Music of Now and Before: Program Notes cover

Music of Now and Before: Program Notes

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Pacific Symphony Youth Wind Ensemble kicks off its milestone 10th anniversary season with works of old and new! Celebrate with PSYWE during Ron Nelson's “Lauds” and bask in the sound of David Maslanka's “Requiem,” both works rooted in antiquity. Look to the future in Mason Bates “Chicago, 2012” from "Alternative Energy," a collaborative work for onstage electroacoustics. The brilliant musicians of PSYWE backed by the mighty William J. Gillespie concert organ are sure to engage and inspire. This performance features a special guest conductor, Pacific Symphony's Music Director Carl St.Clair!
This is Part 1 of the Program Notes for Music of Now and Before. You'll be automatically linked to the next NoteStream at the end.
To learn more about today's Artists, please click here.

To meet PSYWE Music Director Gregory Whitmore, please click here.

To learn more about Music Director Carl St.Clair, click here.

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Music of Now and Before: Program Notes

Music of Now And Before





Ron Nelson (b. 1929) Lauds

Kristen Lawrence

David Maslanka (b. 1943) Requiem


Frank Ticheli (b. 1958) Rest

Carl St.Clair

Mason Bates (b. 1977)

Chicago, 2012 from Alternative Energy

Frank Ticheli Angels in the Architecture

Chelsea Chaves Kristen Lawrence

This afternoon’s performance has been generously sponsored by the William J. Gillespie Foundation.


Ron Nelson (b. 1929 )

A native of Joliet, Ill., Ron Nelson received his bachelor’s, master’s and doctor of musical arts degrees in music at Eastman School of Music in Rochester, N.Y. Attending from 1948 until 1957, he studied composition with several renowned composition teachers including Howard Hanson.

During the course of his education, he received a Fulbright award to study for a year at the Paris Conservatoire. Nelson served as a professor of music at Brown University from 1956 to 1992, serving as chairman of the music department from 1963 to 1973. He has won many prestigious awards and prizes, and has received high praise from esteemed American conductor Leonard Slatkin. He has been particularly interested in East Asian cultures, and many of his compositions display a fascination with Eastern meditation.

Nelson composed Lauds (Praise High Day) in 1991. The piece received its premiere in 1992 in Charlotte, N.C. by the United States Air Force Band, conducted by Lt. Col. Alan L. Bonner.

In the composer’s own words, “Lauds (Praise High Day) is an exuberant, colorful work intended to express feelings of praise and glorification. Lauds is one of the seven canonical hours that were selected by St. Benedict as the times the monks would observe the daily offices.

Three (terce, sext and none) were the times of the changing of the Roman guards and four (matins, lauds, vespers and compline) were tied to nature.

Lauds, subtitled Praise High Day, honors the sunrise; it is filled with the glory and excitement of a new day.”

The piece opens with a brass fanfare of open fifths, with dissonances added gradually. Pulsating with rhythmic energy, short, punchy melodies, irregular meters and ostinato, it is reminiscent of the musical styles of Igor Stravinsky and especially Leonard Bernstein.

Replete with contrasting textures, its sudden juxtapositions highlight different sections of the ensemble. The piece is a study in contrast between consonance and dissonance, exuberance and lyricism.

Sue Rissberger Photography


David Maslanka (b. 1 943 )

David Maslanka studied at New England Conservatory while still in high school. He received his bachelor of music in composition from Oberlin College, and studied conducting at the Mozarteum Institute in Salzburg. He received his Ph.D. in conducting from Michigan State University, has taught in numerous universities and won many awards for his music.

Masalka composes in a largely neo-Romantic, tonal language. He began composing for wind ensemble in 1979; since then, he has been guest conductor at over 100 universities, festivals and conferences. Like Ron Nelson, he has long maintained an interest in meditation, self-hypnosis and spirituality, concepts that have deeply informed his music.

Composed in 2012, Requiem was commissioned by a consortium of ensembles led by the Brooklyn Wind Symphony. The piece was premiered in New York City in 2013. Inspired by World War II, the piece is a meditation on human nature, humanity’s proclivity to violence and the desire to overcome tragedy.

As the composer explains it, the piece is not a Mass (as its title would imply), but “serves a parallel function— the need to lay to rest old things in order to turn the mind and heart toward the new.”

Maslanka sought to use his music to express his hopes for today’s society, which he believes is “in a major transitional time, and that this transition happens first in each of us. My Requiem is both for the unnamed dead of all wars, and for each person making their own inner step, saying goodbye in order to say hello.”

The piece’s opening is reminiscent of Beethoven’s famous “Moonlight” piano sonata. A three-note piano arpeggio ostinato pervades the music’s first section, providing a static, meditative quality. A mood of melancholic, quiet introspection permeates the music, opening to a broad lyricism as the piece alternates between minor and major.

In the second section, a rocking two-note ostinato predominates, with percussion solos interspersed. Deep tones in the piano and low strings hint at an ominous foreboding, while the music slowly grows broader, higher, louder and more dissonant. The music reaches a climax, representing the war’s violence, before the first section is reprieved.

