Matthew Maslanka

About Matthew Maslanka

Owner, Maslanka Press. Matthew helps connect David Maslanka's music with the world, making it accessible, easy to find, and beautifully produced. Matthew has a passion for music engraving, fine typography, and information display.

The Saxophone Sonata V2: Steven Jordheim’s Forward

Maslanka Press has released a beautiful new edition of David Maslanka’s Sonata for Alto Saxophone and Piano. Learn more —

Steven Jordheim, an early champion of the work and former teacher of saxophone at Lawrence University, wrote a forward and performance guide included in the new edition. Here is his forward.

Commissioned by the North American Saxophone Alliance and composed in 1988, David Maslanka’s Sonata for Alto Saxophone and Piano gives to the concert repertoire of the saxophone a monumental, riveting work that both rewards its performers and deeply affects audiences. At the time, he was living in Inwood, the northernmost neighborhood of Manhattan. Inwood Hill Park, which runs along the Hudson River, contains pronounced ridges, caves, and valleys. As Maslanka walked the park, contemplating the creation of this piece, he encountered a beast in his meditation. His first reaction was to run away, but in subsequent encounters he confronted it. Ultimately the beast devoured him. The work’s unironic tonal language, traditional three-movement structure, and dramatic interplay between saxophone and piano make it intensely accessible to all. Hearing the work at its 1989 premiere, I knew that the Sonata would become an important piece in Maslanka’s oeuvre. Its music engages and moves audiences deeply, and indeed the Sonata has become a frequently performed and recorded work.

No other piece that I’ve played demanded as much of me as a performer technically, expressively, physically, or emotionally. To deliver the Sonata as Maslanka intended, “on […]

The Red Door: Clarinet Works of David Maslanka – A conversation with Jeremy Reynolds and Matthew Maslanka

This conversation is about the album The Red Door: Clarinet Works of David Maslanka (2021)

Works discussed:

Three Pieces (1975)
Fourth Piece (1979)
Little Symphony (1989)
Eternal Garden (2009)
Trio No. 1 (1971/2012)
Trio No. 2 (1981)
A Litany for Courage and the Seasons (1988)

Matthew Maslanka: My name is Matthew Maslanka. I’m David Maslanka’s son. I’m being joined by Jeremy Reynolds who is professor of clarinet at University of Denver Lamont School of Music. And he has just released a two-CD set of basically everything dad ever wrote for chamber clarinet. And it is just a stunning piece of work. And I am grateful to be able to talk with you about it today.

Jeremy Reynolds: So thank you. Matthew, thank you so much. This has been a long time coming. And thank you for speaking with me. And anytime I can talk about your dad’s work and working with him and stuff. It’s always my pleasure. So it’s great. Fantastic.

MM: Why don’t you tell me a little bit about how this thing came to be?

JR: Yeah. So a very good friend of mine, Peggy Dees, who your dad also knew quite well. She was integral in getting Eternal Garden off the ground. She was I think the leader of the commission project. And she contacted – No, we met actually doing a recording session down in Florida for I think it was Carl Fischer. And we became really good friends and she roped me into the commissioning project for […]

Rehearsing Alex and the Phantom Band and Saint Francis: Middle Tennessee State University (Oct 2016)

In October 2016, I (Matthew Maslanka) accompanied my father to Middle Tennessee State University where I photographed and recorded his masterclasses and rehearsals. This is his rehearsal on October 25. He helped produce his final CD during this visit.

Audio Recording (1:22:57)

(transcript below)

Reed Thomas
Good afternoon, everybody. So, the plan for next couple of days, we’re going to start with some sections of Alex and the Phantom Band, then we’re going to move on, once we’ve had the chance to dress and get ready, we’re going to move to St. Francis. And the second movement, first, then we are going do the first movement and during those times Dr. Maslanka is going to be working with you. Helping, so we can make sure that we produce the music in a way that is the best of our ability. (inaudible)

So we are very privileged to have him here to work with us this week. So if you will please welcome Dr. David Maslanka.

