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Tag Archives: Programmatic

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.

The Machine Awakes is the result of a 2012 commission from a consortium of 20 schools.  It is unique in at least two respects.  First, while it is a grade 2 piece, it comes with optional grade 3 parts, allowing more advanced players a greater challenge that fits in with the rest of the band.  More importantly, it may be the first piece ever written for young band and electronics.  Bryant gives it a Terminator-like back story as well:

The Machine Awakes is the sound of something not human (but of humans hands) – something not entirely organic, but most definitely alive – waking up for the first time. From the opening swirling textures, we sense the first hesitant sparks of thought, attempting to find form and coherence. This new machine – sentient, aware – comes fully awake, possessed of emphatic self-determination and unfathomable purpose.

Read more about The Machine Awakes at Steven Bryant’s website and his blog (twice).  Read up on Bryant himself at Wikipedia.

Here’s the piece in a live performance by a high school band.

Go to Bryant’s website for more recordings of the piece, including the original MIDI realization and a near-professional live recording.

Obviously 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, is called Hummingbrrd.  Click the link to listen, and prepare to be amazed!

Samuel R. Hazo is a music educator and composer of several band works.  He provides his own program notes for Ride:

RIDE was written as a gesture of appreciation for all of the kind things Jack Stamp has done for me; ranging from his unwavering friendship to his heartfelt advice on composition and subjects beyond.

During the years 2001 & 2002, some wonderful things began to happen with my compositions that were unparalleled to any professional good fortune I had previously experienced. The common thread in all of these things was Jack Stamp. I began to receive calls from all over the country, inquiring about my music, and when I traced back the steps of how someone so far away could know of my (then) unpublished works, all paths led to either reading sessions Jack had conducted, or recommendations he made to band directors about new pieces for wind band. The noblest thing about him was that he never let me reciprocate in any way, not even allowing me to buy him dessert after a concert. All he would ever say is, “just keep sending us music,” which I could only take as the privilege it was, as well as an opportunity to give something back that was truly unique.

In late April of 2002, Jack had invited me to take part in a composer’s forum he had organized for his students at Indiana University of Pennsylvania. I was to present along side Joseph Wilcox Jenkins, Mark Camphouse, Bruce Yurko and Aldo Forte. This forum was affectionately referred to in my house as “four famous guys and you.” It was such a creatively charged event, that everyone who took part was still talking about it months after it happened. Following the first day of the forum, Jack invited all of the composers to his house, where his wife Lori had prepared an incredible gourmet dinner. Since I didn’t know how to get to Jack’s house (a/k/a Gavorkna House) from the university, he told me to follow him. So he and his passenger, Mark Camphouse, began the fifteen minute drive with me behind them. The combination of such an invigorating day as well as my trying to follow Jack at the top speed a country road can be driven, is what wrote this piece in my head in the time it took to get from the IUP campus to the Stamp residence. RIDE was written and titled for that exact moment in my life when Jack Stamp’s generosity and lead foot were as equal in their inspiration as the beautiful Indiana, PA country side blurring past my car window.

Sam Hazo’s website, including his bio and the full program notes for Ride.

Finally, a YouTube rendition of the piece – not much to look at, but a note-perfect performance.

Leonard Bernstein (1918-1990) was an erudite, passionate musician whose exceptional talents and expressive gifts earned him a special place in the hearts of New Yorkers.  He rose to instant national fame in 1943, at age 25, when he filled in for the suddenly ill Bruno Walter as conductor of a nationally televised New York Philharmonic performance.  He went on to become the Philharmonic’s music director until 1969, and remained a frequent guest conductor there until his death.  With the Philharmonic, he presented a series of 53 educational Young People’s Concerts which were broadcast on CBS, making him a familiar face around the nation.  He also composed music, crossing from academic classical music into Broadway musicals, including West Side StoryOn the Town, and Candide.

is the second movement of Bernstein’s Symphony no. 1 Jeremiah.  The Symphony is based on the biblical story of Jeremiah, a prophet who warned his people of the coming destruction of Jerusalem, was mocked by them for it, and famously lamented when it came to pass.  Bernstein wrote the Symphony in 1942 in order to enter it in a competition at the New England Conservatory.  He did not win, but the piece went on to bring him great success, earning him the New York Music Critics’ Circle award for best classical composition in 1944 and helping him reconcile with his father, to whom he later dedicated the score.  Profanation is the Symphony’s scherzo.  It dramatizes the savage mockery that Jeremiah experiences from the priests of the Temple of Solomon when he warns them that their corrupt ways will bring about its destruction.  It opens with a distorted version of a liturgical melody, which multiplies into a chaotic pagan celebration.  Jeremiah’s warning from the first movement (Prophecy) returns later, only to be drowned out by the chaos.

Video 1: Band version, arranged by Frank Bencriscutto, in a nearly flawless rendition by Michael Haithcock and the University of Michigan Symphony Band:

Video 2: Original version for orchestra

Now some links: – a true treasure trove of everything Bernstein, including many personal reflections by friends, relatives, and colleagues.

