Composed: 2014 Duration: 8 mins.
Instrumentation: Concert Band Repertoire
ISMN: 979-0-720137-20-9 Catalogue: RM1079
Level: D Country: Australia
Premiered by Barry Cockcroft at the International Saxophone Symposium 2011 with the United States Navy Band. A piano reduction of this work is also available.
A Hoe Down is a fast dance related to the jig and reel.Traditionally there is a virtuosic display of footwork, where a succession of dancers each attempt to outdo the previous dancers. If the last dancer was the best one then the audience would cheer wildly.
This work is now available as a free digital download.
The music for these demanding dances is usually performed by virtuosic fiddle players. Using this display of competitiveness as a basis for the composition, Blow Down offers a chance for the woodwind section to display some of their own virtuosity through fluent finger technique and rapid staccato tonguing.
In keeping with the competitive nature of the dance, the brass section must try to outdo the woodwind by playing an expressive chorale with bold tone and elegant phrasing.The piece finishes with a triumphant romp with all instruments playing at their best and all themes being played simultaneously. Who is the winner?
Thaddeus Kosciuszko was an outstanding military commander and strategist who fought for freedom not only in his native Poland against the Russians in the late 18th Century, but also in his adopted America during the War of Independence. To this day he is considered a Polish national hero and the fondness for which he is held in the United States is evident in Mississippi’s city and Indiana’s county that share his name. In 1840 Paul Strezlecki, the Polish-born explorer who first climbed the Australia Alps named its highest peak, Mount Kosciuszko.
This composition reflects three aspects of the life of Kosciuszko. After some plaintive themes reminiscent of Polish folk tunes, the first section represents Kosciuszko’s battle for freedom in his native homeland against the Russians and Prussians. The music reflects the chaos of war and the clash of tonality helps to represent the mayhem of battle. Kosciuszko led his troops to numerous victories during this campaign and there are moments in the score where uplifting major tonalities represent the joy of victory. Unfortunately for Kosciuszko he was seriously wounded towards the end of the war and was held prisoner by the Russians. His release was conditional on him not returning to his homeland, Poland. The solemn and mournful solo off-stage trumpet call at the end of the first section reflects both the tragedy of war and the circumstances faced by Kosciuszko at the end of this campaign.
The second section of the work represents Kosciuszko’s American experience. The music is open, free and hopeful, representing the ‘New World’. Kosciuszko served with distinction in Washington’s army and was instrumental in the success of many battles including the blockade of Charleston and the victory at Saratoga. As he was in Poland, Kosciuszko was a tireless defender of freedom in America and he used his military knowledge and skills to fight oppression.
The final section of the work is a ‘climb to the summit’ making direct reference to the journey undertaken by thousands of tourists each year when they endeavour to climb Australia’s highest peak. The music gradually intensifies as the journey nears its end and there is an explosion of joy and exhilaration as the summit is reached. While this section refers directly to Australia’s Mount Kosciuszko, the themes of struggle, striving and toil could easily represent the life of Thaddeus Kosciuszko and his endless dedication to the fight for human liberty and freedom.
Performed live by Caulfield Grammar School Symphonic band. Directed by Simon Brown.
Performed by the Grainger Wind Symphony
“Vanguard” was commissioned in 2006 by Caulfield Grammar School for their Symphonic Band, Simon Brown director. It was used on their overseas tour as a concert opener, and for this reason it displays all the energy and flamboyance of a fanfare. The word vanguard refers to an advance group, like trail blazers, and should convey an attitude of confidence and enthusiasm to any audience.
The opening two note patterns should define this feeling very strongly. They expand into a passage full of energy, which in turn prepares the listener for the main melody which follows. After the band reaches a climax, several short soloists lead to a more relaxed version of the tune, which in turn dies away to a slow, reflective middle section. A solo clarinet is soon joined by the rest of the band, who rise and fall back to the original two note pattern. Distant drums herald a build up to the return of the opening music, which is let loose all over again, but this time with a powerful rendition of the melody from the middle section of the work. The final bars of “Vanguard” should epitomize all that a fanfare needs to be: exciting, thrilling and fun to play.
Performed live by Grainger Wind Symphony
The title of this piece refers to the height at which spacecraft orbit the Earth, and by extension what the planet looks like from up there. Pictures of Earth taken from space certainly conjure feelings of majestic elation to my mind and I have attempted to capture that feeling in this piece of music. 300 Kilometres Above was written as a companion piece to 90 Minutes Circling the Earth, which I wrote around 10 years earlier. I think the two pieces have something on common despite being written a decade apart. This newer meditation was commissioned by Reed Music with assistance from the Music Board of the Australia Council for the Arts.
Performed live at Melba Hall by Grainger Wind Symphony
I have long been a fan of Warner Brothers cartoons and their music scores from the golden age of the 1950s and 60s. To the Rescue! is my response to an imagined cartoon-like scenario of a rescue with lots of hair-brained schemes, much ridiculous activity but little actual rescuing.
Musically, the piece is full of animated running semiquaver passages, replete with percussion effects straight out of cartoon-scores and lively, exaggerated pastiche elements. In the dying stages of the piece, the full forces of the concert band finally come together as one, and perhaps in a concerted last-ditch effort, a serious rescue attempt is indeed mustered! PS
Performed live by Grainger Wind Symphony
Computer generated sounds permeate most Australians’ lives on a daily basis. Our ears are filled with the hum of computer fans, the click of computer keyboards and software chimes. Many of these sounds, particularly the sound of a dial-up modem, were the starting point for Nett Interference, a short fanfare for Symphonic Wind Band. The piece captures the hustle and bustle of modern life in Australia through its use of relentless and driving percussion parts and manic, hiccupping time changes. Superimposed onto these persistent percussion parts is a low brass theme suggesting, perhaps, that all is not right in this fast and modern world. Taran Carter