New music for Brass Band

Discussion in 'The Rehearsal Room' started by shedophone, Nov 19, 2003.

  1. shedophone

    shedophone Member

    Go to any brass band concert and you will hear 'x' number of arrangements and a few old original compositions. Is this because nobody writes original music for band any more, or is this because bands are too scared to play it?!

    Your average audience knows pretty much every piece a band will play. Why not give them something new. I'm a bit of a composer, and i'm worried that writing original music fro brass band is purely a test piece exercise! :evil:

    Not everything original has to be difficult, or excessively long.
    Please, composers, write new music. Dont just keep arranging, i'm sure the audience will soon learn to love hearing new pieces again.

    Its funny, in Beethoven's day, an audience would be horrified if they'd heard the music before. Now they won't go to see anything new!
  2. James McFadyen

    James McFadyen New Member

    I always compose more than I arrange.

    The thing is, from a serious point of view a composer must be able to write extended works that last in excess of 10 mins and certainly more. The main reason for this is to do with the logical order of music and how music developed.

    Anybody can come up with a theme of some sort, take Beethoven's first few notes of his 5th Symphony - pure childs play, but what beethoven does with the motif is develop it using the techniques available which undoubtably takes his simple motif into a much more serious and logical domain. And it is true that composers who don't write extended works arn't taken seriously by people in music, I know from first hand experence I had 5 or 6 years ago.

    I think we are seeing a lot of original works for Brass Band, however, we are now starting to see much more of 'trashy commericalism' - similar to the music which is released in today's pop music society.

    However, we cannot dismiss shorter more lighter works as they are most defintely listener-friendly and very popular. There are people who 'specialise' in short light works, especialy in arranging, who make good money but aren't taken seriously.

    It all depends on the composer, just write what you want to write, the important thing to do is don't just talk about it - it takes years of dedication and hard work to make a name for yourself and gain worthy sales. I remember when I was 16, sending a brass ensemble score to Studio Music (Philip Sparke was editor at that time), it was called 'Reflections' at the time I thought it was good, but now I look at it and think - oh my god!

    The problem every composer faces is artistic expression versus commercial sales. It's all very well to say let's always be artistic, but by the the same token, bills have to be paid - there's little point in being serious about writing music and studying hard, when you find out your music isn't selling you have to take another job, althugh this is a frequent occurance with Composers in the classical field.

    Bands are just not buying new titles anymore, take a look at your own band pad, how much music is in it that is copyrighted in 2003? Not much I would imagine.

    I think we have to respect composers a lot more, that's what it comes down to, IMHO.

    But anyhow, if you want to compose - compose - the most important thing is u have your own voice. When people hear my music, I want them to say "That's a McFadyen piece" - that's what's most important to me as a composer, my music is uniquely unconvensional which makes it stand-out, so I'm told, anyway! :lol:
  3. Naomi McFadyen

    Naomi McFadyen New Member

    I compose more than I arrange...

    and that's all I have to say... :lol:
  4. Straightmute

    Straightmute Active Member

    As composer and conductor I always strive to include new and/or challenging work in our concert programmes, and always try to find new music which I can include which will be accessible to the audiences and sit alongside the other works in the programme. That's quite a challenge but it makes concerts so much more interesting for band and audience alike. The audiences come to band concerts to hear a certain kind of music but in my experience they also like a surprise...

    (We're currently looking at setting up a commissioning policy for the band so that we can produce not one but a series of new concert works from composers outside of the band movement).

    Another important point is to look into your band's library to find pieces which were once considered new and challenging but which may have gathered dust for a while. It's relatively easy for composers to find first performances for new works since many performers are keen to present world premieres, but second, third and fourth performances are much more difficult to capture.

    Concerts - or entertainments contest programmes - which contain no original band music are always a big disappointment to me.


    PS James: does no-one take Webern seriously any more? I know that I do! I always advise student composers to aim for quality rather than quantity of ideas and have just persuaded the College to scrap the 'minimum duration' rules for composition assignments. In these postmodern times when a composer can write a couple of bars in Cubase then repeat them one thousand times, the rules seemed fairly pointless.
  5. shedophone

    shedophone Member

    I'm not saying that composers shouldn't write just short easy music, I'm working on a large piece at the moment, which could be a test piece but i'd like to hear it played as a concert item. My band have been great in playing sketches of the piece and giving useful feedback. :)

    On the Webern point, i've always thought of writing pieces for band in a more modern style (Prague was a step forwards i suppose, but not quite what i had in mind), experimenting with serialism maybe, or free a-tonality. However, i can just imagine the audience reaction. A piece like that would have to be a work of genius to withstand a brass band audience!
  6. shedophone

    shedophone Member

    I've heard a few new works tried out on my band, and i agree, they have been in the 'pop' style, as thats what they think will sell.
    I agree that writing shorter pieces is much harder than writing longer ones; in a longer piece you have the capacity to create a coherant and unified work, with a chance to explore contrast and development to a great extent. It is much more difficult to write a shorter piece of class, as it is hard to logically work through your idea before it is over. What about writing new suites for band, with short movements that make sense on their own but sound great together. Then bands could choose to put either a substantial work into their programme, or put in a few movements of choice.
  7. Okiedokie of Oz

    Okiedokie of Oz Active Member

    LAst year, the Queensland C grade test piece was Seven Wonders of the World. Dwayne Bloofield wrote it I think. I also believe it's Australian....say what you will :wink:

    At the time I was playing Eb Bass, and on occaission I had to jump to Soprano cornet (I kid you not) to cover some of the solos, as the conductor refused to write anything out, and the players couldn't transpose. This gave me a chance to not only hear, but play some gorgeous themes. Not just on the bass either, the soprano had some nice moents :p .

    The only problem with it I found, was each theme (there was 7, coincidently) was really nice, but they never seemed to flow into each other. It was like:

    ladidahdidah I'm a pyramid. *STOP*
    scoobydooby doo I am a mausoleum *STOP*
    choowupdoobeewahhhhhh I am something else old **stop**
    and so forth.

    I think there is such a demand for more original compositions and composers, that sometimes people just don't try....maybe they're usuing that auto arrange function in Sibelius????? 8)
  8. Straightmute

    Straightmute Active Member

    Wasn't really thinking of style, just countering James' comment that works had to be at least ten minutes long in order to be taken seriously.

    I agree that if we're to win the argument new music needs to balance the other music in the programme.

  9. PeterBale

    PeterBale Moderator Staff Member

    Reminds me of the film biography of George Gershwin, which portrays his father (no doubt using some dramatic licence) as judging the importance of all his works solely according to their length - hence Porgy and Bess becoming his most significant Opus :!:

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