Angels in the Architecture and Rest

Frank Ticheli (b. 1958)

A professor of composition at the USC Thornton School of Music since 1991, Frank Ticheli has composed music in a wide variety of forms and genres. Having spent the earliest part of his childhood in Louisiana, Ticheli now lists cajun, creole, New Orleans jazz and southern folk music as some of his most important influences.

A native of Monroe, La., his initial exposure to music was New Orleans jazz. After relocating to suburban Dallas at the age of 13, he became exposed to band music at his high school’s award- winning music program. These two early influences can be heard in many of his award-winning compositions.

Through the public school system, Ticheli gained an appreciation for the inherent potentials of this ensemble. Ever since then, he has been fascinated by instrumental colors. He often utilizes transparent, pure colors, carefully avoiding the overuse of tutti. In nearly all of his music, Ticheli aims for transparency of texture and pureness of tone color, saving full tutti for rare occasions.

Explaining his philosophy of orchestration, he has remarked:

To be certain, carefully written color combinations can produce unique and beautiful results, and well-mixed colors are usually a necessity during a strong climax. But constant doubling weighs down a piece and reduces its expressive potential. Unfortunately, this sound is so prevalent in band music that many listeners accept it as “the band sound.”

I certainly understand one reason for the practice. Music educators, seeking ways to encourage greater confidence in their students, have been drawn to thick doublings as a kind of musical insurance policy. But ironically, this leads to a dependency-based relationship that ultimately keeps students down.

I try to provide an alternative for young musicians by writing somewhat leaner, more transparent textures. When students are expected to carry the ball from time to time, they ultimately become more confident, more self-aware and more sensitive.

Written in 2000, There Will Be Rest was dedicated to the memory of the young son of his friend, Carl St.Clair. Its opening four-note cluster, which gradually expands into a full theme, sonically reflect an air of solemn contemplation. The theme is treated to a chorale setting with lush harmonies shimmering with seconds and fourths, suggesting an atmosphere of sacred reverence.

The piece is an arrangement for chorus and string orchestra of the original version, composed for a cappella chorus. The original version’s text is by American poet Sara Teasdale (1884-1933):

There will be rest, and sure stars shining

Over the roof-tops crowned with snow

A reign of rest, serene forgetting,

The music of stillness, holy and low.

I will make this world of my devising

Out of a dream in my lonely mind,

I shall find the crystal of peace; and above me

Stars I shall find.

Composed in 2008, Angels in the Architecture was commissioned by Kingsway International, an organization based in Sydney, Australia.

The work was inspired by the famous Sydney Opera House, whose interior features large oval-shaped ornaments in the ceiling above the stage. To Ticheli, these architectural ornaments suggested angels watching over the audience and performers. A highly philosophical and spiritual work, the piece shows the two drives that have shaped human existence throughout time: divine and evil. These twin influences are clearly depicted in the music.

The work starts with a shaker hymn (text follows). An orchestral halo bathes the melody in a pure shining light, shimmering with major seconds and perfect fourths. (Ticheli seems to have borrowed a page from Schoenberg and the Second Viennese School. The harmonic figure underlying this halo effect is a crystallization of the principal melodic motive, a technique used heavily by Schoenberg and his students in their atonal music.) An air of mystery pervades, with chromaticism bordering on atonality.

Ticheli employs a highly evocative system of musical references to illustrate the idea of good and evil impulses. The most recognizable reference is to “Hevenu Shalom Aleychem,” a Jewish folk song known in many parts of the world.

A lively dance-like song, its lyrics (referenced but not directly quoted) are a celebration of peace and tranquility. Another reference is to the sixteenth-century psalm “Old Hundredth,” one of the most well-known melodies in all of Christian music. Originally set to Psalm 134, this melody is now often used as a setting of Psalm 100 (from where it gets its name).

According to the composer, he used these religious settings not to reference any one particular faith to the exclusion of others but rather to highlight the idea of religiosity and spirituality in general.

The piece poses eternal questions about the fundamental nature of existence. At numerous times, the music is interrupted by bitonal harmony (music in two keys at the same time), representing the dual nature of human existence.

The calm, tranquil atmosphere is often shattered by dissonance, dark registers and jarring rhythms, aurally representing the dark side of human nature interrupting serene goodness and harmony. The piece struggles to return to serenity, just as humanity strives to overcome evil influences and restore divine ones.


I am an angel of Light

I have soared from above

I am cloth'd with Mother's love.

I have come, I have come.

To protect my chosen band

And lead them to the promised land.

Hevenu Shalom Aleichem

(We have brought peace to you)

Psalm 134

You faithful servants of the Lord,

Sing out his praise with one accord,

While serving him with all your might

And keeping vigil through the night.

Unto his house lift up your hand

Psalm 100

All people that on earth do dwell,

Sing to the Lord with cheerful voice.

Him serve with fear, His praise forth tell;

Come ye before Him and rejoice.

And to the Lord your praises send.

May God who made the earth and sky

Bestow his blessings from on high.

