Maslanka Weekly: Best of the Web – No. 15, Alex, Rollo, & Dr. Who

Maslanka Weekly highlights excellent performances of David Maslanka’s music from around the web.

On occasion David Maslanka liked to incorporate fictional characters either directly into his music, or as a means of explaining his inspiration for a particular composition. This week, we take a look at three of David’s works that feature a fictional person: Alex and the Phantom Band, Rollo Takes a Walk, and Music for Dr. Who.

Alex and the Phantom Band

Like Benjamin Britten’s The Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra, Alex and the Phantom Band was written as a young listener’s introduction to the instruments of the band. Maslanka explained that “Alex, in search of a flute to give his father for a birthday present, is swept off into a musical dream world where he finds a shabby old theater, the home of ‘His Majesty’s Royal Band.’ Alex climbs to the conductor’s podium and sees the glittering instruments spread before him – living instruments, but no players! He picks up the baton and points. Each instrument and section responds with its characteristic sounds. Overwhelmed, Alex faints away…to come awake in his own bed, and in his pajama pocket an ancient mahogany flute for his father’s birthday. Alex is an engaging and satisfying musical adventure for the young of all ages.” It is noteworthy that the narrator’s text to Alex and the Phantom Band was adapted from the story The Thirteenth Hour by Kathryn Maslanka, David Maslanka’s daughter. Watch below as Leonard Tan leads Kamini Ramachandran, Narrator and The Philharmonic Winds in an enchanting performance of this music.

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Rollo Takes a Walk

According to Maslanka, “’Rollo’ is complicated little idea, and when asked to explain it I am often at a loss. Rollo is a fictional character created by the American composer Charles Ives who lived from 1875 to 1953. Ives used Rollo in his writings about music as the model of an average person with conservative musical tastes. Ives would say ‘Rollo would really like that tune!’ or ‘Rollo wouldn’t like that one at all!’ Rollo was Ives’ measuring stick for a level of American popular taste. The irony was that Rollo wouldn’t have liked most of Ives’ own music. So, ‘Rollo Takes a Walk’: he moves about among tunes that he likes, and some stuff that’s hard for him.” Watch below as the Henry Middle School Honors Band gives a remarkable performance of this music. (Yes! These are 6th, 7th, and 8th graders!)

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Music for Dr. Who

Maslanka says that “This brief piece was inspired by an episode of the BBC-TV space fantasy. In it, the Doctor (played by Tom Baker) escapes from confinement by seemingly electrocuting himself. Is he dead? Is he alive? He’s alive!! Music for Doctor Who was written for California bassoonist/composer John Steinmetz who supplied me with fingerings and recordings for a whole series of bassoon multiphonics. I chose several striking examples as foundation ideas for this piece.” Watch below as Eric Mohr, Bassoon and Cecilia Lee, Piano give a thrilling performance of this work.

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We would love to hear from you! If you know of any outstanding performances of David Maslanka’s music on the web, please email us at