importance of what we do

First off, let me say i love workshop. i really do.

Still...it has been brought up that i'm spending too much time on this grade 2.5-3 HS band piece and that i should get it out of the way so i could write what i want. It seems that they do not believe me when i say i WANT to write the piece and that i find it incredibly important.

I do think some great things were said. My piece has a certain transparency in its orchestration. Almost all of my pieces have had that. I don't like "and everyone together now!" especially in band.

especially especially in band.


because too much of band is like that, especially at the lower level. Yeah, in college, a proficient wind ensemble could do some amazing things. But in HS, it seems, composers are happy to create 4 or 5 lines, maybe 6, and call it a day, and double the hell out of it. I find that ANNOYING. i've got (in this piece) at least 10 non-percussion lines. and, yes, i do a fair amount of doubling. But, i find it disgraceful to think that just because a piece is grade 2.5 and therefore "medium easy" i can't have transparent orchestration. I still have tutti moments. I still have "all together now!". the last bit of this movement is going to be a chorale, and while i had originally planned on holding back somewhat in my forces and doing it as a WW feature with a LB pedal chord, i've decided to put everyone into the chorale. Still...still...

It's this kind of thinking that creates boring, lame, run of the mill, weak, unpedagogical pieces. now, there is nothing wrong with writing an entertaining piece, if that is its purpose. and there are many things to learn from well written entertaining pieces. But is, essentially, a 4 part homophonic sound really entertaining? i don't think so...i never did.

I think of some of the really cool, not so hard to play pieces. Percy Grainger did some great pieces, done in what he called "Elastic Scoring." here's a link to a page with a quote from Grainger explaining it.


He did several piece this way. Yes, the one i played was Grade 4, but the overall language of the piece was a bit more challenging than mine, with a lot more counterpoint. a lot more counterpoint. and no, i'm not talking about Lincolnshire Posey. Can't remember which piece. oh well.

Anyway, teaching students to stand up and play out is important. forcing sections to play something a bit harder, even if its just 3 or 4 bars, is good. "hey, baritones. check out those 4 bars in Mvt. 2. practice those 4 bars. the rest is pretty easy, ya?" "ya" "perfect, learn those 4 bars!" that's a lot more doable then "Hey, baritones. i know you usually play half notes, but this guy just wrote a TON of 16th notes for ya. have fun!"

I also find it interesting that i meet a lot of resistance when i write moderately complex rhythmic passages and say "yeah, that's easy for a band." seriously...i've played in band...as long as it's spelled out well and not really crazy (not like i'm doing 5s or 7s or something, just entering on 2 in a slow 6/8) a band can handle it. I mean...if a band can handle playing in more difficult meters, then a syncopated rhythm won't kill them. I remember learning syncopated rhythms in band starting my first year...maybe within the first couple months.

Anyway, the main thing is, I find this work important. very important. Kids don't have enough "good works" to play. Am i writing some magical work that will get picked up and played all over the country? i doubt it...but am i writing something that can at least be incredibly meaningful to a group of 30 kids? most definitely. and if walking into a class and telling 30 kids who normally get to play whatever Hal Leonard has on sale that year, that they have a piece written especially for them, and i tried to make it was awesome as i could...well....

those 30 kids may remember it their whole life. and maybe they'll learn something about music too...

and isn't that worth taking the time to make it amazing?

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