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 Post subject: Mediocre Band Music
PostPosted: Mon May 18, 2009 7:43 am 
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I know I am going to get flamed by EVERYBODY who posts on this forum, but I think you all need to read these articles regarding band literature.

http://www.budiansky.com/music_files/repertoire.pdf
http://www.budiansky.com/music_files/follow.pdf

Please post thoughtful comments.
Thanks.


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 Post subject: Re: Mediocre Band Music
PostPosted: Mon May 18, 2009 11:34 am 
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I will be VERY interested to see the responses of the many musical educators on this forum (of which I am not one). That said, I liked both essays and agreed with a majority of them.

When I look back on my performances from high school and college, almost ALL of my favorite pieces are orchestral transcriptions: Shostakovich's Festive Overture, Tchaikovsky's Marche Slav, Khachaturian's Armenian Dances, Strauss' Allerseelen, etc. There's really only one or two "band" pieces that would make my Top 10.

And, well, look at the two Holst suites for military band. There's a REASON virtually every band plays those at some point: they are extremely well composed. As a music teacher once told me (paraphrasing here): "you can find more good examples of the fundamentals of composition in Holst's First Suite than you can in any ten 'off-the-shelf' band pieces."

One of the quotes from the follow-up article that I liked the most:
Quote:
"Well-reasoned critiques of recent made-for-school band music note that it frequently is composed not with artistic aims in mind but with didactic purposes paramount: avoiding the register break in clarinet parts, for example, or the high register in trumpet parts."
I would add to that the following: too much of an attempt (in many pieces) to force the music to fit a specific "grade" (skill) level. I understand the need for commissions and the varied requirements from one to another, but on the other hand I've always been a firm believer in the concept of making the band fit the music and not vice versa (possibly because I've spent 15 years as a novice composer and 0 years as a music educator).

I'll give way to the more educated minds amongst us, but I do have one parting shot. And, since I wouldn't be living up to my reputation if I didn't say something controversial, here it is:

I think drum and bugle corps has had a HUGELY negative effect on concert band literature.

There. I said it. Don't get me wrong, I'm a big drum corps geek-boy, and follow it avidly every season (I have VHS/DVD/CD recordings of every finals from 1987 to the present). I understand you don't have time for a six minute passacaglia on the field. But there's no reason to leave it out of a concert piece. Many of the new band works I hear (in person, on the web, from CD) seem to be influenced by DCI's "ADD" style of arranging, where no theme or motif is held on to for very long. I also hear a lot "emotional sections" relying more on dynamic contrast and less on harmonic development to provoke emotional effect, something else that's very common on the field (and was also mentioned in the articles). And need I mention how excessive and poorly integrated percussion parts have gotten in the concert literature? (Or is it just my imagination?)

Too many "field show" pieces are being written for the concert hall and (in my opinion), many of them don't work.


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 Post subject: Re: Mediocre Band Music
PostPosted: Mon May 18, 2009 12:37 pm 
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When I first read his essay, I started to get realy steamed. How dare he speak of which he is not qualified to speak. Then I started to think. I've been saying many of the same thing for years. Now mind you, I've appreciate many of our band composer's works. They dispay an understanding of the voices and colors available in the wind band, but, there are a lot of people writting car payment music out there. A common joke in the community band I play in, when a piece comes to an end that doesn't work well or is abrupt is that the composer must of run out of paper. And these are pieces by well respected composers. I suppose in an effort for the publishers to fill out their cd's, they include a lot of music that isn't quite ready to be published.

But, the other hand, playing transcriptions of major orchestral composers is not the answer either. Nothing plays the 1812 Overture like an orchestra, and though there are good band transcriptions, they are just immitations of the orchestra. The answer is music teachers taking special care, using their musical knowledge to select the best music available for their ensembles. If all Hal Leanard 2009-10 offerings is crap this year (only a for example) don't buy any. If there is no music that meets the criteria of good music this year, don't buy any. Use the library that we've been building for years. If you have an older school, you should have a treasure of good music from the past. Use it. (Saves a lot of money, too)

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 Post subject: Re: Mediocre Band Music
PostPosted: Mon May 18, 2009 1:29 pm 
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ecwaufisxtreme wrote:
I know I am going to get flamed by EVERYBODY who posts on this forum, but I think you all need to read these articles regarding band literature.

http://www.budiansky.com/music_files/repertoire.pdf
http://www.budiansky.com/music_files/follow.pdf

Please post thoughtful comments.
Thanks.


