its Soundcloud page.

In a new feature for this blog, I’ll occasionally review new recordings of wind band music.  The first, Twisted Skyscape, spotlights the woodwinds.

The producers of Twisted Skyscape are direct about the purpose of their project: it is an advocacy album for both the woodwind orchestra and British composers. The British composers certainly represent themselves well, with a varied program of contemporary music ranging from dance-like to ethereal. And the woodwind orchestra, for the most part, serves as a successful and colorful vehicle for this music.

This album claims to be the first of its kind. This is mostly true, since an orchestra of mixed woodwinds only is a relatively new phenomenon. This woodwind orchestra uses specifically the woodwinds of the wind band (flutes, oboes, clarinets, bassoons, and saxophones, often in several sizes). However, while the creators of Twisted Skyscape can point to a number of standing woodwind orchestras within their musical circles, and even non-British composers like American Carter Pann have written for woodwind-only ensembles, groups like this don’t really exist as a common cultural phenomenon, at least not in the way that string orchestras, brass bands, and even percussion ensembles do. So in that way, this does indeed mark the coming-out of a new type of ensemble. And yet, the art music world has maintained something like a woodwind orchestra for more than two centuries in the form of Harmoniemusik. This ensemble, which peaked in popularity just before 1800, uses pairs of oboes, clarinets, and bassoons from the woodwind family, with French horns rounding out the middle voices. You might also see basset horns and a string bass, as in Mozart’s legendary Gran Partita. Ensembles derived from this mostly-woodwind makeup have a rich and fascinating repertoire with contributions from Mozart, Beethoven, Dvorak, Gounod, Richard Strauss, Willem van Otterloo, Jonathan Dove, and Lior Navok, to name but a few. The woodwind orchestra would thus expand its repertoire instantly by admitting French horns into its fold.

The woodwind soloists of the Czech Philharmonic make for a world-class woodwind ensemble. Their playing under Shea Lolin’s leadership is mostly flawless and quite musically compelling, with only the occasional lapse in ensemble blend, mostly due to consistently over-present low saxophones. On every track, the potential of the woodwind ensemble as an artistic medium is clear.

Philip Sparke’s Overture for Woodwinds provides a wonderful introduction to the sound world and color possibilities of this ensemble. Its stately opening showcases the full sound potential of the collected woodwinds. Gary Carpenter’s Pantomime began its life with Gran Partita instrumentation before being re-orchestrated by the composer for this recording. Perhaps because of this, there are times when the piece does not feel native to the genre, particularly in the fourth movement. This dance suite was derived from Carpenter’s musical Aladdin, and as such it has some dramatic and introspective moments among its relatively straightforward and melodic dance movements. These are often reminiscent of the wind band dance treatments of Robert Russell Bennett. Adam Gorb’s Battle Symphony successfully combines a medieval sound foundation with contemporary harmonic and timbral touches, much like Dello Joio’s Scenes from the Louvre or Poulenc’s Suite Francaise before it. The standout pieces on this album belong to Christopher Hussey, who was also a producer on the project. His two pieces, Dreamtide and the titular Twisted Skyscape, both extend the mood and color palette of the ensemble in exciting ways, especially on the more lyrical and ethereal end. They use the ensemble so well that the listener never once longs for any other instrument. This is especially remarkable in the case of Dreamtide, which was originally a choral piece. What unifies the five very different pieces on the album is their shared accessibility. Each one is immediately appealing and begs a second listen.

Twisted Skyscape the album represents a very promising start (if we accept that it is truly something new) for the woodwind orchestra. But what is the future of the genre, especially outside of Britain? The music presented here may already be able to find a place in school and university wind band programs in the USA, which are often hungry for good literature to work on in sectionals. But it will be just one option among many (including arrangements and existing Harmoniemusik), and is unlikely to lead to the establishment of dedicated woodwind orchestras. It will take a great deal more music like this and more full-throated advocacy by people like Shea Lolin and Christopher Hussey in order for the woodwind orchestra to spread as a distinct idea separate from its cousins the wind band, the orchestra, and Harmonie. For now, this repertoire can add some welcome variety to any group that would try it. And they should: it would be a thrill to hear this music live.

Twisted Skyscape is available for pre-order from www.twistedskyscape.com. It will be released worldwide on July 17, 2015.

New York City native Paul Richards (b. 1969) is an award winning composer who presently teaches composition at the University of Florida.  He has received commissions from organizations around the United States.  His works run the gamut from solo and chamber works to large ensemble and theatre works, including a dozen works for wind band to date.

