Maslanka Weekly: Best of the Web – No. 86, Gary Green
Maslanka Weekly: Best of the Web – No. 86, Gary Green
Maslanka Weekly highlights excellent performances of David Maslanka’s music from around the web.
Gary Green is the former Director of Bands at the University of Miami Frost School of Music. He taught conducting and served as the conductor of the Frost Wind Ensemble. He conducted the Frost Wind Ensemble at Carnegie Hall, and had been invited on numerous occasions to conduct at the prestigious College Band Directors National Association (CBDNA). He served for many years as the chair of the Frost School’s Department of Instrumental Performance.
Green began his career as Director of Bands at University High School in Spokane, Washington, one of the most widely respected band programs in the nation. He was then recruited to the University of Connecticut as conductor of the Symphony Band, Wind Ensemble, and Marching Band, before moving to Miami.
Gary Green is a longtime champion of David’s music. While Director of Bands at the University of Miami Frost School of Music as well as the University of Connecticut, he performed nearly every major piece of David’s and commissioned & recorded several.
This week, we feature three of David’s compositions that Gary Green championed: Symphony No. 8, Symphony No. 4, and Symphony No. 3.
Symphony No. 8 – III. Moderate, Very Fast, Moderate, Very Fast
From David’s Program Note:
Symphony No. 8 is in three distinct movements, bur the musical layout suggests a single large-scale panoramic vista.
I began the composition process for this symphony with meditation, and was shown scenes of widespread devastation. But this music is not about the surface of our world problems. It is a response to a much deeper vital creative flow which is forcefully at work, and which will carry us through our age of crisis. This music is a celebration of life. It is about new life, continuity from the past to the future, great hope, great faith, joy, ecstatic vision, and fierce determination.
The old is continually present in the new. The first movement touches the “Gloria” from my Mass: “Glory to God in the highest,” whatever that may mean to you: the power of the universe made manifest to us and through us.
Watch below as Gary Green leads the Michigan State Wind Symphony in a thrilling performance of Movement III.
The sources that give rise to a piece of music are many and deep. It is possible to describe the technical aspects of a work – its construction principles, its orchestration – but nearly impossible to write of its soul nature except through hints and suggestions.
The roots of Symphony No. 4 are many. The central driving force is the spontaneous rise of the impulse to shout for the joy of life. I feel it is the powerful voice of the earth that comes to me from my adopted western Montana, and the high plains and mountains of central Idaho. My personal experience of the voice is one of being helpless and torn open by the power of the thing that wants to be expressed – the welling-up shout that cannot be denied. I am set aquiver and am forced to shout and sing. The response in the voice of the earth is the answering shout of thanksgiving, and the shout of praise.
Out of this, the hymn tune Old Hundred, several other hymn tunes (the Bach chorales Only Trust in God to Guide You and Christ Who Makes Us Holy), and original melodies which are hymn-like in nature, form the backbone of Symphony No. 4.
To explain the presence of these hymns, at least in part, and to hint at the life of the Symphony, I must say something about my long-time fascination with Abraham Lincoln. From Carl Sandburg’s monumental Abraham Lincoln, I offer two quotes. The first is a description of Lincoln in death by his close friend David R. Locke:
“I saw him, or what was mortal of him, in his coffin. The face had an expression of absolute content, or relief, at throwing off a burden such as few men have been called on to bear – a burden which few men could have borne. I have seen the same expression on his living face only a few times, when after a great calamity he had come to great victory. It was the look of a worn man suddenly relieved. Wilkes Booth did Abraham Lincoln the greatest service man could possible do for him – he gave him peace.
The second, referring to the passage through the country from Washington D.C. to Springfield, Illinois of the coffin bearing Lincoln’s body:
To the rotunda of Ohio’s capitol, on a mound of green moss dotted with white flowers, rested the coffin on April 28, while 8,000 persons passed by each hour from 9:30 in the morning till four in the afternoon. In the changing red-gold of a rolling prairie sunset, to the slow exultation of brasses rendering Old Hundred, and the muffled boom of minute guns, the coffin was carried out of the rotunda and taken to the funeral train.
For me, Lincoln’s life and death are as critical today as they were more than a century ago. He remains a model for this age. Lincoln maintained in his person the tremendous struggle of opposites raging in the country in his time. He was inwardly open to the boiling chaos, out of which he forged the framework of a new unifying idea. It wore him down and killed him, as it wore and killed the hundreds of thousands of soldiers in the civil war, as it has continued to wear and kill by the millions up to the present day. Confirmed in the world by Lincoln was the unshakable idea of the unity of the human race, and by extension the unity of all life, and by further extension, the unity of all life with all matter, with all energy, and with the silent and seemingly empty and unfathomable mystery of our origins.
Out of chaos and the fierce joining of opposite comes new life and hope. From this impulse I used Old Hundred, known as the Doxology – a hymn of praise to God; Praise God from Whom all Blessings Flow; Gloria in excelsis Deo – the mid-sixteenth century setting of Psalm 100. Psalm 100 reads in part:
Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all ye lands.
Serve the Lord with gladness: come before his presence with singing.
Enter into his gates with thanksgiving and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name.
I have used Christian symbols because they are my cultural heritage, but I have tried to move through them to a depth of universal humanness, to an awareness that is not defined by religious label. My impulse through this music is to speak to the fundamental human issues of transformation and re-birth in this chaotic time.
Watch below as Gary Green leads the 2010-2011 Texas Music Educators Association All-State 5A Symphonic Band in an fantastic performance of the entire symphony.
Symphony No. 3 was commissioned by the University of Connecticut Wind Ensemble, Gary Green, conductor. I was asked to write a “major” piece yet not necessarily one as big as this. It is hard to say why a given music emerges at a given time. In my composing life there have been “sign-post” pieces – large works that have erupted at fairly regular, though unpredictable, intervals. The impetus for this piece was in part my leaving university life a year ago and moving from New York City to the Rocky Mountains of western Montana. The mountains and the sky are a living presence. Animal and Indian spirits still echo strongly in this land, and these elements have found their way into my music…
…The fourth and fifth movements are both lamentations, though not particularly slow or “down” in spirit. It is hard to describe opposites existing in the same space and time. The music is joyous yet sorrowful, recognizing the complementary nature of life and death. These movements – indeed the entire Symphony – have grown out of my perceptions of natural forces, especially the strong currents of old life that exist here in Montana. The music is a lamentation for the loss of the old direct contact with the life of the Earth, yet a recognition that these value still exist and can be brought back into meaningful focus.
The fourth movement does not have an easily-labeled traditional form. The music moves through a series of song-like episodes, much as one might move through mountain meadows and across hills, natural vistas of great beauty appearing and dissolving as one goes. About two-thirds of the way through is the song of the “Golden Light.”
Watch below as Gary Green leads the University of Miami Frost Wind Ensemble in an exquisite rendering of Movement I.