Concert: “Tales of Halloween: Monsters and Heroes”

October 29, 2010 at 11:24 am | Posted in Concerts | Leave a comment

The Indiana Wind Symphony’s 2010 Halloween concert, “Tales of Halloween — Monsters & Heroes,” is Saturday, October 30, at 6:30 p.m. at the Zionsville Performing Arts Center. It’s a family-friendly Halloween concert, so come in costume (the band will be!) and participate in the costume contest during intermission. Special awards given for the best costumes from Star Wars and The Wizard of Oz, as well as the best costumes overall.

Admission: $15 for adults; $10 for students and seniors; children under 10 free

Here’s what you’ll hear:

Brass Español Lennie Niehaus
Selections from Star Wars John Williams
trans. Stephen Bulla
The Phantom Cavalry Dennis Havens
World Premiere
Selections from The Wizard of Oz Harold Arlen & EY Harburg
arr. James Barnes
Conducted by Nathan Voges, dir. of the Pride of Indy Bands
Of Sailors and Whales W. Francis McBeth
— Intermission —
Dance of the Skeletons Thomas S. Allen
arr. RE Hildreth
Cleopatra Polka E. Damare
arr. JB Claus
featuring Laura Block, piccolo
Tam O’Shanter Sir Malcolm Arnold
arr. John P. Paynter
with a dramatic reading of Robert Burns’s poem by Gordon Inglis
and accompanied by a video presentation
Dream of a Witches’ Sabbath
Mvt. V from Symphony Fantastique
Hector Berlioz
trans. R. Mark Rogers

After you hear the concert, come back here and tell us what you thought!

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Excuse Me, What’s That Instrument You’re Playing?

October 28, 2010 at 9:00 am | Posted in Clarinet, Humor | 1 Comment
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Frequently after concerts, someone comes up to me and asks me what my instrument is. They do this because it’s fairly visible, sticking above my head, and because they don’t recall seeing anything like it before.  So, I thought I’d make my instrument the subject for my initial blog post. And, it will more than likely factor into many of my subsequent posts.

I play…the giant paperclip.

OK, so it’s not a giant paperclip, or any kind of paperclip, but it looks like one. You might also think it resembles something from under your kitchen sink. But I certainly try to make it sound better than anything you’d find under there.

It’s actually a contrabass clarinet, the largest and lowest active member of the clarinet family.
Clarinet-Family
Many may not realize that clarinets have a family, but they do. It’s a fairly large family, especially if you include the long-lost cousins. The Indiana Wind Symphony uses several family members: the E-flat and B-flat sopranos, the alto, the bass, and the contrabass. The B-flat sopranos are the ones commonly referred to simply as “clarinets.” The rest require qualifiers. For example, if a conductor says “Let’s hear the clarinets starting at Measure 21,” I know he’s not looking for me to play. When he does refer to my instrument, he usually shortens its name to where it sounds as though I’m a Nicaraguan rebel, possibly even one who is lousy at camouflage. “The contra needs to blend in more.”

My contra—er, contrabass clarinet—is wound up like a paperclip for no other reason than the fact that it’s made of about 8 feet of tubing. If it was straightened out, I’d have to sit on top of a ladder to play it, although I guess it could be held horizontally, in which case it would stick through the two rows of musicians in front of me. Contras do come in other, less amusing shapes, but they’re all basically the same instrument.

However, not all band compositions include contrabass clarinet parts, so I occasionally end up playing a bass saxophone part, if there is one of those. When neither exists, I play bass clarinet.

Well, now that I’ve introduced my instrument (well, one of my instruments) through this post, I realize it’s likely that fewer people will be coming up to me after concerts to ask me what it is, which is unfortunate, because I enjoy the attention. It lets me know they noticed my instrument—maybe not what it sounds like, but at least what it looks like.

