Innovative New Test Pieces

Discussion in 'The Rehearsal Room' started by yogi1000, Mar 13, 2012.

  1. yogi1000

    yogi1000 Member

    I've got to do some research into brass band test pieces for my degree project.

    Can anyone recommend any innovative pieces when they were new and first came out for me to analyse and research?

    I'm looking for examples such as John Pickard's Eden with the first to use irrational time signatures and feathered beams. Judith Bingham's Prague just for being so new and different to what had gone before.

    Any ideas would be greatly appreciated.
  2. brassneck

    brassneck Active Member

    I'm sure there will be many replies to your question. I'll kick off with my most obvious choice :- 1975 Open Test - Fireworks (Elgar Howarth) with it's extensive use of percussion never seen or heard before in a major contest.
  3. Andy_Euph

    Andy_Euph Active Member

    Fireworks - Elgar Howarth and almost anything from Gilbert Vinter are usually the generic ones to use when talking about innovation in banding test pieces.

    Edit: Brassneck beat me to it!
    Last edited: Mar 13, 2012
  4. Accidental

    Accidental Supporting Member

    and don't forget Labour and Love, back in 1913!
  5. brassneck

    brassneck Active Member

    Sorry Andy ... ;)
  6. Active Member

    Cloudcatcher Fells (John McCabe); because he didn't attempt to write a 'traditional' contest piece.
    Songs for B.L. (Elgar Howarth); because it's got a quiet ending!
  7. brassneck

    brassneck Active Member

    The Devil & The Deep Blue Sea and Volcano (Simpson) preceded Songs for B.L. and both have quiet endings ... ;)
  8. WoodenFlugel

    WoodenFlugel Moderator Staff Member

    It really depends on what you mean by 'innovative' - its a pretty wide ranging term. As has been said, Vinter started the change in the way our test pieces were written, but also there are a few that spring to mind that were innovative in their instrumentation and effects:

    Extreme Makeover: Blowing across the neck of tuned bottles to create a sort of pipe-organ effect.
    Northern Lights: Use of a CD recording of 1930's Dyke.
    Dances and Arias: Using two flugels.
    Journey to the Centre of the Earth: Whispers / recordings of whispers.

    There are probably several other examples that I can't think of just now....
  9. iancwilx

    iancwilx Well-Known Member

    So does Resurgam which, at the time, IMHO was a bit of a step forward in brass band test piece composition.

    ~ Mr Wilx
  10. brassneck

    brassneck Active Member

    Recorded birdsong in Dove Descending (Wilby)
    Vocal chanting into instruments (I think) in Stonehenge (Van der Roost)
  11. brassneck

    brassneck Active Member

    Quite right for pointing that out Ian.
  12. James Yelland

    James Yelland Active Member

    Innovative when compared to other brass band test pieces? Or innovative compared to mainstream classical music? In terms of musical language, most brass band testpieces are decades behind the times. Incidentally, I'd dispute the idea that Labour and Love was the first original test piece for band. A piece called Orynthia was written more than 40 years earlier for the British Open Championships. No copy is known to exist, but as it was written by the contest promoter it seems probable it was an original work.

    But to answer your question: I recall the New Buckenham Suite (Andrew Jackman) which called for farmyard animal noises - that was quite innovative. Philip Wilby's Jazz required an understanding of jazz idioms and techniques, including big lip glissandi (which weren't always successful). If Simon Dobson's Lyonesse has ever been chosen for a testpiece, it will have probably been the first to call for the partial immersion of tubular bells in buckets of water. Extreme Make-Over requires the simulation of a gamelan orchestra by the use of tuned bottles. Cloudcatcher was (I think) the first to treat all the cornets as individual parts. And of course there's all that standing up and sitting down that adds so much to so many of Philip Wilby's other pieces.

    Is this the sort of stuff you're looking for? Really, there's no end to the innovation!
  13. Statto

    Statto Member

    Energy (Simpson), Contest Music (Heaton) and Images (McCabe) all good examples of this.
  14. James Yelland

    James Yelland Active Member

    Yes. But it would not have raised the eyebrows of anyone familiar with the work of Sibelius (the composer, that is, not the computer program!)
  15. James Yelland

    James Yelland Active Member

    If you can expand the scope of your thesis from testpieces to general repertoire, you would do well to get hold of a copy of Geoffrey and Violet Brand's book Brass Bands in the 20th Century and turn to the chapter by Edward Gregson on the contemporary repertoire. It's 40 years old now, but then, 40 years ago, bands were being rather more experimental than they are today. The name Paul Patterson comes to mind, for example, when talking about innovative notation and aleotoric music.

    The book's long out of print but copies come up on Ebay occasionally. Or perhaps your university library can help (assuming that it still has a library which contains books, not just computers and a coffee shop).
    Last edited: Mar 13, 2012
  16. JR

    JR Member

    Vinter takes the credit but dont ignore Ireland and Howells...

    Vinter needs to take a lot of credit forinnovation - no-one had heard anything remotely akin to the scoring of Salute to Youth before on a contest stage.
    He also included 7/8 bars in Symphony of Marches - not seen before this (1964) and examples of bitonality in Triumphant Rhapsody. Plus Spectrum was considered completely bonkers in 1969 for it's descriptive effects and use of percussion - now bands attempt it in the 3rd section (4th in Norway...)

    I would also mention James Curnow's Trttico from 1989 for the extended aleatoric section towards the end

    Don't ignore Comedy and Pageantry from the very earliest years of original works - their complex cross rhythms must have sounded fantastically modern when written in comparison to the lkes of Life Divine etc

  17. Statto

    Statto Member

  18. James Yelland

    James Yelland Active Member

    Is there? I can hear lots of major and minor second intervals in TR, but I can't recall there being any bitonality.

    The first movement of Phyllis Tate's Illustrations is bitonal. And Ray Steadman-Allen's Victorian Snapshots has bitonality in abundance. And very good it all is too.
  19. James Yelland

    James Yelland Active Member

    Actually I was thinking of Cataclysm, which is a more advanced piece of writing than Chromascope (and therefore presumably of more interest to the OP). But they are both fine pieces (both recorded too).

  20. KMJ Recordings

    KMJ Recordings Supporting Member

    Chromascope is still one of my favourites......and it still brings a smile to my face when I think of my Dad trying to justify its existence to 'traditionailsts' :D