Restoring the Trombone Concerto’s original Hard Mode

In the second movement of David Maslanka’s Concerto for Trombone and Wind Ensemble, there is an extended and demanding technical section from m. 108 to m. 256, about four minutes of nearly continuous playing. It rests in the upper tessitura of the trombone range, mostly between D3 and C4, and alternates between very loud staccato sixteenth passages and soft, high lyrical playing.

The version that is currently published and recorded is one that was cut down due to technical considerations. I thought it was time that soloists had the opportunity to perform the work as it was originally conceived. This new, restored version increases the difficulty in execution: it requires extremely clean technique at a high, constant power level in a very tiring range for a long time, culminating in a protracted shout.

During the initial preparation of the piece, technical realities forced David to reduce the difficulty of this section: extended sixteenth-note passages were broken up with eighth notes, some passages were taken down an octave, and cuts were made to reduce endurance challenges.

This had the effect of somewhat reducing the impact of the section. Its initial statement (mm. 109-111) is developed throughout in various ways.

Trombone Concerto mm 109-111 This is the primary building block of the section starting at m. 108.

The removed sixteenths in the immediately-following development weaken the connection with the initial statement. When they are restored, the power of the second phrase becomes […]

By |2016-12-09T23:08:46+00:0030 January 2015|Concerto for Trombone and Wind Ensemble|

Getting Maximum Benefit from the Maslanka Chorales: a practical guide for directors

The Maslanka Collected Chorales are an extraordinary tool to help develop blend, balance, intonation, and ensemble cohesion in groups ranging from large symphonic bands and orchestras to small chamber groups or sectionals. With a daily 5-10 minutes per rehearsal you will hear a significant improvement in melodic and harmonic pitch awareness in your players.

Dr. Stephen K. Steele, former director of bands at Illinois State University and one of the foremost proponents of David Maslanka’s music, offers his strategies and techniques for getting the most out of this fantastic music.

Chorale use

There is absolutely no end to the possibilities in developing the use of these chorales. The following are a few suggestions: in like instrument sectionals or chamber ensembles; mixed instrument sectionals and/or chamber ensembles; full ensemble. I recommend that each chorale be used for at least one week before moving on to the next.

Full Ensemble chorale use

Rehearsal time is precious and must be used in the most beneficial ways possible. I found that beginning each rehearsal with a chorale reading facilitated the ensembles’ sense of balance/blend/pitch; created a center of being and sound; was a point of departure; and established a focus for the rehearsal. These chorales helped to build the ensemble tone quality through diligent daily use.

There are certainly various approaches to the use of the chorales, limited primarily by the conductor’s imagination. What I found to work best was to begin the rehearsal by reading a chorale without comment while intently listening and encouraging the […]

By |2016-12-09T23:08:46+00:001 October 2014|Collected Chorale Settings|

Music for an Atomic Age: David Maslanka’s “Eternal Garden: Four Songs for Clarinet and Piano”

Dr. Kip Franklin’s doctoral dissertation on David’s Eternal Garden: Four Songs for Clarinet and Piano begins with an overview of David’s life, his compositional style, and the commissioning process for this work. Part two presents a thorough analysis of each of the four songs, followed by transcripts of interviews with the composer and a list of David’s compositions featuring the clarinet.

Music for an Atomic Age: David Maslanka’s “Eternal Garden: Four Songs for Clarinet and Piano”
PDF, 12.3MB

David Maslanka has an established place as a composer of twenty-first century wind music. To date, his compositional output includes eight symphonies for band, several concertos, four wind quintets, and numerous works for solo instrument and piano. His latest work for clarinet and piano, Eternal Garden, features musical and emotional depth which performers must express. Beyond an analysis of the musical elements contained in the piece, this document conveys a firsthand account of the vital role between Maslanka and those who perform his music. The first part of the document discusses Maslanka’s life, education, and compositional process. Part two is devoted solely to analyzing the compositional components and extra-musical essence of Eternal Garden.

David Maslanka and the Natural World: Three Studies of Music for Wind Ensemble

Kate Sutton’s Master’s thesis is a study on David’s Third, Fourth, and Ninth Symphonies with special emphasis on their themes on nature. She explores the influence that moving to Missoula, Montana had on David for Symphony No. 3, his connection to the “powerful voice of the Earth” in Symphony No. 4, and the themes of nature and water in Symphony No. 9.

David Maslanka and the Natural World: Three Studies of Music for Wind Ensemble

The music of American composer David Maslanka (b. 1943) is informed by his deep connection to the natural world. This connection permeates his music and results in powerful works imbued with a wealth of spiritual and environmental meaning, including three of his symphonies for wind ensemble (Nos. 3, 4, and 9). Many of these natural connections emerge from Maslanka’s meditation process; his ability to consciously explore dream images allows him to embrace an understanding of the Earth and his environment. In Symphony No. 3, Maslanka combines impressions of the mountains, skies, and prairies of his new Missoula, Montana environment with dream images of both animal and American Indian spirits. Symphony No. 4 was inspired by the same western Montana landscape, stemming from Maslanka’s perception of a “voice of the Earth.” This piece also reveals connections to nature through the recurring use of the hymn tune “Old Hundred.” Maslanka identifies four concepts that guide Symphony No. 9 (nature, water, time, and grace); he also incorporates birdcalls, a story about whales, and settings […]

By |2016-12-09T23:08:46+00:0021 March 2014|Reference, Symphony No. 3, Symphony No. 4, Symphony No. 9|

How many players should perform a piece?

