I’m not ashamed to admit that I’m a hard core band geek. I think that some of the best music written today is written for symphonic band. I have also found that bands are more willing to program music written by contemporary composers.
It was only natural, then, that when looking to express musical ideas in a large scale with myriads of possibilities of texture and sound I should go back to my musical roots and look toward writing for band.
Bands are challenging for a number of reasons. The instrumentation was more than I had written for, and includes many transposing instruments. I had to use a larger score than I ever had before and even had to buy new software (more on Finale vs. Sibelius later). Also, a composer must take into account the skill level of the ensemble. Is the piece written for middle, high school or professional musicians? One must challenge the students, but not overwhelm them.
However, I was up to the challenge. I composed several pieces. The first of which was a theme and variations on an African American folk song. The second piece was called Poseidon Calling. A more advanced piece, it included nautical imagery and motifs. The theme was about a person who journeys far only to return home again.
My most recent piece was a suite for symphonic band entitled Naiads and Dryads. For this piece I did research on myths and legends dealing with trees and bodies of water. I found out that cultures around the world believed in creatures that lived in bodies of water. I portrayed the legends musically, what is called a tone poem. Some of these spirits had joyful stories, some sad, such as the spirit of a woman whose children had drowned. I was most interested in the story of Melusina. A Celtic legend, this story tells of a nymph (mermaids live in the ocean, nymphs are freshwater beings) who falls in love with a human. The movement contains a happy courtship and a wedding, but ends in despair. While she can take a human form, her husband has forbidden her to return to her natural state, and so she is forced to sneak out at night to swim in secret. Tragically, he catches her and abandons her. In her grief, she transforms into a wailing banshee and is still heard haunting the walls of the castle.
I enjoyed writing these pieces because I was able to utilize different band instruments, including winds and percussion. I used a lot of the knowledge I had gained in taking instrumental methods and conducting which I hadn’t used since, but have always wanted to. I have a lot of ideas that I would like to use in writing for band again, but I have put them aside for now. I have many concepts for other projects, which I will discuss in detail later.