Wind Orchestra Music

The wind orchestra is my favorite medium. It has the expression of a symphonic-style orchestra, but with the additional versatility of saxophones and euphoniums and without the burden of the prominence of tired, old music. A wind orchestra — also known as a wind ensemble, concert band, symphonic band, or a variety of other combinations — is much more than a symphonic orchestra minus strings. Its expanded wind sections and percussion section provide a depth of emotional experience often masked by the multitudes of strings required in a symphonic orchestra.

The wind orchestra is also the medium for which I first began composing. Having participated in bands for about 14 years, its sound and style is that which is most familiar to me. I began with a transcription and an arrangement, both of which were performed by the J. P. Taravella High School bands in 2004, and I continue to write original work for it, which I have not yet published.

The works on this page are in rough chronological order, and some are works in progress. Enjoy!

Fuga IV, from The Well-Tempered Clavier, Book I

(J. S. Bach)

Full Band

Story: one day — must have been January 19th, 2002 — I went with some friends to a nearly empty cheap theater to see The Man Who Wasn't There. I hung out with film people in high school (this was senior year). Anyway, the second movement of Beethoven's Piano Sonata No. 8 "Pathetique" played several times. I got home and immediately listened to it, as well as some piano music my girlfriend at the time had played for me before. Next day, I decided to learn to play this on the piano, and two weeks later I could play the piece moderately well. Well, it's an easy piece. I found all my sheet music on websites offering it for free, and since I'd read (some of) Godel, Escher, Bach, I figured Bach's music is probably pretty cool. I was right. I learned some of his 2-part and 3-part Inventions (some of each one, I mean — like, the right hand of 2-part No. 12, both parts separately of No. 14, etc.), and also printed some of the Well-Tempered Clavier. I started playing those in order (skipping the C# major fugue), and when I got to the C# minor 5-part fugue, I really liked it. Problem was, as you've probably noticed, I wasn't a very good pianist, so I could never play it very well. And I kept fantasizing about a wind ensemble playing it, like I fantasized about a wind ensemble playing, say, the Star Fox 64 ending theme. Well, about a week before going to college for sophomore year (September 2003), I decided that, hey, let's transcribe this thing NOW. So I got myself a music notation program and, over the course of that week, transcribed the fugue.

That's not exactly what you'll hear here, however — I've edited it, in recognition that this was my first "composition" ever and therefore I'd made some mistakes in orchestration. The piece was played by my high school band that year along with Aleinu March. Keep in mind that Kontakt doesn't like suspended cymbals (NOTE: it actually does, but I haven't rerecorded this piece to reflect that), and while the patches generally sound pretty good, they're sometimes very unbalanced. A timpani low A, for example, is much louder than a mid-staff D for some reason, and the tuba is MUCH louder than, say, the trombone. Also, this fugue is in C minor instead of C# minor because unlike the keyboard, the band isn't well-tempered and would lose its temper if it had to play in four sharps (seven for Eb instruments — yeah).

Aside from non-pitched percussion, this transcription is a faithful one: no notes have been altered. Some have had their octaves changed or doubled, but this is OK: imagine Bach improvising on the organ. Here I treat the wind ensemble like an organ, with changing stops. The instruments I use are the stops Bach pulls, and as it was not unusual for stops to also sound at the 8ve and the 15me, or even to have a glockenspiel, I do the same. One cannot say that this transcription is not in the spirit of Bach, save for the non-pitched percussion and the key difference. But hey, Bach uses the same chorale three times in different keys (with different words) in his St. Matthew's Passion. So he'll just have to live — or stay dead, I guess — with the C minor.

Listen to Fuga IV, from The Well-Tempered Clavier, Book I

Aleinu – March

Full Band

Aleinu is my second composition for band, composed in the spring of 2004 for my old high school to play. I suppose it's really an arrangement rather than a composition, which is a step up from my first "composition", which was a transcription. The themes are all from Jewish liturgy; the introduction and first strain are Aleinu, the second strain is a dominant version of the Shema, and the trio is Shalom Aleichem. There are some other quotes thrown in as well. This is indeed a march, my first ever, and although it's a bit long, it follows more or less the customary march form. You may wonder at the appropriateness of the themes I chose for a march, especially Shalom Aleichem. Well, many years before I ever composed anything, I had noticed that Aleinu was distinctly march-like. This was one of those things I always wanted to write, and one of the reasons I started writing in the first place. I had also planned it way before actually notating it, which isn't something I do much these days, and I knew I wanted to have Shalom Aleichem, a beautiful and slow hymn, with fast things going on underneath it, so I figured this would be great for a trio. Needless to say, I really liked the result.