The division between “wind ensemble” and “band” is not clearly defined. A wind ensemble can be anywhere from one player on a part up to a total of 60 or even a few more in the ensemble, meaning multiples of flutes, clarinets, trumpets, trombones, and others. For my wind ensemble scores I have consistently indicated that instrumentation should be one-on-part. This is in some ways an abstract ideal. For concertos I do ask that the one-on-a-part indication be respected, although even with these pieces conductors often use more players. For the symphonies and concert pieces widely varying numbers of instruments have been used. The ideal instrumentation for Symphony No. 4, for example, is about 50. It has been performed with as many as 150, and also with the addition (not mine) of a cello section. In more normal circumstances conductors typically use extra clarinets, flutes, trumpets, horns, and maybe a second tuba. I am of the mind that I cannot approve or disapprove any ensemble size without actually hearing whether or not it works. The aim of ensemble performance is for players to become more and more deeply aware of the tone they produce, and how it combines in a living way with all other tones. In general, the more players in an ensemble the greater the difficulty in producing clear tone and good intonation, although I have heard some very fine music making from larger groups. Overall I prefer smaller ensembles to larger, and in any case, expect conductors […]

By |2014-03-09T12:36:10+00:005 February 2014|Reference|

About difficulty

Most of my wind music has been written beyond the grade system. For the pieces that I have written for younger bands (now a fair number), I have composed them paying careful attention to the specific band for which I was writing, rather than the generalization of a grade number. The grading system can offer some guidelines for conductors who are sorting through music, but the numbers can also lead to the acceptance of a mental limitation: “My band can only play grade three, can’t play grade four.” I have written pieces for conductors of younger bands which the conductors, on their own, would never have selected. It was my intuition that the band was capable of the piece. Things have invariably turned out well, and even memorably. Along with legitimate concerns about technical ability conductors need to find and trust musical intuition, and be willing to risk the adventure for music that moves them strongly.

By |2014-03-09T12:36:18+00:005 February 2014|Reference|

The Use of Johann Sebastian Bach’s Chorales in David Maslanka’s Quintet for Winds No. 3 for Flute, Oboe, Clarinet, Horn, and Bassoon

Elisa Moles’ thesis on David’s third Quintet for Winds focuses specifically on his use of Bach chorales. Her thorough analysis of the quintet displays David’s use of chorales as an integral part of the composition. Through her research, she explains David’s incorporation of thematic, harmonic, and formal chorale elements as a catalyst for his original composition, using the old form to create something entirely new.

The Use of Johann Sebastian Bach’s Chorales in David Maslanka’s Quintet for Winds No. 3 for Flute, Oboe, Clarinet, Horn, and Bassoon
PDF, 1.5MB

Numbering over eighty works, the wind music of American composer David Maslanka has become increasingly popular over the last thirty years. His Quintet for Winds No. 3 for Flute, Oboe, Clarinet, Horn, and Bassoon (1999) is a remarkable piece that has not been previously researched in depth. What drew me to investigate this piece was Maslanka’s interesting referencing of the melody and text of Johann Sebastian Bach’s chorales. A defining feature of this woodwind quintet, Maslanka incorporates Bach chorales as major melodic, harmonic, and structural aspects of the work. The reference to the original text of each chorale also provides extra-musical meaning to the piece. In addition to analyzing the use of the Bach chorales in this quintet, I intend to offer some suggestions for performing. Before discussing these matters, however, it will be necessary to provide some historical background. The compositional technique of borrowing raises several issues that, upon further investigation, will yield a clearer understanding of the piece to the performers. The three main issues […]

By |2016-08-20T20:39:16+00:002 May 2013|Quintet for Winds No. 3, Reference|

What young composers need

This is an email message sent 13 April 2013 to Roger Briggs, composition chair, and Chris Bianco, director of bands, at Western Washington University. David had just returned from working with the wind ensemble and student composers.

Hi Roger,

I am very glad that we had some time together, and thanks again for sharing your beautiful piano work!

I mentioned my feeling that your student composers showed a quality of depression. Chris Bianco had also asked me about my time with the student composers and I shared some of those thoughts with him as well. The more I think about it the stronger it feels to me that that depression is a real thing. I will suggest that it has to do with overreliance on the computer as the main tool for making music. I have focused on the playback issue because it is so obvious. We certainly know intellectually that the computer is not a band or orchestra, but unconsciously we do NOT know this, and persistent use of the machine as the source of feedback about the nature of “real” sound results in a deep depression, and this is because the computer sound is denatured. It has no living vitality. Because of the availability of computer music programs young people think they can become composers without any significant contact with live music making. They don’t even have to play an instrument. This is entirely against the nature of what music is, and what its living function is.