I read the articles a few years ago. Most of the university, college, and outstanding high school band directors that I know agree with the articles... I sure do! Too much poor band literature has been written over the past 50 years.

Most of the music that I have chosen to conduct with my own bands was and is still based on the name of the composer and/or arranger... some of them have it and most don't.

vore 8-)

FYI..

While Tim was a pretty good clarinetist and later conductor of the USMC Band in DC, he never taught high school or university level band. He had the pleasure of conducting professionals not students.

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Last edited by vore on Mon May 18, 2009 5:13 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Mediocre Band Music
PostPosted: Mon May 18, 2009 3:49 pm 
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ecwaufisxtreme wrote:
I know I am going to get flamed by EVERYBODY who posts on this forum, but I think you all need to read these articles regarding band literature.
Please post thoughtful comments.
Thanks.



I don't think indiscriminate flaming is necessary, but one thought that comes to mind as I read this, is the incredible broadness of the brush being used. This quote in particular...

The failure of essentially all of the leading writers of educational music to have secured any significant artistic reputation beyond the world of educational music in itself raises questions.

Artistic reputations seems to be equated with success in the orchestral world. Many of these "educational writers" have only written for the wind idiom, and as such are dismissed as not having an artistic reputation. Holst did not gain his fame with his Military works, but for orchestral ones. And if we go back in time, how many of Mozart's and Haydn's comtemporaries wrote schlock?

With that said, there are current composers who follow "successful" formulae for what appear to be the purpose of making a living. How many of us have heard a new work, only to be able to guess the composer, and the course of the work within the first 15 seconds.

Additionally, the focus on grade 1 and 2 works for comparison is ludicrous. If we going to compare, only compare the grade 4 and above works. This is the level that the "composers of artistic reputation" dwell. There is a necessity, although not exclusively, for lower grade works to meet certain educational criteria.

Uh, oh, back to teaching...

Ken


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 Post subject: Re: Mediocre Band Music
PostPosted: Mon May 18, 2009 4:17 pm 
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My mind is numb from listening to all of those sample CD's that we get from all the publishers wishing to sell us their product, however it is a sure cure for insomnia. Bottom line, composers and publishers trying to make a living, teachers trying to find quality literature. 8-)


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 Post subject: Re: Mediocre Band Music
PostPosted: Tue May 19, 2009 9:05 am 
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I noticed one thing about "band composers" vs composers of artistic merit and significance outside the band world who happened to compose some band music.

Many composers who wrote band music yet with a strong artistic significance and reputation outside of the educational world often compose for various genres of music, in particular Chamber Music. A good example of that is Karel Husa (Pulitzer Prize 1968 for String Quartet No. 3) and Vincent Persichetti. I noticed that many educational composers do not compose chamber music.

Chamber music is definitely a genre that truly tests a composer's skills and abilities. Chamber music is also considered to be the most demanding genre of music for musicians and performers as well. Many great composers consider writing chamber music, in particular string quartets to be the most challenging. Some of the greats like Beethoven and Shostakovich did not write quartets until they reached a certain musical maturity.


