Nov. 15, 2021Print | PDF
John Mackey (b. 1973, New Philadelphia, Ohio) holds degrees from the Juilliard School and the Cleveland Institute of Music, where he studied with John Corigliano and Donald Erb, respectively. John has written for orchestras (Brooklyn Philharmonic, New York Youth Symphony), theater (Dallas Theater Center), and extensively for dance (Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, Parsons Dance Company, New York City Ballet), but the majority of his work for the past decade has been for wind ensembles (the fancy name for concert bands), and his band catalog now receives annual performances numbering in the thousands.
Recent commissions include works for the BBC Singers, the Dallas Wind Symphony, military, high school, middle school, and university bands across America and Japan, and concertos for Joseph Alessi (principal trombone, New York Philharmonic) and Christopher Martin (principal trumpet, New York Philharmonic). In 2014, he became the youngest composer ever inducted into the American Bandmasters Association. In 2018, he received the Wladimir & Rhoda Lakond Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. He resides in San Francisco, California, with his spouse, a philosopher who works on the ethics of technology, and also titles all of his pieces; and their cats, Noodle and Bloop.
“Asphalt Cocktail” is a five-minute opener, designed to shout, from the opening measure, “We’re here.” With biting trombones, blaring trumpets, and percussion dominated by cross-rhythms and back beats, it aims to capture the grit and aggression that I associate with the time I lived in New York. Picture the scariest NYC taxi ride you can imagine, with the cab skidding around turns as trucks bear down from all sides. Serve on the rocks.
-- John Mackey
As a Distinguished Professor at the University of Missouri-Kansas City Conservatory of Music and Dance, a prolific composer and recipient of the prestigious Charles Ives Living Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters (2001-04), Chen Yi blends Chinese and Western traditions, transcending cultural and musical boundaries. Through doing so, she serves as an ambassador to the arts, creating music that reaches a wide range of audiences, inspiring people with different cultural backgrounds throughout the world. She holds both a BA and MA in music composition from the Central Conservatory of Music in Beijing, and received her DMA from Columbia University in the City of New York, studying composition with Wu Zuqiang, Chou Wen-chung and Mario Davidovsky. Dr. Chen was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2005.
Dragon Rhyme for Symphonic Band is in two movements: I. Mysteriously-Harmoniously and II. Energetically. The first movement is lyrical, and the second powerful. Featuring the basic intervals found in Beijing Opera music, the thematic material in both movements is matched, and used economically for development throughout the work. The instrumental texture is rich in colors, from transparent and delicate to angular and strong. Taking the image of the dragon, which is auspicious, fresh, and vivid, the music is layered and multidimensional. It symbolizes Eastern culture. When it meets the world, it becomes a part of the global family.
-- Chen Yi
Jess Langston Turner composes contemporary instrumental and choral music. He began his musical training with piano and trumpet lessons and in high school developed an interest in composition. He earned both a bachelor’s and master’s degree in trumpet performance from Bob Jones University in 2006 and 2008. From 2008-2011 he attended the Hartt School of Music in Hartford, CT, where he earned a master’s degree in composition and was named a Regent’s Scholar. In May 2015 he completed a DMA in music composition at Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana. Throughout his undergrad and graduate years, Turner completed a variety of composition projects, several of which have been recognized for national awards, including first place in the Music Teachers National Association Young Artist Composition Award, finalist in the ASCAP Lotte Lehmann Art Song Composition Competition, winner of the John Ness Beck Award for Choral Composition, finalist for the Morton Gould Young Composer Awards, winner of the 2011 Walter Beeler Memorial Prize, and most recently winner of the Merrill Jones Composition Contest for Young Bands. In 2010, he was invited to participate in the National Band Association’s Young Composer Mentor Project. In recent years he has served as visiting composer for numbers of schools and universities such as the University of Georgia, the Hartt School, Stephen F. Austin University, The University of Wisconsin - Lacrosse, among others.
Of all the fairy tales that I grew up hearing, “Rumpelstilzchen” is the one that most captured my imagination. The image of a creepy little gnome who has the magical power to spin straw into gold was fascinating to me. In fact, one of my first recognizable childhood drawings was a crudely rendered little man furiously whirling himself away into oblivion among multicolored scribbles. In addition, I also grew up attending concerts and hearing recordings of the university wind ensemble that my father directs. So, it is only natural that I chose to compose a major work for symphonic winds that takes its inspiration from the story of Rumpelstilzchen.
Rumpelstilzchen is divided into three movements, each depicting a different part of the story. The first movement, “Spinning Straw into Gold,” paints a portrait of Rumpelstilzchen clattering away at his spinning wheel. You will hear the wooden clicking and rattling of the spinning wheel, Rumpelstilzchen laughing to himself, as well as ominous undertones of his plan to steal the poor maiden’s firstborn son. After gradually working himself up into a frenzy, Rumpelstilzchen manages to compose himself enough to complete his task before vanishing into thin air. The second movement, “Night (The Maiden’s Lament)” is a picture of the maiden’s grief upon realizing that she must give up her firstborn son to Rumpelstilzchen in exchange for his gold-spinning services. A long, plaintive melodic line is passed among various solo instruments, gradually culminating in a mournful chorale as the grief-stricken maiden sings her sorrow into the night. The final movement, “Rumpelstilzchen’s Furiant (Moto Perpetuo)” describes Rumpelstilzchen’s dance of fury after his plot is foiled by the maiden’s successfully guessing his name. This final movement is a technical tour de force for the entire ensemble as it paints the picture of Rumpelstilzchen dancing and whirling faster and faster until he flies out of the maiden’s house on a cooking ladle, never to be seen again.
-- Jess Langston Turner
Black Bolt (or Blackagon Boltagar) is a lesser-known character in the Marvel comic universe. Besides the standard superhuman strength, his super power is called the “hypersonic scream” which he activates simply by the act of speaking. His hypersonic scream is capable of leveling entire cities. Therefore, through meditation and rigorous training, Black Bolt developed the ability to never utter a sound, even while asleep. Black Bolt, a dark and morally complex hero, is represented by a motive drawn from the letters B-O-L-T (Bb, do, La, Ti, or Bb, C, A, B ).
Black Bolt’s arch nemesis is a madman named Maximus. The relationship between Black Bolt and Maximus is complicated by the fact that Maximus is actually Black Bolt’s brother. Furthermore, Maximus’ psychosis was caused directly by Black Bolt’s hypersonic scream. This makes the relationship quite Byronic, twisted and complex. Musically, Maximus is represented by classical quotations (notably from Mozart, Saint-Saëns, and Schubert). The decision to use classical quotations comes from what is now a cliché in the movies of the villain who loves classical music. The quotations are distorted, sometimes grotesquely in order to convey Maximus’ sick mind and twisted sense of humor. Of course, in the end, Black Bolt defeats Maximus. After a moment of sad reflection over his brother’s demise at his hands, Black Bolt returns to his superhero duties, because after all, a superhero’s work is never done.
-- Jess Langston Turner
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