Off the top of my […]

By |2016-12-09T23:08:46+00:0013 April 2013|Correspondence|

Expressive Interpretation in David Maslanka’s “Eternal Garden: Four Songs for Clarinet and Piano”

Dr. Kimberly Wester’s doctoral dissertation on David’s Eternal Garden focuses on the expressive interpretation of the work, providing performance considerations and an overview of research on music and emotion. Biographical information on David is also included with information on his creative process, as well as discussions with the commissioner of the work, Dr. Peggy Dees-Moseley.

Expressive Interpretation in David Maslanka’s “Eternal Garden: Four Songs for Clarinet and Piano”
PDF, 25.7MB

The purpose of this study is to provide an expressive interpretation of David Maslanka’s Eternal Garden: Four Songs for Clarinet and Piano. Similar to past research on composers and the clarinetists they composed for, this study will provide a valuable primary source of the composer’s inspiration, creative process, philosophy of expression and the clarinetist who commissioned the work. This examination will explore interpretation and an emotional relationship to the music, which was prompted by Maslanka’s recommendation to acquire “a profound grasp, whether you have words for it or not, the reason for being of the piece.” The first objective of this study is to develop an expressive interpretation of Eternal Garden from the clarinetist’s perspective. The second objective was prompted by the deeply powerful responses that the author has experienced when performing and listening to Maslanka’s compositions. Expressive characteristics in the author’s interpretation that evoke powerful feelings and allow for such an experience to occur will also be explored.

The first chapter will focus on Maslanka’s musical training, development as a composer, and a section devoted to his expressive philosophy and creative process. The second chapter will review […]

A Conductor’s Examination of Three Concertos with Wind Ensemble

Dr. Travis Cross’ doctoral dissertation includes a chapter on David’s Song Book for Flute and Wind Ensemble and a transcript of an interview with the composer. His research presents an analysis of the Song Book’s formal structure, harmonic scheme, and use of Bach chorales. Cross further discusses David’s approach to writing the work, the interaction between the soloist and ensemble, and David’s life and career.

A Conductor’s Examination of Three Concertos With Wind Ensemble
PDF, 2.5MB

The history of the concerto has been marked by continual evolution in purpose, form, and reception. As the wind ensemble has emerged in the twentieth century as a serious medium for artistic expression, an increasing number of composers have contributed works for soloist with wind ensemble. Their works confront and sometimes confound the historical expectations of the concerto while extending the tradition of evolution that sustains the relevance and artistic vibrancy of the genre. The concerto for soloist and wind ensemble in the early twenty-first century exhibits considerable diversity in form, scope, and style; however, three common features figure prominently in the contemporary concerto for soloist with wind ensemble: flexibility in formal structure, an artistic approach in which virtuosity exists to enhance the composer’s expressive intent, and collaborative and variable interaction between soloist and ensemble. This document investigates such developments in the contemporary concerto through selective analysis of three notable works by distinguished American composers: Song Book for Flute and Wind Ensemble by David Maslanka, Illuminations for Trombone and Wind Symphony by Joseph Turrin, and Raise the Roof for Timpani […]

By |2016-12-09T23:08:46+00:001 December 2012|Reference, Song Book for Flute and Wind Ensemble|

David Maslanka’s Desert Roads, Four Songs for Clarinet and Wind Ensemble: An Analysis and Performer’s Guide

Dr. Joshua Mietz’ doctoral dissertation on David’s first clarinet concerto, Desert Roads, provides a comprehensive analysis and helpful advice to soloists and conductors performing the work. The author also includes thoroughly researched biographical information essential to understanding the evolution of David’s composing from his early career to the creation of this concerto.

PDF available through the following website:

Known primarily as a composer for the wind band, few American composers have received the notoriety and widespread acclaim that David Maslanka has since 1970. His works for wind ensemble are now considered standard repertoire and are played frequently by high school, college-level, and professional ensembles alike. Additionally, his works for chamber groups and soloists have continued to gain in popularity. As of the writing of this document, Maslanka has composed concertos for saxophone, euphonium, flute, marimba, trombone, and piano. Early in 2005, he completed his first large-scale work for solo clarinet with wind ensemble accompaniment: Desert Roads. Desert Roads is comprised of four movements—each with a unique perspective and stylistic approach to the concerto medium.

This document begins with a detailed biography of the composer’s life and works. There is an emphasis on the people, places, and events that contributed to Dr. Maslanka’s compositional style. Chapter 2 offers a history of Desert Roads and pays special attention to Dr. Margaret Dees and her leadership in the commissioning of the work. Chapters 3-6 provide analysis and discussion of the structural elements Desert Roads.

Additionally, there is discussion of the chorales of J.S. Bach where appropriate. Chapters […]

David Maslanka’s Symphony No. 7 : An Examination of Analytical, Emotional, and Spiritual Connections Through a “Maslankian” Approach

Lane Weaver’s doctoral dissertation on David’s Symphony No. 7 provides an analysis of each movement while providing an inside look into the creation of this symphony. The author also provides thorough biographical information and an extensive discussion of the “Maslankian” approach to composition.