Always Leave Them Wanting More

October 27, 2010 at 9:00 am | Posted in Concerts | Leave a comment

“Always leave them wanting more” – P.T. Barnum

As I write this I am in the middle a run of playing in “the pit” for a production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.  By now it’s a “warhorse” of a show.  To be sure, the music, particularly its repetitiveness, is often ridiculed by sophisticated musicians.  But amidst its formulaic four bar phrases, it has its charms.  The story is familiar to anyone that remembers Sunday school.  The characters are campy and endearing.  The throngs of children are adorable (and ensure an automatic audience of parents and grandparents).  The tunes are catchy and memorable without being grating.  And most importantly, it’s SHORT.  Indeed, each act will usually run between 40 and 45 minutes.  Even with a generous intermission, “Joseph” will have you home in time for the evening news (or Saturday Night Live, or whatever it is people want to be home in time for these days).  Nobody but the dancers leave a performance of “Joseph” exhausted.  But that attribute of the production has become a rarity.

In a time when the live performing arts are struggling for audience, visibility, support and funding performances themselves are getting harder and harder to consume.  Like the most entrenched addicts, we have become both compelled and victimized by our obsession with over programming.  We are not content to play a concerto before the intermission and a symphony after.  We must add a rousing overture and an obscure set piece that contrasts ever so smoothly with the main attraction.  By the time we are done, a third of the audience has deep vein thrombosis, a third is struggling to keep their eyes open and a third has reread the program five times.

This has become common throughout the performing arts.  Certainly, there are times when program length must be longer.  The Nutcracker doesn’t work well in “highlight” form.  A much as you might like to, you can’t really perform a Cliff’s Notes version of The Ring of the Nibelung.  And despite our best intentions, Bruckner Eight is Bruckner Eight.  But in most cases, we fall victim to our need to “say just one more thing” – adding one more dance number, one more song for the chorus, one more serenade for the string section.

Why does this happen?  Perhaps shrinking audiences have compelled programmers to “say” as much as possible while that have the audience there.  After all, you never know when you might get another chance.  Perhaps we have trouble focusing on who our audience is.  Is it the public?  Is it the initiated music fan?  Is it our peers?  Is it the critics?   If we throw something for each group in every program, we’ll be over programmed every time.  If we cater (pander?) to the initiated and to our peers we almost guarantee that the performance will be too long and that it will be a turn off to the masses.  Perhaps the question is, do we want a bigger audience or do we just want our audience.

I have read a few columns that discount the notion that performances are too long.  After all, if people can happily sitting through The Lord of the Rings or a long sporting event, surely the problem isn’t attention span.  But, in my view, that misses the point.  The point is that people will sooner sit through those long events than sit through a classical music performance.  What are we going to do about it? Do we want an audience or do we want to be right?

When we have an audience, we are giving something to them certainly.  But we are also asking something of them.  An audience is much happier for the experience and much more inclined to think the performance was worth their time if they don’t leave feeling too much was asked of them.  Indeed, I wouldn’t hesitate to guess that an audience will perceive a merely competent performance of a reasonable length as a better performance than many virtuosic performances that run overly long.

Classical Music, Jazz, Dance, Musicals, Plays, Opera – it’s all “show biz”, regardless of how high minded we might be about it.  The quintessential master of street psychology and show biz, P.T. Barnum said “Always leave them wanting more”.  They will most certainly come back for more if we don’t wear them out the first time around.

Lights, camera…music?

October 26, 2010 at 9:00 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Ever since the invention of the moving pictures, music has been an integral part of Hollywood and of films. When it first accompanied movies, it was in the form of piano or organ players improvising along with the film being shown. As technology progressed, the function of these musicians diminished and entirely disappeared. Edison’s invention of recorded sound predated motion pictures by some 20 years. Without the aid of any type of amplification, people could only hear sound via single person Nickelodeon-type units.

But that all changed when all movies were released with sound. Music then became much more elaborate. The 1950’s saw the rise of the modern film score, with some more well-known scores being composed by Bernard Herrmann (famed of Hitchcock movies “The Birds” and “Psycho”).

