Maslanka Weekly: Best of the Web – No. 13, Stars

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

In his article from the Huffington Post on November 20, 2014, astrophysicist Mario Livio explains the intrigue humans have had with stars since the times of antiquity. He explains, “Humans have been fascinated by stars – those luminous points of light embedded in the night’s darkness – for millennia. Long before any understanding of their scientific significance emerged, the stars’ association with the heavens has turned them into symbols of the warfare between light, or spirit, and darkness, or material forces. The five-pointed star (the pentagram) in particular, with its symbolic representation of the twinkling of stars, has become an icon of the human microcosm.”

In his musical canon, David Maslanka has used the word “star” or “stars” in naming many of his works or movements within a larger work. While we may never know the specific meaning David had in mind, (he certainly left us with a lot of ideas!), the frequency with which David used the image or symbol of the star is nevertheless intriguing. This week, we look at three compositions that use this image: O Earth, O Stars, This is the World, and Concerto for Alto Saxophone and Wind Ensemble.

O Earth, O Stars

O Earth, O Stars is a double concerto for flute and cello. Maslanka says, “The music can stand on its own without any programmatic references, but I am strongly drawn to certain images and depths that are touched when the music relates to these images. Over the years I have been especially concerned with music that has grown out of the old Chorale melodies. The connections made between image or idea and music are complex. They resonate deeply and are not confined to a single set of interpretations. The six movements of this concerto, with chorales on either end, and one in the middle, give the impression of a Baroque cantata. The story being told is one you find for yourself.” Watch below as Kevin L. Sedatole leads Richard Sherman (Flute), Suren Bagratuni (Cello), and the Michigan State University Wind Symphony in a masterful performance of this work.

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This is the World, Movement IV, “The Closer You Get, The Stranger The Stars”

Maslanka says, “This is the World is a set of largely interior tone poems for a two-piano, two-percussion ensemble. The music is spacious and patient, with simple rhythms, slow harmonies, expansive and touching melodies, and moments of ferocity, whimsy, and grandeur. Although old-time Chorale melodies play an important role in this music, the Nighthawks painting of Edward Hopper is foundational to the whole piece. This painting from 1942 touches something enduring about the American heart and experience, specifically an element of darkness, estrangement, and waiting which I wish to see brought forward and transformed in our time. We are at the cusp of enormous change.” Watch below as Karen Beres & Christopher Hahn (Piano) and Lance Drege & David Steffens (Percussion) give a sensational performance of Movement IV, “The Closer You Get, The Stranger The Stars.”

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Concerto for Alto Saxophone and Wind Ensemble, Movement II, Interlude: “Bright Window, Your Night is Full of Stars”

“Bright Window” is the soprano song right before the Credo in Maslanka’s Mass. According to Maslanka, “I have transcribed (‘Bright Window’) as a beautiful song for the solo saxophone. The words of the original song reach out in prayer to the Holy Mother and ask for a personal connection with all that is. This music is dedicated to the memory of Joseph Christensen, Director of Bands at Iowa State University, whose untimely death was a shock to his many friends.” Watch below as Larry Gookin leads Adam Pelandini and the Central Washington University Wind Ensemble in a heartfelt performance of this movement.

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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