David Maslanka
Thank you, it’s an honor and will evolve as a pleasure as we get going together. My whole need in the music making is just that, that we make music together, as opposed to technical chunks of this and that. We’re going to make music all through the rest of our week together today. So I want to start, not take too much time with you now just to let you know who I am. And we’ll start with our friend, Alex here. This is a neat little […]

Masterclass: Middle Tennessee State University (Oct 2016)

In October 2016, I (Matthew Maslanka) accompanied my father to Middle Tennessee State University where I photographed and recorded his masterclasses and rehearsals. This is his first masterclass, on October 24. He helped produce his final CD during this visit.

Audio Recording (1:05:22)

(transcript below)



David Maslanka
Thanks for that. Thanks for for being here.

I wanted to tell you a little bit about composing and to show you some things concerning Bach chorales. This has been a foundational thing for me for a long time.

A huge amount of things have happened in the 20th century and in our own time. The options that you have for technical things in music are extraordinary. You have to kind of not look at certain things in order to be able to focus on something that you might really want to do. And it might seem like a complete backward kind of motion to take something like the Bach chorales and make them a center of the life. And I’ll just tell you a bit about that.

I’ve written a lot of music. Now there’s something about I think about 150 opus numbers at this point, and still very alive and very much interested in writing.

But composing makes me nervous. And does that make any sense? Composing makes me nervous. Because I don’t know what’s going to happen. And I don’t know what’s supposed to happen. Right? I don’t start I can’t start with a pre plan of any kind. I simply have to open and trust […]

Liner Notes for David Maslanka’s Final CD

This is a portion of the liner notes for David Maslanka: Works For Wind Ensemble, his final CD. The disc will be released on January 8, 2021.

Sacred Spaces

By Matthew Maslanka

Dr Reed Thomas makes a mean paella. For as seriously as he takes it, I suppose he should, but it was still a revelation to eat. The secret, I’m told, is in the heat and timing. He had a simply enormous pan that cooked over a charcoal pit, low and slow. Adding the rice and stock up front, he gradually added the other elements – shrimp, saffron and asparagus, among a host of other delicious treats – at exactly the right intervals. After pulling the pan off the fire, while the paella cooled enough for us to eat, we gathered for some pictures — and then we dug in. The socarrat, the lovely toasty caramelised Valencia rice at the bottom of the pan, was delightfully crunchy, flavoured with not only the seafood stock, but also every one of the layers of goodness on top.

Dr Thomas also runs a hidden gem of a band programme an hour outside of Nashville, Tennessee. Middle Tennessee State University in Murfreesboro punches well above its weight; the ensembles there show remarkable training and professionalism.

I started publishing the music of my father, David Maslanka, in 2012. I’m the guy who prepares the music for printing, gets it printed, distributed and sold; and manages the licensing. I also accompanied Dad around the […]

Interview with Tiffany Woods (2003)

In May 2003, Tiffany Woods emailed David a series of questions in the course of writing a paper. She was a student at the University of North Carolina Greensboro and taking a Band Literature course with Dr. John Locke. David wrote a thorough response. The interview has been excerpted from their correspondence and interleaved here. It has been lightly edited for spelling and style.

Tiffany Woods: I’ve read your interview with saxophonist Russell Peterson and first I want to talk a little about your compositional process and you referred to what you termed “active imagining.” While to some degree this makes sense in terms of a ‘programmatic’ piece, such as A Child’s Garden of Dreams and maybe even the Mass, when you sit down to “compose a symphony” does the same concept still apply?

David Maslanka: “Active Imagining” is a term used by the psychologist Carl Jung. It is a way of moving the conscious mind into the space of the unconscious. They closest thing to it that most people do is daydreaming. The difference is in being aware that it is happening, and in finding ways to deepen the experience. The result is that it is possible to approach the unconscious directly and to ask for the direction or energy that wants to become music. The process applies equally to all kinds of music. It isn’t about whether the music has a story, but about opening the channel […]

David Maslanka: an introduction

What do I find interesting?