Music continued to be an important part of movies, but never really as integrated until one Johnny Williams came along (many recordings credited him as Johnny). Williams himself worked with, among others, Bernard Herrmann, as well as playing piano on the recordings of many scores by other well known composers like Jerry Goldsmith, Elmer Bernstein, and Henry Mancini. (Small world, huh?)

One of William’s first scores was the 1958 B-movie Daddy-O, with his first Academy Award in 1967.  He quickly gained notice because he could compose both jazz and symphonic music.  He also worked on some other lesser known projects: several B-movie disaster flicks like The Towering Inferno, and wrote the opening credits, closing credits, and much of the incidental music for the 60’s TV show Lost in Space. He shared these responsibilities with several composers including the man responsible for the Star Trek theme, Alexander Courage.

Of course, his biggest break came when he was approached by Steven Spielberg in 1974, and he has gone on to compose for nearly every Spielberg film since.

His biggest claim to fame is none other than the juggernaut that is Star Wars.  His heavy use of the Wagnerian-inspired leitmotif throughout undoubtedly is what makes John Williams one of the most memorable composers in movie music to date.

Williams’ ability to use a reoccurring theme for specific people, places, or ideas are what has ingrained so much of his music into the subconscious, or rather even conscious of movie-goers everywhere. Truly, you cannot go to a movie with a Williams’ score and not come out at least humming one theme.  John’s music isn’t simply background; it actually matches pace and is an equal partner with the film. You cannot separate the image of the twin suns of Tatooine setting from this sweeping, emotional theme…

What was seen almost as a joke of a film at the time, Williams’ score for Star Wars made it a legit film. He always takes amazing melodic material, treats it with such interesting harmonies, and scores it in a way that showcases all families of instruments and individual sections incredibly. I will go on record to say that no other movie composer has ever come even close.

For a long period, Williams composed music and shared Hollywood with many other composers who have also learned to develop thematic material with their scores. But as film making progressed, so did the use of technology. Films began using highly percussive music using synthesizers, drum loops, and ambient sound to create a sense of drama and tension. It was cheaper, and many films did not require the sweeping symphonic scores.

So as the 90’s and 2000’s have progressed, John Williams has continued composing amazing symphonic scores: Jurassic Park, Harry Potter films, the new Star Wars, to name a few. And he now shares the screen with a newer set of film composers, many of whom are not even qualified to turn a page for JW!

Yes, I’m calling you out! James Horner (ok, older Horner stuff is pretty good!), James Newton Howard, among a few of many composers who are the complete antithesis to JW. Ok, I know what you are saying: How can they be like John Williams? He has done so much, surely they are good just not as good as Williams. No, I don’t believe that is the case. In fact, I’d actually believe that modern composers (2000s +) make a habit of not creating music that uses any sort of theme specifically because they are afraid that they will be mistaken for John Williams. While I’d understand that, that’s like Ford saying, “We can’t make a car with 4 doors; Nissan already has one of those. Let’s make a car with 1 door. That’s totally different. No one can confuse us with Nissan now!”

That’s a very ridiculous analogy which acutely makes my point. John does things differently. You can tell a Williams score from Bernard Herrmann, from Howard Shore. (Oh, and Howard used thematic music…just one theme, but I’ll take it!) So you can’t use that argument guys.

The other argument is that producers and directors want the music of their films to be secondary, because it serves the film not vice versa. I actually buy into this. Many directors see their project as the main thing, and the music is secondary or even in some cases, tertiary. Spielberg and Lucas both understood that having a score that incorporated themes actually enhances the story. Jaws will forever be known by a two-note motive. Is that a bad thing? Absolutely not!

Although I don’t even want to think it, we are fast approaching a time where John Williams will not be with us. I haven’t seen a composer in the last decade that has shown the musical aptitude, the understanding of instrument usage, the finesse, the power, or the emotion that John Williams has. We need our current generation of movie composers and our new generation to learn from the master. I’m not saying you need to copy him. I’m just saying this: Don’t be afraid of writing a theme..or two, or *gasp* three. And don’t be afraid to write new material, not just something you directly ripped off on a Sibelius symphony!