David Maslanka’s Symphony No. 7 : An Examination of Analytical, Emotional, and Spiritual Connections Through a “Maslankian” Approach
PDF, 3.5 MB

With a composition career spanning from the early 1970s to the present, David Maslanka (b.1943) has earned wide recognition as an important and respected composer of music for nearly every setting. While he has contributed significantly to chamber music, solo literature, vocal settings, and works for symphony orchestra, his compositions for percussion and wind band have arguably provided his most universal acclaim. All six of Maslanka’s band symphonies are considered noteworthy compositions. His distinctive musical voice emerges in each of these works as he explores the gamut of emotional impact from the darkest pain to the most euphoric joy. Such wide ranging scope is not limited solely to the musical moods Maslanka paints, but also includes the means he employs to paint them.

Maslanka’s compositional method is rather unique and quite spiritual in nature as each work is produced through a great deal of subconscious exploration and meditation. His meditations often result in dream images that he translates into musical material. These translations typically are not a moment-by-moment, image-by-image retelling of the meditation, but instead are musical impressions motivated by the impulses of energy Maslanka perceives. Maslanka takes great interest […]

By |2016-12-09T23:08:46+00:0021 May 2011|Reference, Symphony No. 7|

A Study of David Maslanka’s Unending Stream of Life

This is Scott Hippensteel’s excellent dissertation from 2011 on Unending Stream of Life. He situates David’s music in wind ensemble literature, discusses his style, and expertly analyses the piece itself. His recommendations for conductors preparing the work are especially helpful.

A Study of David Maslanka’s Unending Stream of Life

This study presents an overview of the compositional style of David Maslanka and an analysis of his piece for wind band Unending Stream of Life. The seven-movement work is based in part on the melody of the hymn tune Lasst uns Erfreuen, which is commonly known as All Creatures of Our God and King. David Maslanka has developed a unique compositional style that has been strongly influenced by the chorales of J.S. Bach and the writings of Swiss psychologist Carl Jung. Through the process of “active imagining” Maslanka creates original works for wind band. The use of a hymn tune melody and short motives, both conventional and contemporary harmonic progressions, baroque and classical forms, tonal centricity, strong rhythmic drive, expanded instrumentation, and the theme of transformation are all essential to Maslanka’s compositional style. The study is intended to inform scholars and conductors about the melodic material, harmony and tonality, form, rhythm and tempo relations, orchestration, and unifying elements and musical nuances of David Maslanka’s Unending Stream of Life.

By |2016-12-09T23:08:46+00:009 May 2011|Reference, Unending Stream of Life|

A Conductor’s Insight Into Performance and Interpretive Issues in Give Us This Day by David Maslanka

Dr. Lauren Ann Denney Wright’s doctoral dissertation on Give Us This Day focuses on the technical, expressive, and interpretive issues a conductor might face when programming this work. The dissertation also gives a brief biographical sketch, a discussion of David’s compositional process, and the history of how this work came to be written.

A Conductor’s Insight Into Performance and Interpretive Issues in Give Us This Day by David Maslanka
PDF, 1.4MB

The purpose of this essay is to provide performance and interpretive background and suggestions for David Maslanka’s Give Us This Day. This essay serves as the first significant research document on the work and is intended as a source for musicians seeking information about the work. The essay includes a biography of David Maslanka, as well as descriptions of the history and commissioning of Give Us This Day, its compositional process, and its performance and interpretive issues. Information was accumulated through interviews with David Maslanka, Gary D. Green, director of bands at the University of Miami, and the consortium head, Eric Weirather.

By |2016-08-20T20:40:11+00:008 May 2010|Give Us This Day, Reference|

Remarks before the premiere of A Child’s Garden of Dreams, Book 2

Remarks made 7 December 2008 in Boone, NC before the premiere of A Child’s Garden of Dreams, Book 2, by the Appalachian Symphony Orchestra, James Allen Anderson, conductor.

I’m not going to say too much about the music here, but I do want to comment on how things go. The original Child’s Garden of Dreams piece was written in 1981. It became a piece well-known to the wind band world and has since that time had literally hundreds of performances here and around the world. This other piece, written for orchestra in 1989, is now having its premiere performance after nearly 20 years of trying to interest people.

Jim Anderson and I have been acquainted since the year 2000 when he was at the University of Montana. I wrote music for him then and then have subsequently written another piece, Symphony No. 6, which he performed and recorded here four years ago. So now he has taken on this new piece, something which spoke to him. When he first became aware of it, he had the deep feeling that this belonged to him, that he had to engage himself with it and to bring it into life.

And that’s how music goes. It deeply grabs and engages and I’m required, I’m compelled to do what I do. For better or worse, I’m compelled to do it.

I wanted to say just a bit about the nature of music in our world today. You have any […]

Remarks before the Trombone Concerto Premiere

Remarks given at the premiere performance of the Concerto for Trombone and Wind Ensemble, October 2007; Miami, Florida

In the words of the Buddhist teacher Thich Nhat Hanh, “We are life, we are inextinguishable.” The reasons for living or dying, especially dying, and especially when someone close to us passes, are all too often inscrutable. We look for words, for some idea to hang on to, which allow us to reconcile, or at least live with, loss and grief. But words and concepts fail.

