John Estacio: Frenergy
The bulk of the musical material found in this piece comes from sketches for my Triple Concerto. These sketches were to be part of the proposed final movement for the concerto, a fast-paced scherzo to bring the piece to a wild close. However, for various reasons, this ending did not make it to the final draft. Not one to waste, I decided to mount this music on its own for orchestra (The transcription for band was done by Frasier Linklater).
The title comes from an amalgamation of the words “frenetic” and “energy” which were the two qualities I desired for the ending of the concerto. The tempo for this short concert opener is brisk and the pacing of melodic ideas is often a bit frantic as befitting the title.
It begins with a thunderous introduction by the percussion who establish the infectious 6/8 pulse. After an orchestral tutti, the winds introduce a chromatic melody that is quickly tossed back and forth from pairings of instruments. This quirky little melody often complements an ostentatious tune frequently performed by the brass. The third melody, introduced by a solo flute, is perhaps the most substantial tune of the piece and is strongly characterized by the 6/8 lilt of the piece.
Roger Cichy: Pandemonium
Little would Milton have known that his word creation be used so commonly in the 21st Century. With significant events occurring in contemporary times such as 9-11, the pacific tsunami, and hurricane Katrina, the word pandemonium has been commonly attached to the state of riotous uproar, chaos and mass confusion. With an array of meanings, the word can be defined as: wild lawlessness, utter chaos, a place or scene of uproar or chaos, and more astringent as: the abode of all the demons or even, the capitol of hell. (Note the word ‘demon’ in the center of the word.) Beyond these definitions, the word can be used in a more personal context and describe a state of being that occurs in our individual lives upon being presented tragic or startling news; a feeling of confusion and uncertainly.
At other times, an individual may feel pandemonium when referring to their busy and overwhelming life style. In yet a different and starker perspective, some individuals believe that demons can possess our lives at times and create a state of pandemonium within one’s being. Commissioned by the Western/Northwestern divisions of the College Band Directors National Association, Roger Cichy’s composition, Pandemonium, attempts to paint a wide array of meanings of the term. At times, the music may suggest catastrophic events that that have turned into pandemonium, other times, the music may reflect a subtler disposition and imply pandemonium on an individual level. Sometimes the music is intended to sound confusing and unsettling or eerie and uncertain.
Moments also exist when the music sounds riotous or even martial. During one segment of the piece, Cichy has composed a sort of “March of the demons”. In another segment, Cichy refers to it as “the dance of the evil spirits”. The interpretation of what one hears is purely up to the listener. This is not meant to be programmatic music Cichy state. “You are given certain qualities of sound, melody and musical impressions during each segment and you must choose your own definition.
Frank Ticheli: Simple Gifts
Frank Ticheli is associate professor of music at the University of Southern California and served as composer-in-residence with the Pacific Symphony Orchestra from 1991 to 1998. He has composed numerous works for bands and orchestras, as well as chamber and wind ensembles, and his music has won many prestigious awards. Simple Gifts is founded on Shaker songs. The first, "In Yonder Valley," is widely held to be the oldest surviving Shaker song with text. It is a simple hymn praising nature; listen for the birdcall sounds at the beginning. The second movement, "Dance," uses an 1830 Shaker tune, which was probably sung, in church by a small group while the rest of the congregation danced. The third movement, based on a Shaker lullaby, "Here Take This Lovely Flower," is a "gift song." These are songs that were received from spirits by Shaker mediums while in a trance. The piece ends with the most famous Shaker song, "Simple Gifts."- Notes by James Huff
John Mackey: Sheltering Sky
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. –Notes by Jake Wallace.
Mark Camphouse: A Movement for Rosa
A Movement for Rosa was commissioned by the Florida Bandmasters Association honoring civil rights heroine Rosa Parks and was composed and orchestrated over a three-month period: August - November, 1992. With duration of approximately 11 1/2 minutes, this 'movement' -- a quasi-tone poem -- contains three contrasting sections. Section I evokes Rosa's early years, from birth Feb. 1913 in Tuskegee, Alabama, through her marriage in 1932 to Raymond Parks in Pine Level, Alabama. Section II portrays years of racial strife in Montgomery and the quest for social equality. Section III is one of quiet strength and serenity. The works final measures serve an ominous reminder of racism's lingering presence in modern American society.
Eric Whitacre: Godzilla Eats Las Vegas
It took me seven years to get my bachelor’s degree from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. By the time I graduated I was ready to eat Las Vegas.
Tom Leslie asked me to write another piece for the group as I was leaving, and I thought it would be a blast to do something completely ridiculous. The players are called upon to scream in terror, dress like Elvises (Elvi), and play in about thirty different styles from mambo to cheesy lounge music. The audience follows a ‘script’ that I wrote simulating a campy, over the top Godzilla movie (is there any other kind?).
I wrote the bulk of the piece while in my first year at Juilliard, and no kidding, I used to act out the script every morning devouring animal crackers, wreaking havoc all over the breakfast table. The ‘script’ was originally twice as long, and had an entire subplot devoted to a young scientist and his love interest. As I started to finish the piece, however, it didn’t seem that funny and that story (along with an extended Elvis tribute) ended up on the cutting room floor.
The idea that this piece is being played all over the world in such serious concert venues is the single funniest thing I have ever heard. It has been played on the steps of the Capitol by the United States Marine Band, by the Scottish National Wind Symphony (they play in kilts, so help me God), and I have a video of a Japanese audience visibly confused and shaken by the whole experience. Can you imagine? I’m laughing my head off even as I write this!
Godzilla Eats Las Vegas! was commissioned by the University of Nevada Las Vegas, Thomas G. Leslie, conductor, and received its premiere November 28th, 1996.