So what do you think? Any composers in the last decade who you think might have the ability to take up the torch?

How to Listen to Baroque Music

October 25, 2010 at 9:00 am | Posted in History | 2 Comments
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Not all “classical” music is created equal. I can enjoy just about any orchestral piece written after the mid-19th century, but go back farther than that — to the infancy and childhood of classical music — and I start to get fidgety. Baroque music in particular is difficult for me to enjoy. So when I landed an opportunity to write a classical music column for an upstart magazine, listening to baroque music seemed like the perfect topic, right?

The following article was first published in a magazine in the Boston area back in the early 2000s. It was the the first piece of writing I ever got paid for. Enjoy:


How to Listen to Baroque Music

Music lovers the world over attend millions of orchestra concerts every year to hear their favorite classical music. Or do they?

Classical music has come to mean any type of orchestral or chamber music, from Josquin Desprez’s sixteenth-century motets to Philip Glass’s twenty-first-century minimalism. Classical used in this sense means “traditional” and “established.”

But the specific (capital-C) Classical era in music was actually quite brief. It lasted approximately seventy-five years, from Bach’s death in 1750 to near Beethoven’s death in 1827. Before Classical music came the music of the Baroque era, perhaps the least understood and least appreciated of any Western musical style. Many music lovers find it difficult to interpret Baroque pieces, to understand the deeper meaning behind the music, and to find the joy in music that comes so readily from music of later periods.

If you don’t understand Baroque music, or find that you just don’t like it, you’re not alone. The upscale musical crowd of the Classical era looked down its collective nose at what it considered the old-fashioned, unemotional style of Baroque music. Even the word baroque was originally a pejorative term. Baroque comes from a Portuguese word for an imperfect and not particularly beautiful pearl. The term was picked up by critics of seventeenth-century art and architecture who found the style overly ornamental and decadent. The term eventually found its way into musicological circles, but not until the late eighteenth century, after the Baroque period in music had ended.

To speak of a musical era is not to speak of absolutes, of course. A musical era, such as the Classical or Romantic era, only approximates a certain time period in which a certain style of composition was predominant. And the Baroque era was no different. Musicologists disagree about the exact starting point of the Baroque era of music, but they generally agree that it began sometime in the early seventeenth century.

Before that time, during the Renaissance, music was only an extension of text, and instrumental music was almost exclusively a backdrop for vocalization. But as new musical instruments were developed, as a more universal system of tuning was created, and as the Church lost control of the fashions and sensibilities of the populace, styles changed. Instrumental music became less of a backdrop and found its own place in the musical world. Solo instruments came to the fore, supported by the harmonies of the basso continuo, comprising a harpsichord or organ and a low melodic instrument like the cello. As solo performances became popular, the cream naturally rose to the top: The Baroque era saw the first truly virtuosic musicians.

Unlike in later eras, the creation of music during the Baroque era centered on the performer (although the composer often was the performer), who was called upon to add trills, grace notes, vibrato — all sorts of ornaments that later musicologists, in a composer-centered music world, disdained.

During the Classical period, “old-fashioned” music from just a few decades previous was regarded as cold, unemotional, and overly decorative. And by Classical standards, it was. A principle of Baroque composition was that each piece, or each movement of a piece, should depict only a single emotion. Classical music thrived on juxtaposing opposing emotional tones using simple melodies, a technique taken to extremes during the Romantic era.

Also during the Classical era, music publishing houses began to pop up, which meant that a composer’s music could be played hundreds of miles away. Composers, then, took more control over their music, adding the ornaments that they believed would enhance their pieces. By Classical standards, Baroque music, which left so much in the hands of an improvising performer, was undercomposed. The center of music had shifted from the performers to the composers.

