Concerto for Winds and Percussion

for Band

  • Genre
    Wind Ensemble
  • Commissioned by/written for
    Stephen Pratt
  • Year completed
  • Year revised
  • Timing
  • Catalog number
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  • 2
    known performances
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Concerto for Winds and Percussion was begun on June 29, 2015 and completed on September 10th of that same year. In advance of the premiere of the piece, given by the dedicatees on November 15, 2016, I revisited the piece and made some mostly minor emendations and corrections between September 17th and 24th of the latter year, but upon hearing the premiere, I found that I really did not care for what I had written as a second movement. Conductor and dedicatee, Stephen Pratt, was gracious enough to let me have another go at that movement, and he subsequently performed my thoroughly rewritten version of that movement on March 27, 2018. The work was written as a vehicle to showcase one of the top collegiate bands in the US. Consequently, the composer sought to include solos for virtually every instrument of the Ensemble, as well as section solos, and some unusual combinations of instruments as well. Additionally, it is intended as a tribute to one of America's leading Director of Bands as he closed his long tenure at Indiana University. My sense of humor is on display in the titles of the three movements of this Concerto. The first movement is entitled "Naughty Austin Ostinati," a play on words the composer found irresistible. The "Austin" in the title has nothing to do with the city in Texas, but allowed the first movement to have a title that is sort of a phonemic mirror image of itself. After a slow, mysterious and dramatic introduction, the ostinati come in full force, first in the percussion over which a pointillistic 12-tone row is superimposed (the only use of Dodecaphonicism in the entire Concerto). Shortly following, the other instruments come in with differing types of ostinati (repeated figures in music). These continue and reach several climactic points, including one section where the timpanist is pitted against the remainder of the ensemble (on the repetition of this section, the snare drum is given the honor). Along the way, some quiet sections recapitulte something of the mystery of the introduction, although the ostinati really never disappear. The second movement is bears the French title, "Quais mille sans sons," a pun on the name of the French composer, Camille Saint-Saȅns. Just as the first movement has nothing to do with Austin, the second has nary a single measure in it that bears the slightest resemblance to anything the French master ever wrote. Given the meaning of the French phrase (a thousand docks without sounds), I allowed the phrase to dictate the style of the movement, as it suggested to him the title of a mystery novel. Consequently, I wrote this movement to sound as though it could be describing a plot of some such novel. The movement is mostly quite subdued, with flickers of notes coming and going, and reaches only one big climax at midpoint. Chimes and harp are especially important "characters" in this musical story, and several other instruments have fairly extended solos. The punnery continues to the title of the third movement, "Whirled Piece." Once again, the movement is not suggestive, at least to my ears, of anything to do with harmony among nations. Rather, I just liked the title, and included in this movement several visual representations of the "whirled" part of the title. The listener (and observer) of the work will hardly fail to see these spots, so no description of them is needed here. The movement is cast in A-B-A form, with the outer sections constituting a rather unrelenting perpetual motion in 9/8 meter, and the center section resuming the mysterious ambience of the second movement. Although the concerto is freely tonal (and often rather dissonant) throughout, I move towards C Major for the conclusion of both the first and third movements for no other reason than harmonic continuity and feeling of resolution in these otherwise tonally obscure movements. The second movement has no such resolution or movement, however, in keeping with the mystery of the piece, it has moments of fairly firm tonality.

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