Chicago, 2012 from Alternative Energy

Mason Bates(b. 1977 )

Born in Philadelphia, composer Mason Bates simultaneously earned two bachelor degrees: in English literature from Columbia and in music composition from Juilliard, where he studied with noted American composers John Corigliano, David del Tredici and Samuel Adler.

In 2008 Bates received his doctor in musical arts in composition at UC Berkeley, in the prestigious Center for New Music and Audio Technologies. He has received many fellowships and prizes, including a Guggenheim Fellowship, the Rome Prize and a Tanglewood fellowship.

Bates’ compositional output truly spans the full range of today’s music scene. A popular disk jockey alongside being a highly successful classical composer, Bates appears regularly in clubs and lounges in San Francisco, Oakland and Berlin. He has composed both classical music and electronica, and produces works for acoustic instruments, electronic ones and for combinations of both.

Fascinated by the sonic, tactile qualities of music, Bates utilizes not only traditional orchestration and textural effects, but a far wider range of electronic effects, replete with pre-recorded sounds. However, in spite of a superficial similarity with avant-garde electronic music composers of the mid-20th century, Bates’ music is difficult to categorize, and Bates opposes modernism’s tendency to court difficulty for its own sake.

“When I first was writing for orchestras in the mid-90s,” Bates explains, “I think there was this real residual fear of new music that would be completely impenetrable. I think orchestras should continue to realize that new music has changed significantly over the past 30 years.”

Rather than a strictly modernist use of electronic sounds as might be found in a piece by Karlheinz Stockhausen or Pierre Schaeffer, Bates treats them as important musical elements in their own right, interacting with other elements. He also uses them to express philosophical ideas.

Bates composed Alternative Energy in 2011. It was commissioned by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, and premiered by them at Symphony Center in February 2012 under the baton of Riccardo Muti. He conceived the work as a symphony whose four movements together depict a grand sweep of human history.



In his own words: Alternative Energy is an ‘energy symphony’ spanning four movements and hundreds of years. Beginning in a rustic Midwestern junkyard in the late 19th century, the piece travels through ever greater and more powerful forces of energy—a present-day particle collider, a futuristic Chinese nuclear plant— until it reaches a future Icelandic rainforest, where humanity’s last inhabitants seek a return to a simpler way of life.

Although they depict drastically different time periods, all four movements of the piece contain instances of a specific melody—a practice inspired by Hector Berlioz. A nostalgic Appalachian fiddle tune, it forms the first movement’s primary musical theme.

Contrasted with the work’s percussive, technological sounds, it represents tradition, nostalgia and the human connection with a simpler agrarian past.

Another important musical motive is a cranking car motor, which Bates describes as “a kind of rhythmic embodiment of ever-more-powerful energy.”

The second movement, “Chicago 2012,” represents the present. It is a musical depiction of an immense particle accelerator, the most powerful machine ever devised by humanity. Bates describes the process he used to create the movement:

In order to recreate the sound of a particle accelerator booting up, I travelled up to FermiLab (an enormous facility north of the city) and wandered around making recordings of the machinery involved in splitting atoms. Huge power surges, epic hydraulic releases, alien-sounding high frequencies, you name it. Then I manipulated those sounds in my studio back in California, ultimately visiting Skywalker Studios to properly mix these sounds in a surround- sound environment.

Gary Rydstrom, a famed sound designer who works with folks like George Lucas and Stephen Spielberg, provided invaluable help in recreating the effect of the accelerator ‘waking up.’ Hip-hop beats, jazzy brass interjections and joyous voltage blasts bring the movement to a clangorous finish.

The seamless interaction between recorded sound effects and orchestral playing—at various times in the movement, each imitates the other—reflects the simultaneously symbiotic yet problematic relationship between humanity and technology.

The “nostalgia” theme—first played by the orchestra, then imitated by the industrial sounds—represents industrial man longing for his agrarian past. As a whole, the work reflects the conflict between natural and industrial; the juxtaposition of past, present and future; the contrast between symphonic and folk cultures; and the ambiguity of anxiety and the human drive for hope.

Joshua Grayson is a Ph.D. candidate in historical musicology at the USC Thornton School of Music.

PSWYE Goes To Vienna!

PSWYE Goes To Vienna!

As a culmination of its milestone 10th anniversary, Pacific Symphony Youth Wind Ensemble (PSYWE) is taking a nine-day international tour of a lifetime to Austria from July 4-12, 2017.

Help send every musician to Vienna by contributing to PSYWE's Scholarship Fund.

Text "Vienna2017" to the number sms:41444. Every dollar helps in getting us to Vienna!

PSWE will visit the "City of Music," Vienna, and glorious Salzburg (Mozart's hometown), as it takes part in the Summa Cum Laude International Youth Music Festival, which allows the world's most talented youth choirs, bands and orchestras to perform in the famous Musikverein and other brilliant venues throughout the historic city.

To learn more about today's Artists, please click here.

To meet PSYWE Music Director Gregory Whitmore, please click here.

To learn more about Music Director Carl St.Clair, click here.