I am a constant and wide-ranging reader. My undergrad and graduate work was almost all music, with just minimum requirements in other areas. Since that time I have done extensive reading in many topics, including history, psychology, anthropology, religion, mythology and poetry. I read very little about music! History can give the facts and big ideas about an age, but poetry opens the soul, allowing an immediate and intimate engagement with people of other times.

My reading, like my composing, is not preplanned. I go where my interest pulls me. Over time it has focused on the issue of war, and with that, the foundational issue of human violence: What is it in each individual, what in society? What is the nature of war? How is violence transformed in the individual and in the world? Violence cannot be avoided or eliminated, no matter how much we may pray for peace. On the other hand, it is possible actively to work with the energy of violence. I have come to understand that violence can be transformed in composing and performing music. Players and audiences come to a unified sense of well-being. The deepest insight I can offer is this: you cannot hate while making music.

Two stories on this theme:

No. 1

I traveled to Beijing, China in July of 2016 at the invitation of Li Fangfang, founder and music director of the Beijing Wind Symphony, and the Asia-Pacific Band Directors Association which was holding its 19th annual conference. Bands are […]

By |2017-12-17T11:59:25+00:0027 September 2016|Featured, Uncategorized|

Honorary Doctorate from St. Olaf College

David Maslanka was honored with an honorary doctorate by St. Olaf College. Here’s the entire ceremony:

The following is the full text of Dr. Timothy Mahr’s and David Maslanka’s remarks.

Dr. Timothy Mahr’s remarks

[starts at 11:50]

On the nomination of the faculty, and with the approval of the St. Olaf Board of Regents, it is my pleasure to present Dr. David Maslanka as a candidate for the degree of Doctor of Fine Arts, honoris causa.

Our world needs artists. We live in extremely contentious times full of conundrums that seemingly defy solution. The fine arts have long been a vital means of discovering the essence of being human and penetrating the obfuscations that bar deeper understanding. We struggle to know the outer and the inner worlds. The best artists provide revelations to us all, if only we allow them this opportunity by fully engaging their work. Our honored guest, Dr. David Maslanka, is indeed one of these artists. With his music, he explores a full range of emotional expression, as we heard in the excerpt we just performed. His music invites listeners to look deeply within while also lifting our hearts to the concerns of others: sublime and simple serenity is balanced by rushing riots of rage or exuberant exultations. He encapsulates the human condition within artistic statements that challenge but ultimately uplift.

Esteemed colleagues across the spectrum of music-making affirm Dr. Maslanka’s standing in today’s musical world. A prolific composer, his compositional voice resonates strongly with audiences. Dr. Maslanka is one […]

By |2016-12-09T23:08:45+00:005 August 2016|Angel of Mercy|

January Update

Midwest 2015

Midwest Banner
Maslanka Press exhibited at the Midwest Clinic in Chicago this past December for the first time. We were excited to welcome so many enthusiastic friends to the back corner of the McCormick Center. We expect this to be the first of many appearances at festivals and conventions across the United States and around the world.
David talks with guests at the new booth in Chicago. David talks with guests at the new booth in Chicago.

New Articles

David Maslanka and Sam Ormson
Sam Ormson has shared his extraordinary journey with David’s music. Read it here.

We’ve also posted a new interview with David where he gives some background on his life and work.

Death and the Maiden Orchestration

Death and the Maiden title
David recently found the fully-orchestrated score to Death and the Maiden with a the original libretto. We are exploring putting together a new production of the work. It’s early days yet, but there are some very promising signs. We’ve updated the work’s page with the score, libretto and more information about the piece.

New Program Notes

Symphony No. 2 title

David has written a new program note for Symphony No. 2, reflecting on the last thirty years.

A Litany Title

By |2016-12-09T23:08:45+00:0019 January 2016|News|

8 Questions for David Maslanka

The following is from an email exchange with Natasha Rotondaro, a grade 12 student from Emily Carr Secondary School in Vaughn, Ontario

Natasha Rotondaro: What is your musical background?

