Orchestra and Brass Band Styles or the biggest oxymoron in the World.

Discussion in 'The Adjudicators' Comments' started by Bones, May 30, 2008.

  1. Bones

    Bones Member

    I do believe this is my first post of this nature, so thought I would dip my toe in the water so to speak.

    We've all noticed recently in that some of the contest music there seems to be a big leaning towards the orchestral style of playing. For example

    Vienna Nights Mozart
    Festival Music again Mozart and for me Handel in the 2nd movement
    Arnold Variations does what it says on the tin really

    All are written with a particular genre or motif in mind, which is great. It is stimulating for brass bands and the movement as a whole. It is worth noting in my opinion that some of the modern writings for brass band I feel are leaning towards this massive seam of music for inspiration. Again, I don't have a problem with this I think it is brilliant. However in Europe there tastes seem to be a lot more cosmopolitan for example, Brass Blot or Extreme Makeover. So there seems to be a trend with our continental friends to push the avant garde genre, using the band as a chamber instrument.

    My point is, do we have a specific genre or style of writing that you could say is indiginous to Banding. Now certainly there are works which are written specifically for Bands, but can we say that the inspiration for these pieces have been drawn from other genres. Epic Symphony had a load of Berlioz in it for me so even our traditional brass band pieces draw from other sources.

    So my question for composers really. Where do you draw you inspiration from? Can you honestly say we have a style of our very own? If you do draw inspiration from other sources how do you translate the original composer writings into our instrumentation and capabilities.

    I would also like to point out, that I am not doing this for money, glory, antagonism, or to belittle anyone's successes. I'm not charging expenses or jumping bands like the proverbial rat. I am to be honest just mildy curious :)
  2. Morghoven

    Morghoven Member

    Yes, we do have a certain style...short and to the point! Guys like Philip Wilby can make a musical agrument in 18 minutes that would take Mahler the best part of hour, and Wagner three or four days!! :p ;)

    If you're just taking general ideas, it's not really about transferring onto a band line-up...I find that the ideas that influence me are ones that I can 'hear' in my head for band anyway. Of course, a straight transcription or arrangement is a different matter!

    I think one of the great strengths of the compositional side of the banding movement is that our composers aren't afraid to get their ideas from just about anywhere and anyone - it creates a really fresh and diverse approach. On a bit of a tangent, I've often wondered what would happen if a really good orchestrator arranged some of our classic test pieces for symphony orchestra - wonder what an orchestra would make of them?!
  3. Bones

    Bones Member

    There's a great idea. Festival music for orchestra. Could it work, is anyone brave enough to do it.
  4. sober_phil

    sober_phil Member

    I've often wondered this too - I think Masquerade could work quite well.
  5. MoominDave

    MoominDave Well-Known Member

    It's more of a string quartet piece, imo...

    p.s. Great thread idea, I'll put my thinking cap on when I have a bit more time!
  6. toby hobson

    toby hobson Member

    Well correct me if im wrong but didnt "A comedy overture" by John Ireland (some of the better writing for Brass Band in my opinion) come before its orchestral manifestation "A London Overture"
  7. Morghoven

    Morghoven Member

    ...and are any of the brass band publishers, who rely so heavily on copyright clearances for all manner of (sometimes highly inappropriate) arrangements, brave enough to give someone permission to do it?!

    Of course, some people might be prepared to do their own - Wilby springs to mind again here. Mr. Sparke is often seen round these parts...could we one day be hearing the middle of Year of the Dragon with lush strings?
  8. sober_phil

    sober_phil Member

    I think you are correct.
  9. Bayerd

    Bayerd Active Member

    He is. Severn Suite was transcribed for orchestra after being written for band as well. I don't think either of them were met with the highest critical acclaim..................
  10. Bass Trumpet

    Bass Trumpet Active Member

    As was A Downland Suite.

    I'll post an intelligent answer when I have the time. Top marks, Rich, for starting a sensible thread. How long before it's hijacked by the idiots (look at the Masters and 'Approaching Players' thread and you'll see what I mean).
  11. JonP

    JonP Member

    Are the composes perhaps steered in a cirtain direction by those that commision them? Do they get a specific brief or is it an open arrangement?

