Maslanka Weekly: Best of the Web – No. 39, Dreams & Meditations

Maslanka Weekly highlights excellent performances of David Maslanka’s music from around the web. This week, we feature three compositions that specifically mention "dreaming" or "meditation" in their title: A Child's Garden of Dreams, Movement I, Sea Dreams: Concerto for Two Horns and Wind Ensemble, Movement III, and Recitation Book, Movement I, "Broken Heart: Meditation on the chorale melody Der du bist drei in einigkeit."

Maslanka Weekly: Best of the Web – No. 38, Recent Maslanka CD Releases

Maslanka Weekly highlights excellent performances of David Maslanka’s music from around the web. This week, we feature three new recordings of favorite works: Tone Studies, Concerto for Saxophone Quartet and Wind Ensemble, and First Light.

Maslanka Weekly: Best of the Web – No. 16, Lesser-Known Works for Saxophone & Saxophone Quartet

Maslanka Weekly highlights excellent performances of David Maslanka’s music from around the web. This week, exceptional performances of Peace, Tone Studies, Movement V, "Wie Bist Du, Seele?" and David's transcription of Goldberg Variations for Saxophone Quartet.

Maslanka Weekly: Best of the Web – No. 14, California & Montana

Maslanka Weekly highlights excellent performances of David Maslanka’s music from around the web. This week, sensational performances of California, Montana Music: Fantasy on a Chorale Tune, and Montana Music: Three Dances for Percussion.

Maslanka Weekly: Best of the Web – No. 12, The Clarinet

Maslanka Weekly highlights excellent performances of David Maslanka’s music from around the web. This week, fantastic performances of Concerto for Clarinet and Wind Ensemble, Little Symphony on the name BArnEy CHilDS, and Desert Roads: Four Songs for Clarinet and Wind Ensemble.

Maslanka Weekly: Best of the Web – No. 11, The Wind Quintet

Maslanka Weekly highlights excellent performances of David Maslanka’s music from around the web. This week, phenomenal performances of Quintet for Winds No. 3, Movement I, Quintet for Winds No. 1, Movement 1, and the entirety of Quintet for Winds No. 2.

Maslanka Weekly: Best of the Web – No. 7, Tribute

Maslanka Weekly highlights excellent performances of David Maslanka’s music from around the web. This week, we remember the life of David Maslanka and Alison Matthews with unforgettable performances of Symphony No. 4, "Song for Alison" from Song Book for Alto Saxophone and Marimba, and Symphony No. 10: The River of Time.

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|

Angel of Mercy – working with Dr. Tim Mahr and the St. Olaf Band

On Feb. 4 2016, I traveled from New York City to meet Tim Mahr and the St. Olaf Band at Pascack Hills High School in Montvale, New Jersey. We were hosted by director of bands Chris Wilhjelm.

Rehearsing Angel of Mercy with the St. Olaf Band and Dr. Tim Mahr in Montvale, NJ Rehearsing Angel of Mercy with the St. Olaf Band and Dr. Tim Mahr in Montvale, NJ

The St. Olaf Band had been on tour and had done at least six performances of the piece before I heard the music for the first time at Chris Wilhjelm’s school. We had only an hour to rehearse. Rehearsing Angel of Mercy with the St. Olaf Band and Dr. Tim Mahr in Montvale, NJ Rehearsing Angel of Mercy with the St. Olaf Band and Dr. Tim Mahr in Montvale, NJ

This was only a beginning time of my hearing into the music, and helping the band fully to embrace it. They were playing well but they were still searching for the voice of the piece. The St. Olaf Band bassoons: (Left to Right) Joshua Kosberg, Colin Scheibner, Eliza Madden. The bassoons open Angel of Mercy with a gorgeous soli chorale. The St. Olaf Band bassoons: (Left to Right) Joshua Kosberg, Colin Scheibner, Eliza Madden. The bassoons open Angel of Mercy with a gorgeous soli chorale.

The music wasn’t complete in my […]

By |2016-12-09T23:08:45+00:008 March 2016|Angel of Mercy, Featured, Rehearsing|

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|

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|

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|

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|

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|