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Tag Archives: Grade 4

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.

Stephen Sondheim (b. 1935) is a New York native and one of the most celebrated composers of musical theatre.  He began his career under the mentorship of Oscar Hammerstein II, one of the great names of 20th century Broadway.  Sondheim got an early career break writing the lyrics for Leonard Bernstein’s West Side Story in 1957.  He has since had a distinguished career that has encompassed almost two dozen musicals, many of which have been made into films, including A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum (1962), A Little Night Music (1973), Sweeney Todd (1979), Sunday in the Park with George (1984), and Into the Woods (1986).  He has won more Tony Awards (8) than any other composer.

Into the Woods, with music by Sondheim and book and lyrics by James Lapine, debuted on Broadway in 1987.  It tells the story of a childless Baker and the Baker’s Wife, who are cursed by an evil Witch.  Their adventures intersect several fairy tale stories by the Brothers Grimm, including Rapunzel, Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, and Jack and the Beanstalk.  The original production won Tony Awards for Best Original Score, Best Book, and Best Actress in a Musical (Joanna Gleason). The musical has been revived several times around the world.  In 2014, it was released as a movie version by the Walt Disney company.

Stephen Bulla’s band arrangement of Selections from Into the Woods covers four of the numbers from the musical, including “Into the Woods,” “No One Is Alone,” “I Know Things Now,” and “Children Will Listen.”  Here it is in live performance:

To give you an idea of the visuals, here is a preview reel from the Public Theater‘s production in 2012.  This also includes a substantial portion of the song “Into the Woods” that opens the medley:

Here is “No One Is Alone” from a 1989 PBS special that filmed the original Broadway production:

Next, “I Know Things Now” from the 2014 Disney movie version:

Finally, “Children Will Listen” sung in concert by Bernadette Peters, one of the great Sondheim interpreters and Into the Woods‘s original Broadway Witch:

Bonus: my personal favorite song from the musical, which did not make the Selections: “Agony!”

Read more about Into the Woods on Wikipedia and IMDB.  Sondheim has tributes everywhere and then some, but a look at his Wikipedia page will give you plenty of insight into the man and the artist.

Edwin Franko Goldman (1878-1956) was one of America’s premiere bandmasters.  He was born in Lexington, Kentucky to a musical family.  They moved to New York in his youth, where he studied composition with Antonin Dvorak and later began his career playing trumpet in the Metropolitan Opera orchestra.  In 1911, he formed the organization that would become the Goldman Band, a professional concert band that played outdoor concerts in New York City.  He also founded the American Bandmasters Association, an important and exclusive professional organization for band directors.  Through these groups, Goldman would commission and premiere numerous new works that are now standard repertoire for wind bands.  He was also a composer in his own right, with over 150 original works to his name.

He wrote The Chimes of Liberty in 1922 for the Goldman Band.  It is a standard American march, but with a chimes solo in the trio and a piccolo solo that sounds like it was ripped straight from The Stars and Stripes Forever. Like other Goldman marches, the trio section had words:

They’re the chimes of liberty,
Chimes that ring for you and me,
Where every loyal heart beats true,
They bring joy anew;
‘Tis a song of loyalty,
Of a nation brave and free,
Let us pray that they will ring for aye,
Our country’s chimes of liberty!

Feel free to sing along as The President’s Own United States Marine Band plays the march:

Loathe as I am to quibble with the US Marine Band on march style, I like to do a few things differently from this performance, which is largely by the book of the latest Schissel edition.  These changes add variety and excitement to the piece, and can be applied to any number of other marches.  They are based on my studies of march form with Wayne Bailey at Arizona State University, and have been tested in performance.

  • In the first strain, have the trombone countermelody folks play a little under dynamic the first time, then have them play out the second time.
  • In the second strain, take out everyone except tubas, horns, saxes, and clarinets the first time, and have the clarinets play down an octave.  Everyone who does play should stay at piano throughout.  Second time, as written.  All of these changes start on the PICKUP, by the way.
  • Trio first time, have the trumpets play the last note of their fanfare figure long.  Dr. Bailey also had them use cup mutes in this section.
  • Speed up ever so slightly in the last four bars, and place the stinger a hair early.

Read more about Goldman and his band.  If you’re looking for more information on the Goldman Band, look at print sources like Frank Battisti’s The Winds of Change or Richard Hansen’s The American Wind Band: A Cultural History. The websites that do exist (goldmanband.org and goldmanband.net) are relics from the Band’s acrimonious last days in 2005 (and have not been updated since), and they contain little in the way of history.

Richard Wagner (1813-1883) is undoubtedly one of Western music’s most controversial figures.  His operas (he called them music-dramas) redefined the genre and pushed it to its limits.  His epic Ring cycle spans four operas and about 16 hours of music.   For this, he invented the leitmotif, a recognizable melodic theme connected to certain characters, places, events, or moods in his operas.  He also invented new instruments (e.g. the Wagner tuba) and had his own opera house built (at Bayreuth) in order to get exactly the sound that he wanted.  He pushed harmonic boundaries ever further, eventually eschewing any tonal resolution in the opera Tristan und Isolde (which is often regarded as the first modern opera).  For all of these operas, he assumed near total control, writing the librettos and designing the sets himself.  He was also a writer whose opinions on many things,especially Judaism, have remained a stain on his character.  In short, he was a large, uncompromising personality whose effects are still strongly felt in music and beyond.

Wagner finished the opera Lohengrin in 1848.  It tells the story of Elsa, a princess in Brabant (what we now call Antwerp), who is rescued and wedded a by a knight in shining armor who insists on remaining nameless.  Drama and tragedy ensue, ending with the death of several characters in typical Wagnerian fashion. Elsa’s Procession to the Cathedral comes at the end of Act II, when Elsa is on her way to be married to the knight, who we later learn is Lohengrin, knight of the Holy Grail.  Even in its original form, this section is almost a band piece, dominated by winds and percussion.  It has become a staple of the band repertoire as a standalone piece.

The Baylor University Wind Ensemble performs the classic band arrangement of Elsa, created by Lucien Cailliet in 1938:

Here is the version from the original opera, in a production at La Scala in Milan in 2012:

You can read more about Lohengrin on Wikipedia and at the Met Opera website.  As for Wagner himself, here is just a small sampling of what the Internet has to say about him: Wikipedia, Biography.com (video), the Jewish Virtual Library,WagnerOpera.net, ipl2, and PBS Great Performances.

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:

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.

California native John Cage (1912-1992) pushed the boundaries of what was considered music throughout his distinguished career.  Among his most iconic creations was 1952’s 4’33”, presented here in its version for band:

It also exists in versions for orchestra:

Choir:

Piano:

And Death Metal combo:

To name a few.  Read more about it here.  Happy April Fools!

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.

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!

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.