Hey Band Nerds!

All you squeakers and squawkers out there, reed, double-reed, no reed, brassheads and trash can bangers, looking for some help here. I’ve been asked to write a piece for symphonic band, which is a genre I haven’t touched since … let’s call it 20 years. So, here’s my question for you:

Is there a piece of literature for symphonic band that really, deeply moves you? Anything you’ve listened to that just left you breathless? The only one I can remember is Bukvich’s Symphony No. 1 (In Memoriam, Dresden, 1945). Anything else that comes to mind?

31 thoughts on “Hey Band Nerds!

  1. Jason Borris

    Elegy for a Young American, by Lo Presti.

    Have you ever heard Short Ride in a Fast Machine by John Adams? One of my college professors sort wrote piece for wind ensemble that was inspired by Short Ride. I enjoyed playing it.

    The first movement of Janacek’s Sinfonietta is cool.

    I will think of more later.

  2. Cheri Cole

    Symphonic band is not an ensemble that has attracted the best composers on the planet…
    Unfortunately (or fortunately) symphonic band is a genre that only exists in high school and college…so the highest level symphonic bands are good college bands.. There are no serious professional symphonic bands. There are a few groups like the Long Beach Municipal band, and the Eastman Wind Ensemble, and the military ensembles, but nothing on the level of professional orchestras, jazz bands or other. Unfortunately, in the schools of music of great reputation, the premier group that gets the best players is the orchestra.. and the best commercial players play in the jazz bands… symphonic band usually gets what is left over.. and often becomes the players from marching band, playing inside… I think as a general rule, the sound of Symphonic Band has not enjoyed wide spread popularity beyond academia. There have been a few 20th century guys that are writing for the bands, mostly stuff that has been specifically for one band…
    BUT – I am certain you could break through that.. and come up with something creative and musical…Can’t wait to hear it!

  3. Cheri Cole

    Short ride is a fantastic piece…but I believe it has no woodwinds, and it has strings, brass and percussion only. A typical error with writing for Symphonic band is trying to write an orchestral piece and sub woodwinds for strings…FAIL…

    Janacek Symphonietta is an orchestral piece with strings..with 25 brass players.. including 9 trumpets.and 3 tubas…

    Both great pieces, but not band pieces…

    Elegy for a Young American is a fairly typical Symphonic band piece, making the most out of the available instrumentation, but it is just so similar to dozens of other Symphonic band pieces.. Seems like someone could come up with something better – MIKE LEE>>>>>

  4. Alana Joos

    Hi Cheri – my sentiments exactly … however, I will say that Anthony Parnther has really developed the Orange County Wind Symphony to become a terrific ensemble.

  5. Jason Borris

    Short ride has wood winds. I specifically mentioned the 1st movement of the Janacek because the strings are tacet. Cheri, for all of your nitpicking of my suggestions, I have not heard you suggest an actual piece of symphonic band literature that you enjoy.

  6. Cheri Cole

    because Jason, I have not found a piece for symphonic band that is enjoyable..the ensemble, to me, is not a beautiful combination of timbres..for me,the purpose of symphonic bands are substitutions for orchestra, for the purpose of convenience, primarily in academia, where strings may not be as available. Of course there are a few exceptions, which are Military bands, again, an extension of marching bands..
    As far as nitpicking, I thought this was a forum, seeking opinion… Because the opinion I offer contrasts with yours, does not infer it has any negative intention. It is unfortunate that you interpreted it that way. I have the greatest respect for Michael Lee as a composer, and believe that a diverse base of opinion, context, and input can only serve as constructive.

  7. Michael Lee

    Starting to write this week. I’ve decided get around technical limitations by marking anything interesting as “1 only”, and only bringing in the rest of the ensemble for the big chord stabs at the end. Boom! Problem solved.

  8. Eric Haas

    …much more than 20 years since I played band music, but I still remember some pieces that I thought were particularly well-conceived and would stand the test of time:
    John Barnes Chance: Incantation & Dance
    Fisher Tull: Sketches on a Tudor Psalm
    Vincent Persichetti: Symphony for Band (op. 69)
    Vittorio Giannini: Symphony No.3
    Aaron Copland: Outdoor Overture
    Paul Hindemith: Symphony in B-flat (why is Hindemith so under-rated?)

  9. Jason

    If my memory is correct, Persichetti wrote about his symphony for band that he was composing for a full orchestra and then he realized that the strings were never going to come in. I really enjoy playing Hindemith. I think he is more fun to play than listen to.

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