Here in South Florida, everything, even new stuff, is continually being eroded by water and heat. Everything is being eaten, transformed, and taken back into the earth. Things are a bit slower in northern climates, but the process remains the same. It is a sharp reminder that there is no permanence: we come into these bodies undergo continuous transformation, and then for our own not-speakable reasons we release this body, we go on.

Music is deeply and powerfully a part of this process. Music is life: music is inextinguishable. Music loosens our separateness, and allows us to open deeply to one another. Music opens us to the energy of love, which makes out lives possible. Music is the breaker of chains, the smasher of the ordinary, and the breaker of hearts. Music breaks our hearts, and through the broken heart we know compassion.

Today is a celebration of the life of Christine Capote and that of her family, and all who are her […]

By |2016-12-09T23:08:46+00:0030 October 2007|Concerto for Trombone and Wind Ensemble|

The Sonata for Alto Saxophone and Piano (1988) by David Maslanka: An Analytical and Performance Guide

Dr. Camille Olin’s doctoral dissertation on David’s Sonata for Alto Saxophone and Piano provides a performer’s guide to the sonata, as well as an analysis of the harmonic structure, harmonic language, and unifying features of the work. An interview with David is also included, providing a discussion of the work from the composer’s perspective.

The Sonata for Alto Saxophone and Piano (1988) by David Maslanka: An Analytical and Performance Guide

In recent years, the Sonata for Alto Saxophone and Piano by David Maslanka has come to the forefront of saxophone literature, with many university professors and graduate students aspiring to perform this extremely demanding work. His writing encompasses a range of traditional and modern elements. The traditional elements involved include the use of “classical” forms, a simple harmonic language, and the lyrical, vocal qualities of the saxophone. The contemporary elements include the use of extended techniques such as multiphonics, slap tongue, manipulation of pitch, extreme dynamic ranges, and the multitude of notes in the altissimo range. Therefore, a theoretical understanding of the musical roots of this composition, as well as a practical guide to approaching the performance techniques utilized, will be a valuable aid and resource for saxophonists wishing to approach this composition.

By |2016-08-22T21:35:09+00:0021 May 2007|Reference, Sonata for Alto Saxophone and Piano|

Maslanka Symphony No. 5: Conducting Via Lucid Analysis Technique

Dr. Christopher Werner’s doctoral dissertation uses David’s Symphony No. 5 as a means of exploring a new score study and conducting performance method, the Lucid Analysis Technique, which is of his own creation. As explained in the dissertation, Werner’s technique takes various musical events and elements in Symphony No. 5 and uses them as symbols for use in subconscious meditation exercises, such as lucid dreaming, active imagining, or walking meditation. The results of the meditations are then journaled and applied to the interpretation of the work in performance, leading to a greater understanding of the overall composition.

Maslanka Symphony No. 5: Conducting Via Lucid Analysis Technique
PDF, 12.8MB


Lucid Analysis Technique is a conducting approach I have created. The technique I have evolved in this dissertation is a process through which the conductor’s subconscious is activated to engage both the score at hand and stored human experiences in an enriched real-time performance situation. The technique is realized through a six step process. Human being acquire subconscious information throughout their lives and Lucid Analysis Technique draws upon this body of stored knowledge and experiences. Lucid Analysis Technique is a new method to achieve optimal experience while performing. 

The process to arrive at Lucid Analysis Technique combines the research of Carl Gustav Jung, David Maslanka, Carolyn Barber and Steven LaBerge. Their multi-disciplinary approach is used while in a dream state (both conscious and unconscious) to provide an environment for subconscious interaction. Once a link has been established to the subconscious, relating conscious information with stored experiences can enhance musical performances and […]

By |2016-12-09T23:08:46+00:0030 April 2005|Reference, Symphony No. 5|

David Maslanka’s Symphony No. 3: A Relational Treatise on Commissioning, Composition, and Performance

Dr. Brenton Alston’s doctoral dissertation on David’s Symphony No. 3 focuses on how the work came to be commissioned and David’s compositional approach to writing the work. The research presents a thorough analysis of each of the composition’s five movements with concluding performance considerations. Finally, the appendices provide interview transcripts, facsimiles of the original program notes, an article about the premiere, and more.

David Maslanka’s Symphony No. 3: A Relational Treatise on Commissioning, Composition, and Performance
PDF, 19.9MB

The purpose of this essay is to examine David Maslanka’s Symphony Number Three for wind ensemble. The music of David Maslanka has been performed throughout the world and has received high acclaim from periodical and newspaper reviews. David Maslanka has written four symphonies for wind ensemble. Gary Green commissioned Symphony Number Three while he was Director of Bands at the University of Connecticut in Storrs, Connecticut. Since the premiere performance of Symphony Number Three in November of 1991, there have been seven performances. This essay will examine elements of the commissioning process, musical analysis, and conclude with performance aspects of Symphony Number Three.

By |2016-08-22T21:33:03+00:001 May 2004|Reference, Symphony No. 3|

David Maslanka’s Symphony No. 4: A Conductor’s Analysis with Performance Considerations

Dr. Stephen Bolstad’s dissertation on David’s Symphony No. 4 gives a thorough analysis and helpful advice to conductors. The author also includes a brief biographical sketch and provides insight into David’s unique compositional approach to this work.