Then I took Music 51, and coming back a few years later, I noticed a lot of things I could have done better. So I did them better, and here it is, improved from the original version, the Aleinu march.

Listen to Aleinu – March

Dunth Valsante

Full Band

Dunth Valsante is my third finished piece, composed in June of 2004, and it's just a light waltz. That's all it is, a light, fun waltz. It's somewhat Brazilian, though, and the first time through the trio, I tried to write a chorinho. I tried but failed, because a chorinho would be traditionally played by a flute and guitar, and the band doesn't have a guitar (nor did I want to add one just for this). So instead, I pretended that the clarinet section was a guitar, and I treated it accordingly. Hehehe.

"What is a dunth?" you may ask. A dunth is a word that has no rhymes. Month was a dunth before dunth, so dunth undunthes month. It's very simple. You can visit the Project Dunth page as well (which surprisingly is still on the internet despite the downfall of Geocities). Spread the word. Listen to the piece.

Just a word of warning, there are some recording issues due to old versions of Sibelius being unable to properly deal with certain tempo changes consistently. This is an artifact of the techniques I had available at the time; if I make a new recording of this, it will not have these issues.

Listen to Dunth Valsante

Mystic Gate Suite

Full Band

This was my first "long" composition project — it's twenty-five minutes long, with twelve or so movements, depending on how you count them. It is a suite from the game "Mystic Gate", which has not ever nor will ever be written (at least not to my knowledge). Think of it as a symphonic version of the soundtrack. It contains many musical scenes from the game, an SNES RPG like Chrono Trigger or Final Fantasy III/6j, and somewhere or another there is a gate which is closed after the final boss. This is all in the "program". Of course, this is not actually an SNES RPG soundtrack; it's a long work native for band. But it's cool. You can also pick out influences, if you're clever — In Town sounds not unlike a Japanese march, more specifically one of the town themes from FF8, and if the waltz in the Finale resembles the Waltz to the Moon, also from FF8, that is no coincidence. Danger and Battle may remind you of FF5, perhaps, and the Fanfare may remind you of Donkey Kong Country, which is where I got the idea to even have a fanfare (like the blinking Nintendo logo in Mario games). And that little clarinet and flute run in the Overture is very... videogamey, no? The drums in the Battle? Enjoy; I worked my ass off for this one.

Remember, of course, that this is a crappy "recording", so the balance will be off, crescendi and diminuendi won't sound right, and that weird-sounding strident modified English horn is actually a soprano saxophone (damn Kontakt Player for not including one).

Listen to Mystic Gate Suite – I – Fanfare Listen to Mystic Gate Suite – II – Overture Listen to Mystic Gate Suite – III – Danger Listen to Mystic Gate Suite – IV – In Town Listen to Mystic Gate Suite – V – Love Listen to Mystic Gate Suite – VI – Battle Listen to Mystic Gate Suite – VII – Dungeon Listen to Mystic Gate Suite – VIII – Overworld Listen to Mystic Gate Suite – IX – Dark Tower Listen to Mystic Gate Suite – X – Final Battle Listen to Mystic Gate Suite – XIa – Finale Listen to Mystic Gate Suite – XIb – Credits

The One-Armed Tailor

Full Band

This is a Jewish-American wind ensemble composition, finished July 16, 2006. It was inspired by "Tevye the Dairyman", a collection of short stories by Sholom Aleichem; the title is some image Tevye used somewhere (I don't remember where). I did analyze much of Jerry Bock's "Fiddler on the Roof" score, so there are some stylistic similarities, but I also listened to other Jewish music. There is a very extended clarinet solo. It's cool. As I said, it's for wind ensemble, though I'm in the habit of including a prominent string bass part. The scale I used mostly is an interesting one, familiar to all Jews of the Eastern European tradition: phrygian with raised third, also known as Ahavah Rabbah. I say phrygian because the second step functions very much like a phrygian second, and bII holds almost a dominant position to I. Interestingly, substituting a raised fourth for the fifth in bII makes a tritone with an interesting resolution; in the key of C, this is Db F G to C E G. It's a pretty characteristic sound in Spanish music as well.

