Composers Corner

Dear Student Composers - by Brett Abigaña

Vol. XVI • 10/01/2017

When I was in eighth grade, I got an idea during 1st period science, and wrote it down. Much to Mr. Zeigler’s dismay, it had nothing to do with pond biology. No, it actually turned into a tiny little string quartet, and it was the first piece I had composed. I've never forgotten the feeling of elation; in fact, I search for it with every piece I write. But I also remember thinking, “Now what?” Growing up in a small town in Northern California, I didn't have access to a composition teacher, didn't have the resources to expand on my knowledge of contemporary repertoire, and didn't have any idea of what needed to be done to rectify the situation.

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Approaching a Composer - Fear Not! - by Dennis Johnson

Vol. XV • 08/30/2017

As a student, percussionist and wind band nerd at the University of Michigan in the late sixties, I was fortunate to come in contact with many impressive composer’s who visited the campus. Dr. Revelli invited a few each year and it was always a new and interesting experience.

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An Extended Interview with Tim Reynish - by Brett Abigaña

Vol. XIV • 08/04/2017

Tim Reynish, in short, doesn’t really need an introduction. He is one of the founders of WASBE, a brilliant wind, orchestral, and operatic conductor, a regular commissioner of new works from a variety of composers, and an internationally renowned educator. Having just returned from a concert tour in Japan, I had the opportunity to ask him for his thoughts on composers, audiences, and music.

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WASBE 2017 in Utrecht - by Brett Abigaña and Bert Alders

Vol. XIII • 06/30/2017

Every two years, the international wind band community comes together in a stunning location to celebrate the variety of music for wind band and the wonderful people that continue to perform it. The World Association of Symphonic Bands and Ensembles has held conferences every two years since 1981, and it has consistently maintained a reputation for exhibiting quality new music for wind bands and showcasing the finest ensembles from all over the world.

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Collaborating on a Commission - by Brett Abigaña

Vol. XII • 04/01/2017

A big part of what we do at World Projects is collaboration, whether between a director and a WP staff member on creating the perfect custom travel package, or between a composer and a conductor on a new work for performance at one of our fantastic domestic festivals. Let's take a closer look at a recent collaboration I had with the De La Salle Santiago Zobel School Wind Ensemble, for which I composed In a Spacious Place, which was recently premiered in the beautiful Hawaii Theatre as part of the Pacific Basin Music Festival in Honolulu, Hawaii.

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Connect...Create...Culminate - by Jacob Polancich

Vol. XI • 03/01/2017

Consider a long-term project that will make a lasting impression on your students and our profession. While there are countless ways to encourage life skills through music, one of the most comprehensive is to connect with a composer, collaboratively create a piece, and culminate through performance.

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Composer Secrets - by Brett Abigaña

Vol. X • 03/01/2017

For this month’s edition of Composer’s Corner, we decided to ask the same five questions of some of our published composers. Learn more about music by Vince Oliver, Brad Hart, Kayvon Emtiaz, and all of our house composers at

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The World Projects New Music Initiative - by Brett Abigaña

Vol. IX • 11/01/2016

We at World Projects are all about the educational experience, whether that involves taking your orchestra to a world famous performance hall like Carnegie Hall or the Sydney Opera House, or creating a custom European tour for your band and choir.

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An Interview with Carl Wittrock - by Brett Abigaña

Vol. VIII • 10/01/2016

This month, I was privileged to sit down with Dutch composer Carl Wittrock, who will be the Composer-in-Residence at the 2017 New York International Music Festival at Carnegie Hall.

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Closer to Home - by Jeremy Van Buskirk

Vol. VII • 09/01/2016

This month’s installment of Composers’ Corner focuses on a piece that was premiered in Carnegie Hall as part of the 2016 New York Sounds of Spring international Music Festival: Closer to Home by Jeremy Van Buskirk. The piece was written for and premiered by the Youth Choir Permonik from the Czech Republic, and is for a cappella SSAA. The composer would like to thank Rev. David Horst and Dr. Petr Samojský of their help and guidance with this piece. He writes, “Without their generosity and support, this would have been a very different piece, and I would not have been able to find this text.” Closer to Home is one of those choral pieces that commands the audience’s attention from the first syllable to the last: the kind of heart-stopping music that results in utter silence after its performance. It opens with a gently undulating texture sung on the word “home,” taking advantage of your choir’s blend. Indeed, when I first heard it, I couldn’t tell which notes were sung by which part, and it seemed like many more than the mere four parts were present. Single notes and melodic fragments stand out of the texture, pulling the listener into its thick harmony. After this introduction, Norbert Čapek’s poem begins in earnest, taking us on a journey through one woman’s life as she contemplates how far she has come. The composer writes, “The text transitions beautifully from external imagery at the beginning, referencing the setting sun, trees, and the wonder that can be felt at twilight to the internal, personal feelings of the traveler’s joy. The anticipation of arriving at a place of peace at the end of the journey resonate with me. While writing this piece, I tried to express this sense of anticipation and feeling of wonder in the music. It’s the internal journey that dominates. The most joyful moments in the music are saved for the songs the traveler sings in expectation of her arrival.” Unlike many other choral pieces out there, this piece strikes a wonderful balance between polyphony and homophony, requiring contrapuntal precision one moment, and mass diction the next. The text is set in a natural, flowing way, without relying on constantly changing time signatures to align everything to the first beat of any given bar, which gives the music an almost conversational feel. Careful attention has been paid to the clarity of the text, so that even in the thicker contrapuntal sections, the listener is clearly able to understand every word, something remarkable given the four well-blended parts. Perhaps the most difficult part of learning this piece is the chromatic content: certainly, if a chorus was to approach this in an individual or a sectionalized way, the job is made even more difficult. What will no doubt make the piece infinitely easier is to be sure that all four parts know what the other parts are doing. For example, singing A-F#- C-Eb is difficult on its own, but if one notices that the Eb is already heard in another part, that yet another part has a G right before the F#, and that a B is heard a measure before the C, it becomes much easier. This is a wonderful opportunity to introduce your students to the concepts of score reading, voice leading, and listening across the ensemble to other parts. Were I conducting this piece, given the blend, I would even consider mixing up the chorus so that singers were intermingled instead of in their sections, thereby requiring them to hear specific notes as opposed to merely hearing a section. This piece has a wonderful sense of timing and overall direction as well. Indeed, many choral works focus on the sonority or line at hand, and rarely on where that sonority leads, or on the overall arc of the piece. Closer to Home, on the other hand, requires the chorus to start the piece already concentrating on its final destination, a beautifully transcendent, “I am going home.” The uninhibited joy of the final 8 measures is breathtaking, and will leave your audience in that wonderful place between enthusiastic applause and breathless amazement. Closer to Home is that rare piece that appeals to all of us on many levels. As a teacher, I look forward to sharing the challenge of this piece with my students; as a conductor, I can’t wait to share the beauty of the piece with my audience; as a listener, I’m left with tears in my eyes at the end; as a composer, I’m jealous that I didn’t write it.

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