David Maslanka’s Symphony No. 4: A Conductor’s Analysis with Performance Considerations

In the last two decades of the Twentieth Century, the wind band music of David Maslanka has become well known and widely performed. A number of his compositions are becoming increasingly recognized as new additions to the standard wind band repertoire. The Symphony No. 4 is becoming such a work. The purpose of this treatise is to examine David Maslanka’s Symphony No. 4 with the goal of providing information, which will be valuable to a conductor or performer preparing the work for performance.

The composer’s meditative approach to the compositional process is examined with specific details concerning the source materials and inspirations pertinent to the creation of the Symphony No. 4. The episodic nature of the Symphony is examined with an analysis highlighting the unifying elements, which bind the various sections of the Symphony together. Performance considerations and suggestions, derived from interviews, discussions, and rehearsals with the composer, are presented to provide the conductor with insights about the Symphony No. 4.

By |2016-12-09T23:08:46+00:0019 August 2002|Reference, Symphony No. 4|

Music in Life

Remarks given on 18 April 2002 at Indiana University School of Music before a performance of the Concerto for Alto Saxophone and Wind Ensemble. Other works on the concert included Montana Music: Chorale Variations and Tears.

I want to give a few thoughts about how music acts in our lives. Music making is in the balance point between the conscious and unconscious minds. By way of brief illustration, the conscious part is the part we consider to be ourselves – the ego, the thinking part, the active does, the part that wakes up in the morning, and lives by the clock, and lives in a particular place, the part that has a name, and a personality, and a job.

By contrast, the unconscious part of ourselves, the part where dreams come from, does not live in time. That is, time means nothing to it. It lives in the whole universe but in no particular place. It has no personality but is life force itself. It does not have a name or a job identity, but comes forward to us as mythic forms and dreams.

Each of us has this mythic, timeless part. In mythology we are princes, kings, queens, warriors, wise men, and wise women. In a fundamental way these mythic identifications are who we really are. This part of ourselves is what allows us to identify so strongly with mythic characters, and why […]

David Maslanka’s Use of a Chorale Tune in “In Memoriam”

Dr. Roy Breiling’s doctoral dissertation covers the use of the chorale tune “Wer nur den lieben Gott lasst walten” (“If you but trust in God to guide you”) in David’s composition, In Memoriam. The author also includes biographical information as well as an overview of David’s compositional approach and how it relates to his musical style.

David Maslanka’s Use of a Chorale Tune in “In Memoriam”

David Maslanka’s music has been widely performed in the United States, Canada, Europe, Australia, and Japan; however, to date, there are only two published dociiments that provide information about his music. J. Patrick Brooks presented a theoretical analysis of Maslanka’s Concerto for Piano, Winds and Percussion in his D.M.A. dissertation, and in The College Band Director’s Journal. Thomas Wubbenhorst published an article in which he discussed Maslanka’s wind band piece, A Child’s Garden of Dreams. This author’s document will further contribute to what has already been written about David Maslanka and his music.

According to recent research, there are no studies that focus on Maslanka’s use of chorale tunes in his wind band compositions. In addition to the composition selected for this document, Maslanka uses chorale tunes in numerous other wind band works, such as A Tuning Piece: Songs of Fall and Winter (1995), Montana Music: Chorale Variations (1993), and Symphony No. 4 (1993).

The purpose of this document is to help musicians understand David Maslanka’s use of a chorale tune in In Memoriam. Chapter 1 contains biographical information about David Maslanka, including an explanation of the influences of J. S. […]

By |2016-08-20T20:45:53+00:0020 March 2000|Dissertation, In Memoriam, Reference|

Further notes on Music Performance

Two quotes from the scientist and philosopher Rene Dubos in his 1962 book The Torch of Life:

“A fully developed human being cannot be thought of as an isolated creature. His or her potential attributes become fully realized only when he or she functions within a social matrix, on which he or she depends, against which he or she reacts, and to which he or she contributes. From microbe to human society, life is an expression of the mutual interdependence of parts.”

“It may well turn out that the creativeness of life depends in large part, or perhaps entirely, for individual organisms to form with others, intimate associations which generate new structures and properties…. This concept applies also to man, whose spiritual development is the outcome of highly integrated social relationships.”

Music performance is not possible without the cooperation of performers, and performers with audience. Performance taps into a deep spiritual creative power. It is conscious dream time and renewal shared by all.

Music performance is one of the antidotes to the evils rampant in today’s world. It is the antithesis of modern man’s dissociation and isolation. It is the antithesis of the human capacity for killing and environmental destruction. You can’t make good music without love, which means that you accept the people with whom you are making music. This knitting together of the human community at this local point is remembered, and spreads over and beyond a lifetime. Music making is one of the true models for […]

By |2016-12-09T23:08:46+00:0010 April 1999|Chamber Music, Philosophy|

Music and Healing

Remarks given before a performance of Montana Music: Trio for Violin, Cello and Piano.

