Saturday, October 20, 2012

Notes on Jazz Orchestra program by Director Dan Aldag

"I Mean You"--a Thelonious Monk tune in a new arrangement by Mike Tomaro that incorporates a New Orleans second-line feel.

"One By One"--Wayne Shorter composed this for Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers during his time in that band. Our arrangement is by Mark Taylor.

"Recorda Me"--written by Joe Henderson for his debut album Page One. The title, which means "Remember Me", is Portuguese--an appropriate language for a Bossa Nova. We're playing a new arrangement by Eric Richards.

"The Intrepid Fox"--a fast and complex tune by Freddie Hubbard, also arranged by Eric Richards.

An as-yet-untitled original composed collectively by the band in the tradition of the "head charts" played by the Count Basie Orchestra of the 1930s. Each of the horn sections came up with one or more riffs to serve as melodic material. Further riffs were developed to serve as backgrounds to solos, and over several weeks of rehearsal, the arrangement took shape without anything ever being written down.

Notes on Symphonic Band program by Conductor Paul Cummings

We open with a march: Pentland Hills by Major James W. Howe.  It’s a concert march that quotes several Scottish folk tunes.

We feature Old Home Days, a suite by Charles Ives, in which he looks back fondly on his childhood in Danbury, Connecticut.  There’s a lot of variety in these five movements...The last movement—“London Bridge is Falling Down”—features some classic bitonality: two different keys happening simultaneously.  One part of the brass section is playing in F major while another part is playing simultaneously in E major—a half step away from each other, which creates this huge dissonance.  But that’s one of the hallmarks of his music. It also suggests the effect of two marching bands passing in a parade playing different pieces at the same time.  This evokes an experience of his childhood but also is an important part of his musical aesthetic: taking it all in, representing that as real music, rather than just the neat and tidy sounds.   Ives wrote this as songs for solo voice with piano, and it was arranged for band by Jonathan Elkus, the former band director at UC Davis who is an expert on Ives.

Footsteps by Dana Wilson is meant to describe the effect of slowly creeping footsteps, which start out in a very gentle pulse then gather momentum and volume and drama.  The composer says in the score “Footsteps can suggest everything from gently walking to mysterious uncertainty to massive marching.” He compares it to Bolero, which starts out with snare drum playing very softly but relentlessly, and builds momentum gradually.  Dana Wilson is a well known composer, still living, he teaches at Ithaca College in New York, won a lot of prizes and had his music performed by wind ensembles all over the world.

We’re also playing the fourth movement of Suite of Old American Dances by Robert Russell Bennett.  This movement is “The Wallflower Waltz.”  In general, Bennett is attempting to capture the spirit of Americana, with music and dance and culture of the early part of the 20th century, 1900-15.  The movements of this piece reflect the styles of that time, and the waltz was prominent among them. But this waltz is not typical—there are jazz inflections, which was a real influence in the early 20th century, including some ragtime sounds.  It’s got a beautiful lightness to it, often just flute and piccolo playing as a duet. 

Our last piece is “Homage to Perotin” by Ron Nelson.  Perotin was a medieval composer, so his works represent some of the earliest music in western culture.  This is the second movement of Nelson’s Medieval Suite. Each movement focuses on one composer. Nelson writes that he isn’t transcribing their works, but he uses them “as a sort of launching pad” to evoke characteristics of that period’s music, including the use of Gregorian chant.  It’s a very exciting piece, with lots of dissonance.  It really features the brass.  We have terrific brass and percussion sections this year, so we want to show them off.  

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