Leonard Bernstein on Wikipedia.

The Leonard Bernstein Collection at the US Library of Congress.

A lengthy and heartfelt essay on Bernstein and his influence at

Program notes on Profanation from the Williams College Symphonic Winds.

Program notes on the entire Symphony from the Kennedy Center and Bernstein’s website.

More information on the Prophet Jeremiah and his Book of Lamentations.

Patrick Burns (b. 1969) is an American composer and music educator.  He has written extensively for wind bands at all levels.  He founded the Bloomfield Youth Band in New Jersey when he was 17, and continues to direct that group today.  He is much in demand as guest conductor around the country.

Burns wrote Enchanted Night in 2004 for the Hanover Wind Symphony, a community band in New Jersey, to help celebrate their 19th anniversary.  The piece is based on a novella of the same title by Pulitzer Prize-Winning author Steven Millhauser.

Patrick Burns main website. – includes a full biography and information on all of his music.  Check out especially the “music” page, where you can download a free recording of Enchanted Night in the grade 5 section.

Patrick Burns on myspace. Also features a recording of Enchanted Night in addition to several other of his works.

Information on the Millhauser novella that inspired Burns’s music at

An excerpt of the novella on the New York Times.

A preview of the novella on google books.

Enchanted Night on YouTube, part of Patrick Burns’s YouTube channel:

The composer conducted the CUWE in this piece at the Columbia Festival of Winds on 3/1/2009.

“His desire was to relate his art as closely as possible to life, especially that of the Russian masses, to nourish it on events and to employ it as a means for communicating human experience.”  These words, from the indispensable Grove Concise Dictionary of Music, describe the artistic aims of Russian composer Modest Mussorgsky (1839-1881).  At times a loner and a collaborator, an artist and a bureaucrat, he emerged from a military upbringing to become a member of “The Five”, a group of Russian composers dedicated to promoting distinctly Russian music.  He died at age 42 after losing a lifelong battle with alcoholism.  He left behind many unfinished work which were completed (and somewhat recomposed) by his friend Nicolai Rimsky-Korsakov.  His most enduring contributions to the musical canon include the opera Boris Godunov, the piano cycle Pictures at an Exhibition, and the symphonic poem Night on Bald Mountain.

Mussorgsky on Wikipedia.

Biographical excerpt from Grove’s Concise Dictrionary of Music.

Dallas Symphony Orchestra Kids Page about Mussorgsky – colorful, fun, and informative.  Includes an edited recording of the Ravel version of “Great Gate of Kiev”.

Written in 1874, Pictures at an Exhibition is a program piece that imagines a person looking a series of paintings at an exhibit in an art gallery.  It is a recreation of a memorial exhibition given in 1873 of the works of Russian artist Viktor Hartmann, a close friend of Mussorgsky’s who had died unexpectedly 3 years prior at age 39.  Each movement of the suite presents a musical depiction of one of Hartmann’s works.  These are often separated by the “Promenade” theme, which depicts the viewer walking between paintings.

The Wikipedia article on Pictures covers all the bases, including mention of the several arrangements that exist and copies of most of the original pictures that inspired Mussorgsky.  Highly recommended!

At Columbia, we’ve only ever done select movement of this.  In the past, it’s been “The Great Gate of Kiev” and “The Hut of Baba Yaga” (look for the video links below).  This time, it’s “Gnomus”.  Here’s an excellent orchestral version (Ravel’s famous orchestration) with the Rotterdam Philharmonic conducted by Valery Gergiev:

Here’s a different version of “Gnomus”, for string orchestra, that features animation based on the paintings that Mussorgsky was supposedly looking at at this legendary exhibition:

This video features a fantastically expressive conductor doing the last two movements, “The Hut of Baba Yaga” and “The Great Gate of Kiev”.  These two are what we will play in April’s concert.  Unforunately the embedding has been disabled, but please go watch – it’s very much worth it!!

Eric Whitacre is one of the most-performed composers of his generation.  Born in 1970, he studied composition at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas and the Juilliard School with notable composers including John Corigliano and David Diamond.  His choral works and band works have rapidly become accepted in the repertoire due to their strong appeal to audiences and players alike.  In addition to composing, Whitacre tours the world as a conductor of his own works.

Whitacre is quite web-savvy:

Eric Whitacre on Facebook.

Eric Whitacre on MySpace.  If you watch the video on either of these, he says how he’s overwhelmed with fan mail.

Eric Whitacre on WikiMusicGuide (better than Wikipedia in this case), including complete works list.

Eric Whitacre’s blog.

Whitacre even writes his own program notes!  Here they are for October:

October is my favorite month. Something about the crisp autumn air and the subtle change in light always make me a little sentimental, and as I started to sketch I felt that same quiet beauty in the writing. The simple, patoral melodies and subsequent harmonies are inspired by the great English Romantics (Vaughan Williams, Elgar) as I felt that this style was also perfectly suited to capture the natural and pastoral soul of the season. I’m quite happy with the end result, especially because I feel there just isn’t enough lush, beautiful music written for winds. October was premiered on May 14th, 2000, and is dedicated to Brian Anderson, the man who brought it all together.

