Maslanka Weekly: Best of the Web – No. 46, Seeking & Searching

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

One of the most deeply moving and discernible characteristics of the music of David Maslanka is its tendency to be continually “seeking” or “searching” for something. Perhaps it is for further wisdom or illumination. Perhaps it is the subconscious mind trying to break through. Whatever it is, those of us who love David’s music seem to find shared comfort in the music’s seemingly never-ending quest to find purpose, meaning, and peace. In giving part of ourselves to this music, we seem to find answers to our own personal questions. Our own path becomes increasingly clear. We learn more about who we are and what our purpose is.

This week, we feature three of David’s compositions (of which there are literally dozens to choose from) that have the special quality of “seeking” or “searching” for something: The Seeker, Desert Roads, and Unending Stream of Life.

The Seeker

From David’s Program Note:

In Buddhist tradition, the bodhisattvas are the seekers after enlightenment. It can be said that we are all seekers on this path, the path of self-understanding, of the heart of compassion, of caring for the world.

The bodhisattvas are put forward as models for our own seeking:

Avalokiteshvara: The way of listening in order to relieve the suffering in the world.
Manjushri: The way of being still and looking deeply into the heart of things and people.
Samantabhadra: The way of acting with the eyes and heart of compassion.
Ksitigarbha: The way of being present where there is darkness, suffering, oppression, and despair.
Sadāparibhūta: The way of never disparaging or underestimating any living being.

The Seeker is subtitled “a symphonic movement.” It opens with a slow melody that feels like an Appalachian folk song. It transitions suddenly and sharply into the main body of the work, an energetic and exuberant romp at a very speedy tempo. The opening melody returns in the context of a chorale, my recomposition of Christe, der du bist der Tag und Licht (Christ, you who are day and light) from the 371 four-part chorales of Bach. The movement concludes with a partial recap of the fast music and a very brief coda.

Watch below as Stephen Bolstad leads the James Madison University Wind Symphony in a spectacular performance of this work.

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Desert Roads

From David’s Program Note:

The title “Desert Roads” suggests an interior journey, a time of searching, of not knowing, of creative incubation.

I have chosen to call these four movements “songs” for clarinet and wind ensemble. This connects them directly to the Romantic idea of “songs without words.” They are intimate rather than symphonic expressions. Songs by Schubert, Schumann, and Brahms are some of my favorite music.

I. Desert Roads: Christ’s 40 days in the desert – Moses and Israel: 40 years in the desert – a time of inner searching.

II. Soliloquy – Not Knowing: A brief movement, looking deeply and fervently for guidance.

III. Coming Home: A “life journey” movement, both delicate and forceful, thoughtful and exuberant – a quiet coming home to rest – dedicated to the memory of Frederick Fennell, father of the modern wind ensemble movement, whose mentoring and friendship set me firmly on my path of writing for winds.

IV. Pray for Tender Voices in the Darkness: A sober contemplation of death – a benediction.

Watch below as Emily Threinen leads Ricardo Morales and The Temple University Wind Symphony in a breathtaking rendition of Movement I, “Desert Roads.”

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Unending Stream of Life

From David’s Program Note:

Scott Bersaglia, conductor of the Sacred Winds Ensemble, asked me to write a piece in honor of the tenth anniversary of the group. This commission reads: “The new work will be a minimum of five minutes in duration…oriented around a sacred theme to be chosen by the composer.” Scott offered me a selection of hymn tunes, and All Creatures of Our God and King just stood out above all the others. It is a good tune and it inspired a whole lot of musical thought in me. The result is a good deal longer than five minutes! It is a set of seven “songs” for wind ensemble, each embodying the original tune, or relating to it in some way. This old melody, All Creatures of Our God and King, is large in spirit, and the harmonization by Ralph Vaughn Williams, which I have adopted in the Overture, is full-bodied and wonderfully satisfying.

All things of light are paralleled and powered by an element of darkness, and my variations, particularly two through five, probe in that direction. Darkness here means awareness of a deep mystery in the universe, and of the struggles that all endure in this life.

The title, “Unending Stream of Life,” comes from the Vietnamese Buddhist monk and prolific author on Buddhist subjects, Thich Nhat Hanh. One statement of his stayed with me throughout the composition of this piece: “We are life. We are inextinguishable!”

Watch below as Stephen Steele leads the Illinois State University Symphonic Winds in a beautiful interpretation of Movement II, “Seeking.”

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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