|About this Recording
8.572762 - Wind Band Music - GRANTHAM, D. / JACOB, G. / BRYANT, S. (Old Wine in New Bottles) (Youngstown State University Symphonic Wind Ensemble, S. Gage)
Old Wine In New Bottles
Donald Grantham: Starry Crown (2008)
Starry Crown is based on gospel music of the 1920s and 30s from the Deep South, a style sometimes referred to as “gutbucket” gospel because of its raw, earthy and primitive character. Three authentic tunes are used in the work: “Some of These Days,” “Oh Rocks, Don’t Fall on Me!” and “When I Went Down in the Valley.” These songs are used at the beginning and the end of the piece. The middle of the work recreates the atmosphere and shape of the call-and-response sermons typical of the period. The preacher (represented by three trombones, then the rest of the brass section) makes declamatory statements that the congregation (represented by the remainder of the ensemble) responds to. The exchanges become quicker until finally all join together in a very fast and exuberant chorus.
The title comes from the text of “When I Went Down in the Valley:”
Gordon Jacob: Old Wine In New Bottles (1960) • More Old Wine In New Bottles (1978)
Old Wine In New Bottles and More Old Wine In New Bottles are spirited, light-hearted settings of eight early English songs and are scored for up to thirteen wind instruments. British composer, Gordon Jacob studied with Charles Villiers Stanford, Adrian Boult and Ralph Vaughan Williams at the Royal College of Music. After teaching at Birbeck and Morley Colleges in London, Jacob joined the RCM staff in 1924 and remained until his retirement in 1966. His pupils included Malcolm Arnold, Imogen Holst and Joseph Horovitz. At the time of Jacob’s death in 1984, he had written over 700 works. His numerous offerings for wind band, including Old Wine In New Bottles, More Old Wine In New Bottles, Music for a Festival, Original Suite, Giles Farnaby Suite, The Battell and William Byrd Suite, follow the precedent set by Gustav Holst and former teacher Ralph Vaughan Williams. These English composers’ works formed the cornerstone of the wind band repertoire in the early part of the twentieth century.
Brian K. Doyle
Steven Bryant: Ecstatic Waters (2008)
Ecstatic Waters is music of dialectical tension—a juxtaposition of contradictory or opposing musical and extra-musical elements and an attempt to resolve them. The five connected movements hint at a narrative that touches upon naïveté, divination, fanaticism, post-human possibilities, anarchy, order, and the Jungian collective unconscious. Or, as I have described it more colloquially: WB Yeats meets Ray Kurzweil in the Matrix.
The overall title, as well as Ceremony of Innocence and Spiritus Mundi are taken from poetry of Yeats (News for the Delphic Oracle, and The Second Coming), and his personal, idiosyncratic mythology and symbolism of spiraling chaos and looming apocalypse figured prominently in the genesis of the work. Yet in a nod to the piece’s structural reality—as a hybrid of electronics and living players—Ecstatic Waters also references the confrontation of unruly humanity with the order of the machine, as well as the potential of a post-human synthesis, in ways inspired by Kurzweil.
The first movement, Ceremony of Innocence, begins as a pure expression of exuberant joy in unapologetic B flat Major in the celesta and vibraphone. The movement grows in momentum, becoming perhaps too exuberant—the initial simplicity evolves into a full-throated brashness bordering on dangerous arrogance and naïveté, though it retreats from the brink and ends by returning to the opening innocence.
In Augurs, the second movement, the unsustainable nature of the previous Ceremony becomes apparent, as the relentless tonic of B flat in the crystal water glasses slowly diffuses into a microtonal cluster, aided and abetted by the trumpets. Chorale-like fragments appear, foretelling the wrathful self-righteousness of the third movement. The movement grows inexorably, spiraling wider and wider, like Yeat’s gyre, until “the centre cannot hold,” and it erupts with supreme force into The Generous Wrath of Simple Men.
The third movement is deceptive, musically contradicting what one might expect of its title. While it erupts at the outset with overwhelming wrath, it quickly collapses into a relentless rhythm of simmering sixteenth notes. Lyric lines and pyramids unfold around this, interrupted briefly by the forceful anger of a chorale, almost as if trying to drown out and deny anything but its own existence. A moment of delicate lucidity arrives amidst this back-and-forth struggle, but the chorale ultimately dominates, subsuming everything, spiraling out of control, and exploding.
The Loving Machinery of Justice brings machine-like clarity and judgment. Subtle, internal gyrations between atonality and tonality underpin the dialogue between lyric melody (solo clarinet and oboe) and mechanized accompaniment (bassoons). An emphatic resolution in A flat minor concludes the movement, floating seamlessly into the epilogue, Spiritus Mundi. Reprising music from the first movement, this short meditative movement reconciles and releases the earlier excesses.
Carter Pann: Hold this Boy and Listen (2008)
Hold this Boy and Listen is an unusually soft and subdued song for band, written for my third nephew, David Paulus, Jr. I sat down at the piano and wrote a lyrical work where the melodies and harmonies return, creating a structure not unlike standard song structure. The sentiment is at times innocent or wistful and at other times haunted and serene. The players should really be allowed to sing through their instruments in this piece.
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