October is a wind band original.  Here it is in an excellent recording by the Arizona State University Wind Ensemble:

Whitacre has also turned October into an a cappella Alleluia:

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:

Mark Camphouse (b. 1954) is an American composer and conductor.  He has written more than a dozen emotional works for wind band.  He also directs the bands at George Mason University.  He is the creator and editor of the series Composers on Composing for Band, published by GIA publications. He coordinates the National Band Association’s Young Composer Mentor Project which matches emerging composers with experienced professionals.

Camphouse wrote Yosemite Autumn in 2004 on a commission from Jason Noble and the Miami Coral Park High School Wind Orchestra in Miami, Florida.  He provides a detailed program note on the piece:

I put forth considerable effort in trying to separate my seemingly non-stop professional activities from increasingly all-too-infrequent family activities. The first ten days of a two week family vacation in 2003 to the Northern California region was shaping up just that way: San Francisco was fascinating and entertaining, Big Sur was spectacular, and the Wine Country, Redwood and Lassen National Parks, and Lake Tahoe were all truly magnificent! Everything was going as planned. Musical projects and work-related responsibilities were some 2,700 miles back east. I was on vacation, enjoying some “quality time” with my family in the truly gorgeous and exciting Northern California region for the very first time.

Then we reached Yosemite.

How could any human not be profoundly moved by such stunning beauty? How could any American not take immense pride in our nation being so richly blessed with such an abundance of natural beauty? But, at the same time, we Americans share a genuine concern over the dangers of shortsighted and ill-advised environmental policies of government as well as private sector greed with related encroachment and pollution issues.

And finally, how could any composer not be inspired and hopelessly tempted to “get the creative juices flowing” in trying to capture the rich history and majestic landscape that is Yosemite? The remaining portion of this family vacation was doomed. I was there physically with my family – hiking, horseback riding, and doing the things tourists do. But the creative part of me was definitely somewhere else – absorbed in thinking about ways I might try to go about capturing musically the awe-inspiring sights and sounds of Yosemite: Glacier Point, Half Dome, El Capitan, and Yosemite Falls, just to name a few.

The great American naturalist, conservationist, and writer John Muir certainly said it best:

No temple made with hands can compare with Yosemite.
Every rock in its walls seems to glow with life.

Yosemite Autumn is dedicated to the memory of my mother-in-law, Daphna Lodean Wilson (1930-2003), whose spirit will always seem “to glow with life”.

What’s Camphouse raving about? Check out some Yosemite autumn pictures.

Interview with Camphouse in the George Mason University Gazette.

Program note on Yosemite Autumn on a travel site, of all places.

And here’s a marvelous YouTube performance of the piece:

Brooklyn’s Gershwin brothers, George and Ira, were among the leading Tin Pan Alley songwriters of the 1920s and 30s, with countless popular songs and six Broadway musicals to their name.  But George (1898-1937), who wrote all of the music to Ira’s lyrics, longed for a place in the classical music pantheon.  In 1924, his Rhapsody in Blue for piano and band (later orchestra) established his credentials as a serious composer.  Its use of jazz elements within classical structures became a hallmark of Gershwin’s style.  His Piano Concerto in F and An American in Paris continued in this direction, culminating in his 1935 opera Porgy and Bess.  Despite his success in the classical arena, Gershwin’s requests for lessons with other major composers were repeatedly denied.  Arnold Schoenberg, for example, told him “I would only make you a bad Schoenberg, and you’re such a good Gershwin already.”

An American in Paris came about after the success of Rhapsody in Blue had solidified Gershwin’s classical music credentials and made him a superstar.  It was inspired by Gershwin’s several trips to the bustling French capital in the 1920s.  He completed it in 1928 on a commission from conductor Walter Damrosch and the New York Philharmonic.

An Italian website featuring a full recording of the original orchestral piece.

An American in Paris program notes at the Kennedy Center.  Click around on here for a Gershwin bio and an educational video about the piece.

More program notes at

Wikipedia article on An American in Paris.

About the composer: – the official Gershwin family website.

George Gershwin bio at

Another Gershwin bio, with portraits, at

An excellent Japanese band plays our version of An American in Paris, arranged by Jerry Brubaker.  They unfortunately didn’t get the authentic Parisian taxi horns!

Michael Mogensen (b. 1973) is a composer from Hagerstown, Maryland. His compositions have been played all over the US and the world, and have won him several awards. He is one of the featured composers in volume four of Composers on Composing for Band.

September was written in memory of the events of September 11, 2001. It was a finalist in the Columbia Summer Winds Outdoor Composition Contest.

More info on September is available at C. L. Barnhouse publications. Listen to a partial recording of September here.