Because of this shift in fashion, the Baroque legacy was nearly lost (inasmuch as a musical style could ever be completely lost). Not until 1829, thirty-eight years after Mozart’s death and well into the Romantic era, did Baroque music make a comeback. In that year, Felix Mendelssohn reorchestrated Bach’s St. Matthew’s Passion for the more modern instruments available in his time. The music was such a hit with the musicians that, with each rehearsal, the choir’s numbers grew, eventually expanding to three or four hundred voices. Much to Mendelssohn’s relief, the performance of this piece was so well-received that two more performances were scheduled almost immediately.

Mendelssohn’s success sparked a revival in the works of Bach, leading to a renewed interest in Baroque music as a whole, an interest which has continued to this day.

So the next time you’re faced with a night of music from Bach, Vivaldi, Rameau, or Telemann, instead of trying to decipher the differences between a fugue, a round, and a passacaglia, you may find more enjoyment trying to pick out the Baroque nuances and how they differ from the more common Classical and Romantic pieces that symphony orchestras play. Your program notes may help.

Remember that each Baroque piece, or each movement of a multi-movement piece, is intended to convey a single emotion. What emotion does a particular piece move within you? Also note the instrumentation that is used. With the exception of the violin, every instrument in the orchestra has seen improvements since the Baroque era. Did the musicians tote out “period instruments,” usually identifiable by a noticeably smaller number of keys, or was the piece reorchestrated to make use of more modern instruments’ ranges and tonal colors?

Finally, keep in mind that if the musicians use reproductions of the original written music — which you would expect from some of the top-notch orchestras — then a large amount of improvisation is going on. All those twitters and trills are merely hinted at by the composer, and the bulk of artistic expression rests on the performers themselves, much like jazz music today.

And if you still find your mind drifting away as the piece moves on, well, you always have Mendelssohn to blame.

Two Band Performances in One Weekend

October 22, 2010 at 9:00 am | Posted in Concerts | Leave a comment

This past weekend, Oct. 16 and 17, I played concerts with the two groups that I regularly play with other than the Indiana Wind Symphony—the Indianapolis Municipal Band and the Zionsville Concert Band. I won’t be reviewing either performance for the simple reasons that I might have a bias and I was too busy concentrating on playing my part to notice all the musical subtleties. Well, those and possibly because what the audience hears differs from what I hear sitting in the middle of the group.

But I might throw out a few observations.

The IMB performance, which was Saturday night, was a joint concert with the Greenwood Community Band and took place in Greenwood High School’s auditorium. The IMB played the first part of the concert, the Greenwood Band played the second part, and both bands joined forces for two numbers at the end.

Not having attended one of their performances before, the Greenwood band was a slight surprise. Although they are a community band that represents a city much smaller than Indianapolis, the number of members in their group was quite similar to that of the IMB. Offhand, I’d say the quality of playing was similar as well.

Being a low reed player myself, I noticed that the Greenwood Band has a baritone sax player, something the Municipal Band is currently lacking. They also had three bass clarinetists versus our one (me). The Municipal Band officially has three bass clarinets, but the other two haven’t been able to rehearse with us for a while because of scheduling conflicts. (You’d think that music would take precedence over work!) To me, the most surprising thing about Greenwood having three bass clarinetists is that, in Spring of last year, I recall seeing postings in the University of Indianapolis music building attempting to recruit a bass clarinet player for the Greenwood group. Apparently they got lucky and found more than they were looking for.

On the other hand, it’s possible that they may have converted a few existing clarinetists. The fact that Greenwood’s bassoon player was, just a few weeks ago, talked into switching from oboe to bassoon by the music director would back up that possibility.

The Municipal Band did have one low reed instrument that Greenwood didn’t, a contrabass clarinet (also me). I played the contra on one of the IMB’s numbers and one that the two groups played together.

I recognized a couple of the members of the Greenwood band because both are members of the Wind Symphony. The Municipal Band had three members present who also play with the Wind Symphony, for a total of five Wind Symphony members in the combined group.

The Zionsville Band has four members who also play with the Wind Symphony. Considering that it’s smaller than the Municipal Band or the Greenwood band, that’s a bit surprising.

