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Homepage Update - August 2011

Tim Reynish

...I wish I could hear more wind conductors and instrumental teachers using better and larger vocabularies that relate to beauty, aesthetics, to charm, to gentleness, strength and power without rancour or anger, to useful tonal vibrance, live sound, to grace of movement, to stillness, to fervour, to the depth of great age the exultation of great happiness, the feel of millennia, the sweetness and purity of lullabies, the precision of fine watches, the reach into time-space of great love and respect, the care of phrasing, the delicacy of balance, the ease of warmth, the resonance of history, the susurrus of kind weight of togetherness and the rising spirit of creating something, bringing something to life from cold print, living music, moving music.

As always happens with wind bands, less with wind ensembles, much of the music was loud, bangy and derivative, but of course every so often a nugget of gold gleamed through. The level of playing from the bands was almost uniformly excellent, they played together, they played in tune, they played loud and louder and they did their best with the repertoire on offer. I wrote to a member of the WASBE Executive regretting that we had no sessions mentoring conductors or composers, and was told that the Artistic Planning Committee were very careful not to appear patronizing to our Asian colleagues, introducing Western expertise.

In my experience of Asia, most conductors and players are desperate to learn how to improve, and this is demonstrated by our Conservatoires, Universities and Orchestras filling up with players from across the Pacific. I think that our Western world of wind and wind ensemble has many miles to go to grow into the sophisticated musical world which Warren Benson is discussing, while thousands of Asian players and conductors are willingly following Western examples in orchestral, choral and chamber music and outstripping their western counterparts. This was a real chance for WASBE to demonstrate what the wind band and wind ensemble can achieve aesthetically, a chance that on the whole was neglected.

In Sweden for the Conference in 2003, my artistic planning committee and I developed a series of seminars, loosely connected by the John Cage phrase Happy New Ear. The Keynote speech was given by that great thinker about music, Gary Hill, who chaired a discussion between Craig Kirchhoff, Charles Peltz and Wayne Rapier, former co-principal oboe with the Philadelphia and Boston Symphony.

Session 2 was entitled Artistry in the Wind Ensemble -  Wayne Raspier rehearses the Mozart C Minor Serenade and explores the inheritance of the approach to phrasing of artists such as Tabuteau, Kincaid and Horner.

Session 3 was a discussion led by Craig entitled Artistry in the Wind Band -  an investigation of how much we compromise in our programming.

Session 4 was again on Artistry in the Wind Band –an open rehearsal given by the International Youth Wind Orchestra conducted by Glenn Price in a programme of Daugherty, Hesketh, Schuller and Colgrass.

Session 5
Artistry in Programming and Performance – a development of the theme struck at our Lucerne Conference. Donald DeRoche chairs a session in which Wayne Rapier talks about the influence on modern orchestral wind and brass playing by the great players of the Philadelphia and Boston Orchestras, and a panel discusses whether this artistry can be developed in the wind ensemble – how musical is the music which we commission and progarmme – how musically can we play and phrase – how do we heighten our aesthetic awareness – are our audiences ready for this?

I came away from Taiwan with some twenty five works which I would like to programme, if I had my own ensemble, and many new friends from Asia, Europe and the Americas. I also came away, frustrated that we have not achieved more in thirty years, but optimistic about the future.

Have a great year, or half year if you are in the Southern Hemisphere. Please send your thoughts and comments, especially for my regular features of The Composer Speaks and From the Horses Mouth, temporarily suspended to make way for the WASBE Conference. 

Tim