This piece is ideal for a band who wants to show off its clarinetist, but it isn't a concerto or anything. I'd say it's near the borderline, though not on it or past it. The reason, of course, is the very prominent role of the clarinet in klezmer music. Kontakt Player actually has a decent clarinet patch; the high notes sound like they would on a clarinet: squeaky. However, the recording doesn't capture ad libs at all -- obviously. Local variations in tempo by the soloist, lip bends (there should be no other kind in this piece), and the like would sound better in real life. Still, here you go. (:

Listen to The One-Armed Tailor

Symphony No. 1

Full Band

Here it is: a symphony. Well, part of a symphony: I've only written the first three movements, but I am working on the fourth. I drew inspiration from various composers; I want to say Persichetti (Symphony No. 6) and Sparke (Dance Movements), but also Shostakovich (Symphony No. 5) and Ito ("La Vita" Symphony). The first movement is in traditional syphonic sonata form, though the tempo varies a bit, and it's not really in any key: I don't use traditional chord functions much, so you could call it mostly atonal, but in reality that's not very descriptive. I had originally intended this to be a piece in Bb lydian — I was really going to call it Lemonade River; I may still write one — hence the first measure, but by measure 4 or so it became clear that this wasn't happening, so I figured now would be a good time as any to write my first symphony. Around measure 5, which is in 7/4 rather than the intro 5/4, I decided not to be confined by time signatures, so you will never hear more than two measures in a row in the same time signature except for four bars of 5/4 a couple of times. Time signatures are constraining, because they have their own pattern of accents that the music has to agree with. Here, I let the music dictate the time signature instead of the reverse, which means that the music's natural accents indicate each new measure rather than the other way around. When I feel like it I'll do a statistical analysis of the time signatures, but they range from 2/4 to a case of 8/4, with 3, 4, and 5 being rather frequent, 2 and 6 less so, and 7 even less so. That's because 7 feels like a run-on — if there were a secondary emphasis, the measure would have been broken. The second movement continues the principle of changing time signatures, but since the tempo is much slower, fractional beats abound -- 3/8, 5/8, 7/8, and even a 9/8 or two, sometimes using compound meter but usually just having one beat longer than the others. The third movement uses multiples of 3/8 exclusively, in the same manner as before, and is in a general A B A form with a section in the middle where the strong beat becomes every 6 beats instead of every 3. Anyway, have a listen. I have yet to compose the final movement, but be patient!

Listen to Symphony No. 1 – I Listen to Symphony No. 1 – II Listen to Symphony No. 1 – III

To Sepharad

Full Band

Since To Sepharad was originally written for a brass octet (and you can find a better description of the music and meaning on the brass page), and the brass octet is a fairly large ensemble, I decided that the piece would be appropriate for transcription to a larger ensemble, with percussion. The chimes are now actual chimes in the third movement. I changed the octaves of several things — trombone solos became Eb clarinet solos, two octaves higher, for example — and I played around with instrumental color, especially in the second movement. These are not new movements, but they do have a new flavor.

Listen to To Sepharad – I – The Nagid Listen to To Sepharad – II – Ramban Listen to To Sepharad – III – Abravanel

The Mask of the Elven King

Full Band

After the success of Mystic Gate, I wanted to write another videogame suite. I started this in the summer of 2005 and haven't worked on it much since the winter following, so movements will come up as I write them, eventually. This "game" is more like Secret of Mana, or even Zelda, than like Chrono Trigger, and the name comes from Alex Ellis, who came up with it when I saw him on the street. The four-note fanfare-like theme at the beginning of the overture (II) is based on the melody that came through my head when I was reading the name of the creator god, Iluvatar, in the Silmarillion. The movements this time are more terrain-based.

Listen to The Mask of the Elven King – I – Introduction Listen to The Mask of the Elven King – II – Overture Listen to The Mask of the Elven King – III – Forest Listen to The Mask of the Elven King – IV – Cavern Listen to The Mask of the Elven King – V – Mountain Listen to The Mask of the Elven King – VI – The Earth Shard


Full Band

The Birkat Hamazon, the grace after meals, has a very fun traditional melody (which apparently dates to 80 years ago or so), so I decided to set it for band. On Shabbat and festivals, the Birkat Hamazon is preceded by Psalm 126, labeled (like many others in that section of the Tanach) "Shir Hamaalot", or "Song of Ascents", where the meaning of "ascents", according to my JPS Jewish Study Bible, is unclear and possibly refers to steps of the temple or something similar. Here, then, I have set this Song of Ascents for wind orchestra, with an attempt to emulate, to some extent, Percy Grainger. The Birkat proper, the Blessings Over the Meal, follows, also emulating Grainger to some extent (much like the Irish Tune/Shepherd's Hey pairing), but it's obviously much longer. The melodies are all traditional (the Shabbat paragraph is taken from the Chabad website — the melody is from a song called Hoshia et Amecha, sung on Sukkot), and while making the chanted stuff less boring was a challenge, I think it was well met. I took some liberties with tempi and harmonies — obviously — so it ended up upbeat and fun, with an exhilarating ending (it's my piece; I get to use the stupid buzzwords I want to use). If you're adventurous, you could play your school's fight song after the piece!

Listen to Grace – I – Song of Ascents Listen to Grace – II – Blessings Over the Meal
Mauro Cutz Braunstein 2012. Contact: (Return home)