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 Post subject: Re: Mediocre Band Music
PostPosted: Thu May 28, 2009 8:31 am 
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:shock:

What I really love in the second article: The author states that the students are actually smarter than most would imagion. FINALLY!!!!!!!!!! I have long said that I didn't think elementary and middle school students were "dead." Finally someone else shares the same opinion. I have grown so tired of seeing garbage percussion scoring and a host of other issues. I have seen some bands that "live" on this music-at grade 6-7 no one can do a drum roll. Why? Nowhere in the music is one required. Some of the same things can be said for scoring-woodwinds not moving too fast, trumpets not getting into their upper range, etc. The theory? Some say "well, they'll get it." Exactly when, when they are seniors?

mightyhorn


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 Post subject: Re: Mediocre Band Music
PostPosted: Sat Jun 20, 2009 3:45 am 
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I went to a graduate school that was mainly for singers, pianists, organists, and choral conductors. As a tuba major (and, unlike my undergraduate institution there were three of us at this school), with my seniority, I got to play with the orchestra for most of the choral concerts.

Everyone there really raved about a composer named John Rutter from England. We played (and the choir sang) an entire concert of his work, with Mr. Rutter conducting his own stuff.

When we prepared for this concert, the singers always complimented me for my strong, loud playing. I smiled and said thanks.

After the concert, and I said this in private after actually meeting the man for lunch one afternoon, he told me what a great job I did with the tuba.

"No problem, sir," I replied, "All the parts were identical. I only had to practice at home 1/4 of the time I normally would."

Mr. Rutter replied, "Same thing my tuba player in London always told me." He paused, "And, surprisingly, he still works for me."

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 Post subject: Re: Mediocre Band Music
PostPosted: Tue Jul 14, 2009 5:32 pm 
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Interestingly, the much of the same could be said for "new" orchestral music. Our major orchestras over the past half century have taugh audiences to equate NEW MUSIC == BAD MUSIC. They do a premier as their duty to new music, knowing that audience will hate it, then never play the piece again.

I went to a major publisher's site to listen to some of the pieces by composers mentioned in the article. Have to say the "music" being played is as mind numbing as described.


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 Post subject: Re: Mediocre Band Music
PostPosted: Thu Aug 20, 2009 9:47 am 
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Budiansky recently gave a speech at the WASBE conference. Here are the links from his website with a summary of his speech and his thoughts and reactions. It is very insightful.

http://www.budiansky.com/music_files/wa ... ummary.pdf
http://www.budiansky.com/WASBE_thoughts.html


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 Post subject: Re: Mediocre Band Music
PostPosted: Tue Oct 13, 2009 3:05 am 
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I completely agree with this article. There is far to much music literature out there that is just awful. You see it at every concert review in existence. and as for the need to write for a certain grade level or skill level, i couldn't disagree more. I have heard some fantastic pieces of music that are grade 2 or around there, so having to write "easy" music is not an excuse for composers writing pieces that fail to captivate the audience and musicians. But then again, maybe we shouldn't point the finger at the composers. Maybe the real problem is that the quality of music programs is falling and thus band are underachieving. the ratio of high school band that have good concert band to the ones that have horrible concert bands is appalling, and you can't tell me it's the students, or the money, or the district, there are directors who make fantastic music with huge obstacles in the way. hmmm......But then again who am i to say.

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 Post subject: Re: Mediocre Band Music
PostPosted: Tue Oct 13, 2009 4:40 pm 
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I greatly appreciate all of the posters that have been here. I was recently in an inservice with Elliot Del Borgo. His take was that it takes great kraft to write good music in the grade I+ to II+ range.
In arranging for my own group it's nothing like you were taught in school....many times there are missing voices, lack of range or...BOTH. It ain't as easy as it seems.

mightyhorn


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 Post subject: Re: Mediocre Band Music
PostPosted: Tue Oct 13, 2009 7:20 pm 
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mightyhorn wrote:
:bow:
I greatly appreciate all of the posters that have been here. I was recently in an inservice with Elliot Del Borgo. His take was that it takes great kraft to write good music in the grade I+ to II+ range.
In arranging for my own group it's nothing like you were taught in school....many times there are missing voices, lack of range or...BOTH. It ain't as easy as it seems.

mightyhorn

Oh, I agree entirely. Writing a quality and interesting grade I-II piece is very challenging.

I never meant to imply it wasn't. It just seems like too many band pieces are "phone-it-in" jobs, or as someone said earlier, the inspiration for the work was a car payment or mortgage.


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