Instrumentation: Band (grade 3/youth band)
Piccolo, 2 Flutes, Oboe (div.), 3 Bb Clarinets, Bb Bass Clarinet, Bassoon (div.), 2 Eb Alto Saxophones, Bb Tenor Saxophone, Eb Baritone Saxophone, 3 Bb Trumpets, 2 F Horns, 3 Trombones, Euphonium (div.), Tuba (div.), Timpani, 6 Percussion
Premiere: April 26, 2012 :: 7:30pm :: Cedar Springs High School Symphonic Band :: Cedar Springs High School Auditorium :: Cedar Springs, MI
Purchasing: Murphy Music Press
I don’t normally like to begin program notes with dictionary definitions—it feels pretty stuffy to me—but it seemed appropriate for this piece, so here goes…
thunk [thuhngk] noun & verb
1. [n.] an abrupt, flat, hollow sound (example: The book landed on the floor with a thunk.); synonym: thud
2. [v.] to produce an abrupt, flat, hollow sound
3. [v.] colloquial past tense and past participle of think.
Melodious Thunk was inspired by the famous jazz pianist Thelonious Monk. Monk’s wife, Nellie Smith, nicknamed him “Melodious Thunk” because of his clunky, awkward, and brilliant(!) piano playing, and his, somewhat scatterbrained and disoriented nature. I really liked the idea of playing around with Monk’s name—first, because I personally really enjoy goofing around with “spoonerisms” (silly, ridiculous, mix-and-match letter games, which often happen by accident: for example, slip of the tongue becomes tip of the slung), and, second, because this nickname actually provided great musical inspiration. Melodious—well, that’s fairly obvious—and thunk (which is a great onomatopoeia!) became the starting points for the piece. Big, fat thunks are interspersed with pointy, clunky, bluesy blips, which are then transformed into a long, smooth, laid-back melody accompanied by a funky bass line. I haven’t consciously borrowed any specific tunes or licks from Monk, although I do use a small fragment of Dizzy Gillespie’s tune Salt Peanuts, but I hope you’ll hear some similarities between this piece and Monk’s iconic musical style and quirky attitude.
Melodious Thunk was commissioned by a consortium of bands organized by Ryan Shaw and the Cedar Springs High School Symphonic Band, including:
- Birmingham Seaholm High School (MI) — Timothy Cibor
- Bloomfield Hills Andover High School (MI) — Robert Ambrose
- Bloomfield Hills International Academy (MI) — Robert Ash
- Cedar Springs High School (MI) — Ryan Shaw
- Clarkston High School (MI)— Michael Lewis
- Dakota High School (MI) — Risa Hsu
- Grand Ledge High School (MI)— Christopher Blackmer
- Novi High School (MI) — Mark P. Hourigan
- Waterford Kettering High School (MI) — R. Scott Adkins
- Wisconsin Lutheran College (WI) — Terry S. Treuden
Instrumentation: Winds and Percussion (grade 5)
Piccolo, 2 Flutes, 2 Oboes, 3 Clarinets, Bass Clarinet, 2 Bassoons, Contrabassoon, 2 Alto Saxophones, Tenor Saxophone, Baritone Saxophone, 3 Trumpets, 4 Horns, 2 Tenor Trombones, Bass Trombone, Euphonium (div.), Tuba (div.), Double Bass, Timpani, 4 Percussion
Duration: ca. 5:00
Premiere: October 13, 2009 :: Central Michigan University Symphonic Wind Ensemble, John Williamson, conductor :: Mount Pleasant, MI
Purchasing: Murphy Music Press
The title, Stomp, refers to a heavy, syncopated dance with some serious attitude—picture a Saturday night jam session—in a barn—featuring a crazed country fiddle band and Jelly Roll Morton’s Red Hot Peppers.
Instrumentation: Band/Winds and Percussion (grade 4)
Piccolo, 2 Flutes, Oboe (div.), 3 Bb Clarinets, Bass Clarinet, 2 Bassoons, 2 Eb Alto Saxophones, Bb Tenor Saxophone, Eb Baritone Saxophone, 3 Bb Trumpets, 4 Horns in F, 3 Trombones, Euphonium (div.), Tuba (div.), Timpani, 4 Percussion
Duration: ca. 6:30
Premiere: March 15, 2009 :: 2009 National Lutheran Honor Band Festival, Tom O’Neal, conductor :: Milwaukee, WI
Download Bach chorale setting of Breath Forth, O Beauteous Heavenly Light (PDF, score and parts) for winds.
Luminescence is based on fragments from the melody Break Forth O Beauteous Heavenly Light, which was written by Johann Schop (ca. 1590–1664) and subsequently harmonized in several settings by Johann Sebastian Bach*. A wind arrangement of the Bach harmonization is available here. (It may enrich the overall musical experience, both for the ensemble and for the audience, to hear the original chorale before the piece is played.)
Break Forth O Beauteous Heavenly Light was first known as “Ermuntre dich, mein schwacher Geist” (Rouse thyself, my weak spirit), and was published in Lepzig in 1641 in Johann Rist’s Himmlische Lieder (Heavenly or Celestial Songs), where the tune appeared in triple meter along with text by Rist. Johann Sebastian Bach probably found an altered version of the tune in Johann Cruger’s Praxis Pietatis Melica (1647) and subsequently harmonized it in various settings. This particular setting is from the second cantata of his Christmas Oratorio from 1737.
The original melody had a different character in its original form, as it was more closely related to Renaissance musical style. By the time Bach harmonized the tune in the 18th century, musical preferences had shifted: the rhythm of the melody was made more consistent, the tempo became slower, and the harmony and counterpoint was more complex. This setting is still sung in modern churches at Christmas and is commonly known as Break Forth O Beauteous Heavenly Light.