for wind symphony
Commissioned in 1995 by the Big Eight Band Directors Association.
3 Flutes (1 dbl. Picc.)
Clarinet in Eb
3 Clarinets in Bb
Bb Bass Clarinet
Eb Contra Alto Clarinet
3 Trumpets in Bb
2 Tenor Trombones
--- (dbl. Cym. &
opt. 4 Tonal Bass Drums)
Suspended Cymbal (Med.)
Suspended Cymbal (Lg.)
--- (Sm. Med. Lg.)
Vibraslap (can share with Perc. 2)
Crotales (one octave)
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Soundings is a four-movement work for wind symphony of approximately fifteen minutes' duration. It was commissioned in 1995 by the Big Eight Band Directors Association whose affiliates included:
Iowa State University – Joseph Christensen
Kansas State University – Frank Tracz
Oklahoma State University – Joseph Missal
University of Colorado – Allan McMurray
University of Kansas – Robert E. Foster
University of Missouri – Dale Lonis
University of Nebraska – John H. Kloecker
University of Oklahoma – William K. Wakefield
The title, Soundings, has been used by several composers and authors, including Glen Watkins for his book about music in the twentieth century. I chose the title quite literally for its "sound," but also because its definition, "the making or giving forth of sounds," complements the more descriptive titles of the individual movements: "Fanfare," "Gizmo," "Waves," and "Transmission."
Each of the four movements explores different musical territory:
"Fanfare" employs familiar musical materials such as quartal harmony and imitative counterpoint, but departs from traditional fanfares in its use of woodwind as well as brass instruments.
"Gizmo" reflects my fascination with gadgets, motoric rhythms, and the sound of major sevenths.
"Waves" was born out of my experience in the computer music studio and my preference for sounds whose shapes slowly expand and contract. Four musical layers are presented: (1) a steady tremolo in the percussion serves to anchor as well as to animate the music; (2) waves of sound through the lower brass and woodwinds are supported by timpani and tamtam; (3) scattered, freely-moving solos in the upper winds are complemented by; (4) a repeated melody played by trumpets, oboe, flute, and piccolo.
"Transmission is not unlike "Gizmo" in its reliance upon a quickly-moving, steady pulse and sonorities employing major sevenths. The title, "Transmission," was chosen for its double meaning: (1) information from a transmitter and (2) an assembly of gears and associated parts by which power is transmitted from the engine to the gearbox. In "Transmission" I have "transmitted" musical information using "metric or temporal modulation," a process analogous to the one executed by the driver of an automobile smoothly shifting gears to change engine speed.
Cindy McTee's Soundings [is] a brassy, high-tech musical clock, with strikingly ingenious wind writing. A waltz-like opening fanfare leads into the jagged brass fragments and mechanical whirring of "Gizmo," followed by "Waves," which offers soothing brass and wind swells over percussion tremolos. McTee's entertaining work concludes with an out-of-control, infernal machine-like "Transmission," a jazzy and audacious finale. McTee's Soundings is a delightful work, an irresistible blend of imaginative wind writing with a genuine and wry sense of humor, rare in contemporary music.
Lawrence A. Johnson