Maslanka Weekly: Best of the Web – No. 53, Wounds

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

Many of us come and keep coming back to the music of David Maslanka because his music seems to embrace the pain of the world in a visceral yet deeply personal way. And yet through all the grief in the music, the way in which David’s themes are transformed often leave us on the brim of emotional ecstasy. The themes of melancholy, fear, and depression are turned into themes of hope, peace, and joy. This is part of the healing power of music as David understood it: “Music is specifically healing. I know that I am alive today, and essentially well, because of it. Healing through music is not always miraculous in the instantaneous sense, although a powerful musical experience can change a life in an instant. I have experienced this myself, and seen it happen to others. Music’s healing power is most often a life-long process, which is finally no less miraculous!”

I often remind myself that without rain there can be no rainbows. In a sense, without wounds there can be no healing. Because David’s music offers so much in the way of restoring, mending, and healing, there are also deep wounds in the music that need to be discovered, diagnosed, cared for, and finally nursed back to health. And like a broken bone usually grows back stronger than before, so to can wounds of the heart and soul be healed to the point where the capacity to feel love, joy, hope, and peace has increased. We experience a real catharsis. Like the earth in David’s Symphony No. 4, the joy is overwhelming. We are left to “shout praises of thanksgiving.” The welling-up of our feelings cannot be denied.

This week we feature three of David’s works that specifically refer to “wounds” of some kind: First Light, “Chorale – ‘O Sacred Head Now Wounded'” from Hosannas, and “Unforgettable Wounds” from David’s Book.

First Light

From David’s Program Note:

First Light has two characters. They are marked in the musical score as “unforgettable wounds – darkness,” and “perseverance – first light.” It has been my long personal experience that no real change, no transformation, occurs without crisis. We don’t move if we don’t have to. This is as true on the societal and environmental levels as it is on the personal. We are facing huge crises in our society and in our world, with every aspect of human darkness rising to the surface. It is my faith that we, with imagination, work, and perseverance, are at the edge of a profound transformation – a movement into light.

Watch below as Ray E. Cramer leads the Musashino Academia Musicae Wind Ensemble in an amazing live performance of this work.

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Hosannas – III. Chorale – “O Sacred Head Now Wounded”

From David’s Program Note:

Hosanna – a shout of praise.

The psychologist Carl Jung has described the first half of life as devoted to the establishment of self and of place in the world, and the second half as the journey towards God. Once past the age of 70, which Gary and I both are, this focus becomes intent. With it comes an attitude of surprise, acceptance and praise – the shout of praise – for all that is. Everything is divine, and it is our clear, sharp intention to bring this understanding to the generations coming up behind us. It is my pleasure and honor to offer this music to my friend, Gary Green, as he moves onward in his music making, teaching, and mentoring – his service to the world.

This music shows once again my long-time engagement with J.S. Bach’s 371 Four-Part Chorales. I have been singing these pieces almost daily for nearly 25 years, and composing my own chorales in the old style. The practice has become an ever deepening meditative prayer. The melodies and titles are certainly Christian in origin, yet I have come to see and feel them as a deep expression of a common humanity, transcending origin and label. Their attitudes in this composition are centered and quiet, opening the space for self reflection and the voice of praise.

Chorale melodies are the basis for the first, third, and fifth movements:

You are three in one
O Sacred Head now wounded
Jesus, You, who have rescued my soul

The final movement of Hosannas is a transcription of my 1988 composition A Litany for Courage and the Seasons. The original was for SATB chorus, clarinet, and vibraphone. The poem is by my long-time friend, Richard Beale.

Watch below as Catherine A. Rand leads the Univiversity of Southern Mississippi Wind Ensemble in a stellar performance of Movement III, “Chorale – ‘O Sacred Head Now Wounded.'”

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David’s Book – IV. Unforgettable Wounds

From David’s Program Note:

The word “book” gives the feeling of a larger collection of material, something extensive and varied, and something that may have a story to tell. And there are two Davids involved, myself and David Collier, for whom this piece was written.

Because of my longtime and persistent use of chorale melodies, it has been suggested that I am somehow proselytizing for the Christian faith. This is not the case. My attraction to these melodies is that they are the product of countless generations of human seeding, and have about them an aura of depth and power.

They invariably unlock something unknown and powerful in my imagination. That they have overtones of spirit (fundamentals as well) is not a bad thing. Music is about spirit, and about finding one’s connection to a “bigger” self and to universals. If it didn’t do this, we would find something that did. Every path to spirit is a good path, whatever the label.

The story told by the movement titles is unspoken, and personal to each hearer. The titles are mere hints that can open the mind and heart in different ways.

Watch below as Stephen K. Steele leads David Collier and the Illinois State University Wind Symphony in a marvelous rendering of Movement IV, “Unforgettable Wounds.”

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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

By |2019-06-25T02:46:37+00:0024 June 2019|David's Book, Featured, First Light, Hosannas, Maslanka Weekly|