Pickett’s Charge

ensemble: symphonic wind ensemble
grade: 5
duration: 6 minutes
written: winter 2017
written for: Indiana University Concert Band; Jason Nam, conductor
premiered: October 30, 2018; Bloomington, IN

Program Note:

  My piece Pickett's Charge is essentially inspired by two things, a large 2017 cyclorama by the Los Angeles based artist Mark Bradford entitled Pickett’s Charge and the history of the wind band in America. Beginning with the latter, the history of the American wind band is inextricably tied to the history of music in the U.S. military.  A great deal of the early works for wind band were either specifically for military and patriotic purposes (Sousa marches, Civil War bugle calls) or attempting to reminisce back to this Americana of yesteryear (suites of old American tunes). This tradition is still very much alive and well in modern wind ensemble literature with numerous composers writing Sousa style marches every year.

  The second source of inspiration for this piece came from Mark Bradford’s cyclorama which takes an existing Civil War painting which has been blown up and printed on pixel-lated billboard paper and literally tears and rips it apart to reveal the dark layers below its glorified surface.Immediately upon visiting this exhibition in Washington D.C., I found a visual connection to what I wanted to do musically to these old American marches for the wind ensemble. In essence, I try to do what Bradford did with Civil War art to the military band music of the wind ensemble; expose its layers.

  Throughout the piece, the listener will hear "march-like elements" (accelerating snare drums, blaring trumpets, flourishing woodwinds) which are ripped apart and distorted. Each musical family in the ensemble has their own unique reveille, bugle call, or general "call to action" musical identity with two snare drums on either side of the ensemble working to bring the ensemble together in a steady march and, at times, trying to tear the ensemble further apart. The piece concludes with each "march-like element" that has been introduced piling up on top of each other, creating a chaotic march.

  Pickett's Charge is dedicated to Gregory Jenner, for our years of colorful conversation concerning the wind ensemble. 


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Photo: Cathy Carver. https://hirshhorn.si.edu/exhibitions/mark-bradford-picketts-charge

Photo: Cathy Carver. https://hirshhorn.si.edu/exhibitions/mark-bradford-picketts-charge

Pickett’s Charge is sold and published by Murphy Music Press and distributed through J.W. Pepper