Music is specifically healing. I know that I am alive today, and essentially well, because of it. Healing through music is not always miraculous in the instantaneous sense, although a powerful musical experience can change a life in an instant. I have experienced this myself, and seen it happen to others. Music’s healing power is most often a life-long process, which is finally no less miraculous!

I have thought for many years about the nature of what we call inspiration – what it is, and how it enters the conscious mind. In my early years I would have the sensation of music “breaking through” my conscious mind, the sensation of the conscious mind with all its troubles and fixations parting, and letting in something from somewhere else, a powerful something which had nothing to do with my personal troubles. After receiving this force, the “normal” mind would close in again. But once one has had this experience, there is an eagerness to explore it and find it again. And through this experience comes the recognition that one has touched an amazing source, a fundamental source, of life and power. I know now that the function of the conscious mind is to attune itself to this deeper source, to be the channel for the power to come through. That need has driven this lifetime of mine, and has prompted me again and again toward health, […]

An Examination of David Maslanka’s Marimba Concerti: Arcadia II for Marimba and Percussion Ensemble and Concerto for Marimba and Band: A Lecture Recital

Dr. Michael Varner’s lecture recital on David’s marimba concerti gives an analysis of the musical structure and marimba techniques in Arcadia II and the Concerto for Marimba and Band. The lecture provides insight into influences that have contributed to David’s unique approach to writing for marimba and gives an overview of the wealth of repertoire he has written for this instrument.

An Examination of David Maslanka’s Marimba Concerti: Arcadia II for Marimba and Percussion Ensemble and Concerto for Marimba and Band, A Lecture Recital
PDF, 1.2MB

Although David Maslanka is not a percussionist, his writing for marimba shows a solid appreciation of the idiomatic possibilities developed by recent innovations for the instrument. The marimba is included in at least eighteen of his major compositions, and in most of those it is featured prominently. Both Arcadia II: Concerto for Marimba and Percussion Ensemble and Concerto for Marimba and Band display the techniques and influences that have become characteristic of his compositional style. However, they express radically different approaches to composition due primarily to Maslanka’s growth as a composer. Maslanka’s traditional musical training, the clear influence of diverse composers, and his sensitivity to extra-musical influences such as geographic location have resulted in a very distinct musical style. His exemplary attention to detail and sound timbres give his works an individualized stamp. The evolution of motivic gestures is the most distinctive characteristic of Maslanka’s compositional process. Maslanka freely incorporates forms and structural principles of the baroque and classical periods, but these principles are not applied in a strict sense. These factors combine to […]

Some things that are true: Reflections on being an artist at the end of the 20th century

Society of Composers Incorporated Region VIII Conference, University of Montana at Missoula. Keynote address by David Maslanka – November 20, 1998

As soon as one speaks about “truth” there will be objections. Since we live in time and with change, it can be argued that all values and conditions are relative, and that “true” is what works best in any set of circumstances. So, in talking about truth I acknowledge the reality we live in, but I also must acknowledge the absolute values upon which our world of relative values rests.

We live in relativity, and yet music touches a timeless resonance in us, and we are drawn into perceptions that go absolutely beyond this life and this time. I think the central fascination with the feeling nature of sound and with the truth of feeling is what drew us all to music in the first place, and what continues to draw and fascinate us all our lives. I can’t defend the truth of artistic perception in any empirical way. After all the arguments about the relative or absolute nature of things, about the nature of feeling, the validity of personal feeling, the nature of human nature, there is that thing in each of us – quite beyond the quirks of personality – that perceives rightness. And when that “click of rightness” happens, we are satisfied at a soul level. I want to talk about that experience and how it has guided me in three areas: the evolution of a musical language, […]

By |2016-12-09T23:08:46+00:0020 November 1998|A Child's Garden of Dreams, Chamber Music, Philosophy|

Thoughts on Composing

Excerpts from letters to young composers

You ask about the soul nature of music, and are music and soul the same thing. Music is one of the expressions of soul. A person does not have to be consciously aware of soul connection for soul force to be expressed through that person. The conscious mind and the deep unconscious are two different things, but everyone has both of them. The unconscious can push its way into consciousness unbidden. Often this makes people do neurotic or crazy things – compulsive behavior of one kind or another. If a person is prepared artistically, then a sudden eruption of soul force might appear as a composition or a powerful performance. The person may have no idea where the force came from. This was my experience as a young composer. As I gained technical skill there would be sudden bursts of music that “appeared.” There was always the hard work of getting it composed properly, but fairly early on I learned to follow my instincts when something powerful began to happen. The impulse to write, having a “true voice”, and having the necessary technical equipment are all different issues. There are fine technicians who have no true voice, and people with true voice who have struggled with technique.