The Zionsville Concert Band performance, held Sunday afternoon, was also a joint performance. In addition to the band, it included solos by soprano Jill Birch and three pieces played by North’s Horns, a French horn quintet from North United Methodist Church.

Everything didn’t go quite as planned during the concert. From what I understand, the French horn group found they were missing some of their music and one or two members had to leave to retrieve it. Fortunately, they were able to return with the music before the end of the concert and ended up playing near the end of the concert rather than near the beginning as originally planned.

The Municipal Band and Zionsville Band concerts did share one piece of music, John Phillip Sousa’s Power and Glory March. The Municipal Band ended their section of the Saturday concert with it and the Zionsville Band used it to open their concert. Again, without critiquing either group, I can say that the biggest difference in the ways the groups played it was the interpretation of the dynamics. This difference resulted, at least in part, from the Municipal band’s director, Dan Bolin, adding and emphasizing a few dynamic changes that weren’t annotated on the printed score.

In my opinion, both concerts, one in a town just south of Indianapolis, and the other in a town just northeast of Indianapolis, went well. Although, as I said earlier, I’m biased, I can say with disinterest that both audiences seemed pleased.

To Clap or Not to Clap – Welcoming the Gauche

October 21, 2010 at 9:00 am | Posted in Concerts | 1 Comment
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“The spirit’s foe in man has not been simplicity, but sophistication.”  – George Santayana

“There is more sophistication and less sense in New York than anywhere else on the globe.” – Don Herold

Sophistication in overrated; in all aspects of life in my view, but particularly when it comes to the arts and their audiences.  My fellow musicians and I are (perhaps painfully) aware of the conventions of etiquette required at musical performances.  Most of these rules are quite sensible.  If you arrive late, enter the hall at a clear break in the performance.  Don’t carry on a conversation after the performance has begun.  Turn off your cell phone.

Then there is this important rule. Never applaud between movements of a multi-movement work.  This last rule is well known to musicians and regular consumers of classical music.  But it is not well known outside that circle.  Many is the time I have observed some musicians and (especially) some regular audience members scoff and snort at the poor unfortunate spectator that bursts into clapping at the familiar end to the first movement of a symphony or at the end of a movement that doesn’t really act like the end of a movement.  A barely audible “tsk tsk” echoes around the hall, often with great embarrassment to the guilty party, who is really only guilty of enjoying the performance enough to actually be enthusiastic about it.

This is particularly common at performances by famous soloists (who, by the way, have developed very gracious ways of appreciating and responding to it).  My wife and I are symphony subscribers.  We go frequently.  We go when the house is full.  We go when there is a football game down the street and the seats are empty.  There are a few concerts a year however, that draw large numbers of what might be called “amateur” concert goers.  It’s true you can spot them.  But they are excited to be there and they are much more engaged with the performance than most of the “regulars”.  So, when Yo Yo Ma or Joshua Bell is in town, the house is packed, the electricity is high, and there is applause between movements.

I am also a devoted listener of Sirius Satellite Radio.  There are a few classical music options on Sirius.  One is called “Sirius Pops”.  This is a misnomer though.  The station really doesn’t play pops music.  There are no show tunes (they are on another station).  There is no Liza Minnelli or Frank Sinatra (they too are on another station).   What they do play on Sirius Pops is 1) some of the more popular classical works and 2) single movements of larger works.  It is this later that fills the bulk of their broadcast day.  Indeed, they do not always play the most recognizable movements.  They simply allow for listeners, who are often in their cars, the ability to hear more music in smaller bites.  I have heard a number of my musician friends bemoan this as an abomination.  Multi-movement works MUST be played in their entirety.  Anybody who wants it otherwise is a Philistine.  To be sure, there are some works that I personally don’t enjoy unless I hear all parts of them: Mozart, Beethoven and Mahler Symphonies, The Barber Violin Concerto, The Dvorak Cello Concerto, Abbey Road.  But I would much rather a casual listener have access to a single movement of any of those at the expense of the proper sophistication than put those listeners off completely by insisting that they devote the next 40 minutes to a work.