If You Could Only See the Frog was written in 2008 on a commission from the Saint Mary’s University Concert Band, directed by Dr. Janet Heukeshoven, director, with support from the Sam & Helen Kaplan Foundation.  It was the winner of the 2014 Columbia Summer Winds Outdoor Composition Contest.  Richards explains it on his website:

“Si Veriash a la Rana” (“If You Could Only See the Frog”) is the title of a children’s song from Bulgaria sung by exiled Jews in the Spanish-Jewish dialect of Ladino:

If you could only see the little frog sitting on the oven, frying her fritas and sharing with her sisters!
If you could only see the little mouse sitting in the corner, shelling walnuts and sharing with her sisters!
If you could only see the little camel sitting on the dough-board, rolling out filo thinner than hair!

The deceptively simple and playful tune stems from a wide range of cultural influences, combining typically Ladino melodic figurations with a traditional Bulgarian metric construction, punctuated by a curious refrain in Turkish that simply means, “I love you so much”.
This concert band piece is a percussion-driven exploration of this infectious and time-tested melody.

The University of Florida Wind Ensemble gives a rousing performance:

To really get into the sound world that this melody came from, you should listen to the extra videos below.  Here is a folky version of the original tune:

And a more pop version:

And another folk version with a more instrumental emphasis:

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 unique works for wind band and electronics have received more performances than any other pieces of their 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.

Ecstatic Fanfare was extracted in 2012 from a larger work, Ecstatic Waters (2008).  The fanfare uses some of the tutti material from the larger work’s opening movement.  In Bryant’s words, “Unlike that work, this one does NOT require electronics, water glasses, a Celesta, or a Mahler Hammer. ;)”

Listen to the original band version of Ecstatic Fanfare as played by the US Army Band:

It also exists in a version for orchestra:

See more about Ecstatic Fanfare, including another recording and a perusal score, on Bryant’s website.

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!

American composer Dana Wilson (b. 1946) has won numerous awards and grants for his work.  His music has been performed and recorded across the United States, Europe, and Asia.  He has been commissioned to write new works by organizations and prominent soloists around the world.  His output includes music for orchestras, chamber groups, choirs, and a wide-ranging repertoire for bands at all levels.  Educated at the Eastman School of Music (DMA, 1982), he is currently the Charles A. Dana Professor of Music in the School of Music at Ithaca College.  To read more about his distinguished career, visit his website, wikipedia, his Ithaca faculty page, or the American Composers Forum.  For an overview his music by one of the distinguished figures in our field, visit Tim Reynish’s website.

Speak to Me (2010) is the result of a commission from John F. Kennedy High School in La Palma, California.  Wilson’s program notes describe both inspiration for the piece and the way he uses its main idea:

There is a long tradition in jazz of instruments carrying on a conversation–either intricate, soloistic dialogues (often improvised) or the call and response of larger forces. Speak to Me is above all such a conversation, at first among soloists and then among more and more performers as they gradually join in. This piece begins with a simple tune that increasingly overlaps with–and is interrupted by–other ideas, generating enormous energy along the way.

Aside from its jazz elements, Speak to Me is also a study in the chromatic scale for almost every instrument in the band, with its main motive built on chromatic fragments that are gradually extended to cover more than two octaves at times.

CLICK HERE to listen to the University of North Texas Wind Symphony play Speak to Me.

I had a small part in bringing that recording into being, since I conducted rehearsals and a preliminary performance of it at the University of North Texas Conductor’s Collegium in the summer of 2014.

For some context on this piece, here is a clip of the type of jazz conversation that Wilson has in mind, in the form of a TEDx talk:

Here is another, less academic, example, with Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie:

Composer Michael Markowski (b. 1986) claims that he is “fully qualified to watch movies and cartoons” on the basis of his bachelors degree in film from Arizona State University.  Despite this humility regarding his musical training, he is gaining attention as a composer of unique and sophisticated works for wind band and other media.  His works are being performed across the United States, leading to an ever-growing list of commissions for new works.

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

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

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

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

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

Everything you’ll ever need to know about The Cave You Fear is on Markowski’s comprehensive website for the piece, which includes a recording, an interactive sample score (here’s the pdf version), a SoundCloud recording, the program note I quoted above, and more.  Of special interest are the videos demonstrating some of the more unusual techniques he calls for in the score, which I will reproduce below.  These are especially useful, as this is a piece intended to be playable by middle school bands.

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

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

Next, the Saxophone Multiphonic:

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

Next, on tam-tam:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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!