In my experience the feeling of a true voice may come spontaneously to a young composer, but the full and settled sense of it comes only with hard work, usually over a longish time. The composers who were fully […]

Interview with Russell Peterson

Russell Peterson, professor of saxophone at Lawrence University in Appleton WI, interviewed David Maslanka on 30 November 1998 after premieres of Mountain Roads for saxophone quartet, commissioned and performed by the Transcontinental Saxophone Quartet and Song Book for alto saxophone and marimba, commissioned and performed by Steve Jordheim and Dane Richeson there. This interview touches a wide range of topics, including the composition process, David’s saxophone music, especially the Sonata for Alto Saxophone and Piano, the relationship between the composer and the audience, working with consortia, recordings vs. live music, David’s pastel drawings, Sea Dreams, UFO Dreams, the Mass and much more. This interview was originally published in the Fall 1999 Saxophone Symposium

Russell Peterson: Today is an exciting day for saxophonists, two new pieces for saxophone by David Maslanka being premiered! How do you feel about having two new works that you’ve written come into being?

David Maslanka: It’s a lot all at once! And the bringing into place of any one thing – and both of these (Song Book and Mountain Roads) are sizable pieces, I hadn’t realized how large they were. It’s a lot of emotional work to put all of that into place. You guys do the technical end of it and prepare to your best musical ability, and of course […]

An Analytical Study of David Maslanka’s A Child’s Garden of Dreams

The five movements of A Child’s Garden of Dreams are inspired by five dreams selected from Carl Jung’s Man and His Symbols. Dr. David Booth’s doctoral dissertation on A Child’s Garden of Dreams provides an analysis of each of the work’s five movements as a narrative. Booth’s explanations of musical gestures and structure in the composition reference the five dreams while providing the context of the musical material as it was constructed from the composer’s perspective. The dissertation further provides transcripts of interviews with David along with a biographical sketch.

PDF available through the following website:

By |2016-08-22T21:33:54+00:0031 May 1994|A Child's Garden of Dreams, Reference|

Dangerous Times

Remarks given on 29 March 1994 at Michigan State University before a performance of Symphony No. 4

It goes without saying that we live in dangerous times, and that the human family is threatened by forces within itself that it does not understand. Community is shattered, individuals are alienated, hunger, slaughter, and oppression continue and seem to be gathering momentum. Yet I want to speak of hope. I offer a quote from the book Symbols of Transformation by Carl Jung. This was written in the first decade of the twentieth century, but has come to apply dramatically to our time. The first idea in this quote seems like a slap in the face, yet it is clear and true:

“Everyone who has his eyes and wits about him can see that the world is dead, cold, and unending. Never yet has he beheld a god, or been compelled to require the existence of such a god from the evidence of his senses. On the contrary, it needs the strongest inner compulsion, which can only be explained by the irrational force of instinct, for man to invent religious beliefs. In the same way one can withhold the stories of primitive myths from a child but not take from him the need for mythology, and still less his ability to manufacture it for himself.” Here is the crux of the quote: “One could almost say that if the world’s traditions were cut off at a […]

By |2016-12-09T23:08:47+00:0029 March 1994|Philosophy, Symphony No. 4|

Composing and its relationship to the community

I want to talk a bit about the composing process and its relationship to community. I have recently been reading Gerard Manley Hopkins, the great nineteenth-century English poet. Hopkins speaks of the “particularity” of each object and experience. That is, each thing and each experience is unique. Even that one rose, that blade of grass, that person, that piece of music, is never the same from one experience of it to the next. We have a pale reflection of this idea in the popular saying “take time to smell the flowers” – in other words, get off your single-minded track and notice the world around you. Hopkins would have you not only smell the flowers, but stare at each one individually until it opens its secret world to you. Flowers, and indeed every other object, are doors to the world of spirit.

Consider that the only thing you truly have in life is the quality of your moment, the moment we call “now.” It is your connection to the eternal. The quality of a color stands apart from time. Consider “redness” – is “red” long or short? The quality of a musical tone stands apart from time. Any thing eventually changes, falls apart, becomes something else. What remains to you of it is its quality, its particularity, that is, the impression it makes on your soul.

Music makes a lasting impression on the soul. What is the nature of that impression? I will try to answer that in brief by saying that […]

By |2016-12-09T23:08:47+00:0016 March 1993|Composing|

The roots and purpose of music

Remarks given at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, Nov.15.1992, before a performance of Symphony No.3.

I want to give a few thoughts on the roots of music and its purpose in human life.

Music comes supposedly from the human heart and mind. These are but two of the vibratory receiving centers of the human organism. The human organism comes from Planet Earth. We say “from dust to dust.” Each body is built from the elements of Earth and is continually recycling elements from the Earth. We eat food every day. To what end? So that we have “energy”. To what end? To have feelings and ideas, to make music, and to make many other things.

Bodies are fluid, recycling every seven years, so that each of us experiences a continual interaction with Mother Earth. The source of music then, would seem to be the Earth. We come from the Earth; if we are intelligent and spiritual, then the Earth is intelligent and spiritual, and by extension, the universe is intelligent and spiritual. If the Earth is the seed, then all that we see around us is the flowering and unfolding of that seed. And all of it is in continuous, fluid, interactive motion.

Music is one voice of the Earth, and by extension, one voice of the universe. That voice rises up through this wonderful human body – a body made of cells, cells made of molecules, molecules made of atoms, atoms made of neutrons, protons, electrons, electrons made of…pure energy. […]

By |2016-12-09T23:08:47+00:0015 November 1992|Chamber Music, Philosophy, Symphony No. 3|