David Maslanka: I began clarinet studies at age nine. As a high school student I took lessons at the New England Conservatory in Boston, MA, and played in the Greater Boston Youth Symphony Orchestra. I have a Bachelor of Music Education degree from the Oberlin College Conservatory of Music where I also began my studies in composition. My Masters and Doctorate are from Michigan State University in music theory and composition. I taught for twenty years in universities in New York State and New York City, and for the past 25-plus years I have been a freelance composer, living in Missoula, MT.

NR: What do you find to be the greatest challenge of your occupation?

DM: There are many high challenges in the composing life. Probably the greatest is having to start the composition of each new piece without any clear idea of what it is. I know , of course, that a piece might be for band, or for flute and piano, but there is no way to know why a piece has to be what it is until it begins to speak its own voice. So the challenge is the ability to listen for this unknown voice, and the patience to work until that voice is exactly right.

NR: What are the common character traits of those successful in your field?

DM: I would say […]

By |2016-12-09T23:08:45+00:002 January 2016|Composing, Interview, Mass|

Accessible Works, Updated Music, and WASBE 2015 Wrap-up

Works for Younger Wind Ensembles

We’ve just posted a two-part series going over David’s more accessible works for wind ensemble. Read part 1, talking about how directors might think about selecting new music and part 2, a listing (in order of difficulty) of works with commentary by David himself.

New Works

Saint Francis (2015) 18′ Grade 5-6 for wind ensemble. (Newly added)

Hosannas (2015) 30′ Grade 5-6 for wind ensemble. (Newly added)

Hymn for World Peace (2014) 12′ Grade 4 for wind ensemble. (Recording added)

Concerto for Clarinet and Wind Ensemble (2014) 28′ Grade 5 (Recording added)

Letter to Martin (2015) 25′ for reader, brass quartet, and piano. (Newly Added)

Variants on a Hymn Tune (1994) 5′ Grade 2.5 for solo euphonium and wind ensemble. (Recording, engraved score added)

World Music (2002) 9′ for orchestra (Recording added)

Montana Music: Chorale Variations (1993) 16′ for wind ensemble. (Recording added)

Tears: Montana Music No. 5 (1994) 12′ for bassoon, viola, cello, and piano (Recording added)

A Tuning Piece: Songs of Fall and Winter (1995) 18′ Grade 4 for wind ensemble (Recording and Program Note added)

WASBE 2015


David had three fantastic performances at the 2015 World Association of Symphonic Bands and Ensembles in San Jose, California from July 13-18. On Monday July 13, the Brooklyn Wind Symphony outdid themselves with a stunning rendition of his Concerto for Clarinet and Wind Ensemble. Jeff Hodes was wonderful on clarinet and Jeff Ball directed the group to great success. On Saturday, July 18, the Amador Valley High School wind ensemble with […]

By |2016-12-09T23:08:45+00:0023 July 2015|News|

The Nature of Consciousness: Correspondence

We’d love to encourage you to write to David with questions or comments that you have about his music. He loves hearing your thoughts and feelings. Get in touch on the Contact page.

June 6, 2015: Mark Weidenaar wrote David with the following question:

How does your knowledge of consciousness impact the music you write, and how do you feel your music has evolved along with your own personal journey?

David responded as follows:

Your question is pretty much all-inclusive! Not so easy to get at, but I will try to give some ideas. I don’t think of music as depicting consciousness but as a manifestation of it. Music is not “about” consciousness, but the thing itself in sound. When I am working with performers I might use images and stories to give them a personal context, but fundamentally and persistently I am giving them permission to allow the full value of each musical element. The permission idea is a really important one. I can give them the safe place to open themselves fully. Ideally this is what conductors do. It takes a centered sense of self, and a developed musical imagination. The key issue here is that each musical moment can and must be actively imagined by the conductor, and through that, consciously opened in the players. Much music making is relatively passive, without full conscious engagement by the performers. You can get okay performances, but it will be the happy and relatively rare accident when real heat shows up.

The question of […]

By |2016-12-09T23:08:45+00:009 June 2015|A Child's Garden of Dreams, Correspondence|

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|

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 […]