Some Thoughts on Choosing Music for Younger Wind Ensembles

These are David’s thoughts on choosing music. You can find the annotated repertoire list here.

I have never been in charge of a school band program, but over the past 40-plus years I have seen hundreds of programs close-up as guest composer. While I do understand the need to teach specific aspects of music, I strongly advise against the use of so-called “educational” music. The core to the development of a band is the committed interest of its players, and that interest is captured by real music.

And what is real music? It is music that you personally love, that excites and interests you. That is the key issue: do you love it? If you do, your students will respond. If you do not love the music you are bringing to your students, there is no way that they will love it, and no way that they will perform with real enthusiasm or conviction. Let your students help you. They are thoroughly plugged into media sources and are totally up on wind band music that they love and want to play.

The biggest inhibiting factor in the selection of music is fear: my band can’t. I have seen it time and time again: the biggest inhibitor of the ability of a band to play is the conductor’s fear of failure – my band can’t. The grading system offers some guidelines, but these are not a rigid box. Look first to the music that you love, then begin to plot how you can […]

By |2016-12-09T23:08:45+00:0016 July 2015|Hell's Gate, In Memoriam, Reference|

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|

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|

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|

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|

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 […]

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.

An Analytical Study of David Maslanka’s A Child’s Garden of Dreams
PDF, 11.6MB

By |2022-12-10T06:27:05+00:0031 May 1994|A Child's Garden of Dreams, Dissertation, Reference|