To be fair, I also know a number of musicians, some of whom are conductors, who are perfectly content to allow time for an audience to show their appreciation as often as they like.  After all, they realized that their competition is Netflix, the game down the street a jazz club in Broad Ripple or even really bad pop music.  Anybody that has decided to have that musical and cultural conversation rather than just going with the flow of “the market” of entertainment options deserves the benefit of the doubt.  For they are a point along a line of handing down culture from generation to generation,  Each performance, recording and music lesson the casual consumer takes part in is one more link in passing that culture along.  An audience of unsophisticated Philistines is, first and foremost, an audience.

What’s on Gilligan’s iPod?

October 20, 2010 at 3:54 pm | Posted in Composers | 2 Comments
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Just sit right back, and you’ll hear a tale…

You are stuck on a desert island, and you can only bring the MP3s/CDs of your top 5 favorite composers. (Apparently, you are also provided with an MP3 or CD player and an infinite supply of batteries in which to listen!)

5.  Richard Wagner: Alright, so a lot of people have problems with Wagner, but let’s leave all that aside. Musically, he writes some of the most exciting and bold music. It’s usually very brass heavy (Ride of the Valkyries anyone?) with some great melodic lines, amazing development of the melodic idea, and was one of the first to use the leitmotif. Favorite pieces include the aforementioned Ride of the Valkyries, Prelude from Act III of the opera Lohengrin, and The Ring.

4. Gustav Holst: His band music is written so incredibly well. It’s crafted in such a way that only a master could craft it. His compositions almost always feature something good for every instrument, be it melodically, or accompaniment wise. Stuff written for each instrument is in really good ranges, and seems to fall really easy on the instruments. Like his good friend, Ralph Vaughan Williams, these guys were big into the use of English (as in British) folk songs to create great compositions. And despite the fact that many people totally overlook or pass over his music, Holst is essential to the repertoire of the band world. Favorite pieces are First Suite, Second Suite, and of course The Planets!

3. Eric Whitacre: Wow, can this guy write some music or what?! One of the cooler things about Eric is that he is one of very few composers who can write for choir or band. His use of suspensions and resolutions, passing tones, and other harmonic devices give his music such a gorgeous quality. October is probably one of my favorite pieces of music. The harmonies are so lush! His choir stuff is really cool too.

2. Leonard Bernstein: I was too young to have seen anything Lenny did live, but this man was a true musician and really connected with audiences to make classical music part of their lives. His series of young people’s concerts are unlike anything that has ever been done. He was an amazing piano player and conductor too. His music is also quite varied, but has a heavy jazz influence. Favorite pieces include Slava, Overture to Candide, as well as his symphonic suites to On the Waterfront/On the Town and of course, West Side Story.

1. John Williams: Of all the composers, I could literally listen to John Williams all day. The fact is I think many people don’t give him credit because he is a movie composer. But if you took away the titles of his pieces and called them something else, they would still stand compositionally on their own. His ability to craft memorable melodies, he takes every instrument and uses it to its full potential with range, volume, use such amazing harmonic texture, and use development and counterpoint are just some of the things that makes John Williams “The Man”. He can both compose a piece that is lyrical and gorgeous, and something that is exciting. Don’t believe me? Don’t listen to the big stuff everyone knows: no Star Wars main theme or Imperial March, no Indiana Jones or Superman main themes. Go to the middle of the Empire Strikes soundtrack and listen as he takes an idea and really makes it come to life. One of the best tracks to show this: The Battle of Hoth. This is some incredibly exciting and well written music! His rich musical vocabulary makes him unlike most any composer!

So, what are your thoughts? Which 5 composers classical, concert band, or jazz would you choose?

Hello Musical World!

October 7, 2010 at 4:28 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The Indiana Wind Symphony will soon be taking its first steps into the blogosphere. We hope instrumentalists of all persuasions can find something interesting, entertaining, and useful here as we share our experiences, opinions, and peeves of all things musical. Watch this space for more!

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