    This probably differs from commision to commision. Pehaps the tendancy to moan about the more avent garde pieces we are offered in the UK also effects the composers choices of material. I can still remember people having real issues with Wilby's Revelation (probably one of the finest band pieces in my opinion). This was a pretty avent garde composition for the time, although based in an historic work as the other pieces her are.
    Perhaps public opinion also plays a part. I suppose that the music is composed with the fact in mind that hopefully the same audience will listen to 20 or more performances.
    An off the wall, atonal or piece avent garde style piece may be considered by the composer a little too much for the audience in question.
  12. Splitzer

    Splitzer Member

    Maybe the composers are struggling?
  13. KMJ Recordings

    KMJ Recordings Supporting Member

    There's already a further question forming here - is most 'serious' brass band music written as a test piece.....certainly some of the answers here would make you think so....
  14. Bayerd

    Bayerd Active Member

    Not necessarily most, but certainly most well known 'serious' brass band works are test pieces. Because of the nature of banding, the most well known original works will always be the area test pieces or the major contest pieces just from the exposure they get.

    Also to me, any serious composer would write for the instruments they want to get the sounds they want rather than be restricted to the traditional band formation, which will always make it more difficult for original works to be written for the genre.
  15. KMJ Recordings

    KMJ Recordings Supporting Member

    In addition to that, there's also the 'issue' of a lack of exposure outside the contest field. How many Bands programme 'serious' music in their concerts on a regular basis?

    The opportunity to exploit repertoire in external (probably read orchestral) forms of music making is fairly key here - there's more chance to perform it (be it normal or squeaky door ;) ). That fact alone more than likely opens the door to many more composers / genres / styles and so on.

    Looking at brass bands, then, where the majority of the original repertoire is only heard on contest stages it's necessarily going to be limited in scope....

    Fast bit, quiet bit, fast bit anyone? Does about now sound like the right place for a cadenza? Let's make it harder and put a top C on flugel....let's be influenced by a particular style of euphonium playing and add an out of context extended cadenza that consists of lip slurs that (maybe) doesn't add anything except difficulty (and then write a sublime slow bit that could be used on it's own as a test piece and the Bands could still be put in rank order just from that)...

    OK, I'm not saying that all contest writing is formulaic but by their very nature contest pieces are designed to test aspects of playing, or else they wouldn't be test pieces.

    Being able to separate original music from commissioned test pieces would be a good thing, for me.
  16. Bayerd

    Bayerd Active Member

    The vast majority of it is though, look at the rumpus Ellerby's caused at Cambridge because the band that can play the biggest, loudest, quietest, most intune with fewest splits didn't win;)
  17. KMJ Recordings

    KMJ Recordings Supporting Member

    I refuse to be drawn into that one :wow


    I'm sure that Brassneck and others may come up with an answer for this - and I haven't actually thought it through to see if I know the answer - how many CDs are there out there of original brass band music that aren't "test piece CDs"?

    I guess Dyke's Wilby is an example - even though it contains the aforementioned Revelation....but most releases of this kind are based around contest pieces.

    An area I haven't strayed into here is the Salvationist repertoire - personally, I don't know enough of it to offer any comment of value......

    (Edit: Sorry Rich if this has strayed off on a little of a tangent. I still think it's related, though, to your original point in that I feel that a lot of the Brass Bnad original repertoire is moulded by the necessity for it to fit a contest platform)
    Last edited: May 30, 2008
  18. Bayerd

    Bayerd Active Member

    I still believe that the answer to the reason why there is a lack of original (non contest) writing for band lies in the lack of musical colours available within a brass band coupled with a serious lack of opportunity of the works to be heard in the right context.
  19. Splitzer

    Splitzer Member

    There have been some examples recently of minor changes in instrumentation, like 2 Flugals in Dances and Arias, and Between the Moon and Mexico. Perhaps these have opened the door for some changes to occur, but im pretty sure that a contest comittee will specify the perameters which will include a time limit and instrumentation. They were probably consulted in these cases too.

    In the end a 15 minute piece for 25 brass players and 3 percussion is going to struggle to be a realistic addition to the worlds musical culture. (what serious composer is going to write for tenor horn and baritone unless the have to anyway!) Especially when its being done for the umpteenth time. The music is secondary to the instrumentation, level of diffuculty and the length of the piece, which is nuts but true. There would be far more fuss if the piece was too long than if it was not very good!

    There is simply not enough scope for the composers. It takes most composers more time than that to develop one musical idea completely let alone 3, 4 or even 17 or so as in the Masters piece this time round. It almost felt like playing a book of sketches of some greater work that would or will follow.
    Last edited: May 30, 2008
  20. KMJ Recordings

    KMJ Recordings Supporting Member


    Dances and Arias was 1984 ;)

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