Monday, November 7, 2011

“The 'Hindemithian' sound of 'Essay for Band' seems to come by way of Dickerson's teacher at Indiana”

[ABOVE: Out of the Depths: Music by African-American Composers; Keystone Wind Ensemble; Jack Stamp, Conductor; Myron D. Moss, Guest Conductor Citadel 88143 (2003) BELOW: Roger Donald Dickerson]

We continue our exploration of the recording Out of the Depths: Music by African-American Composers, performed by the Keystone Wind Ensemble and released as Citadel 88143 (2003). Track 5 is Essay for Band, by Roger Dickerson. It is led by Guest Conductor Myron D. Moss, who also writes the liner notes:

“Roger Dickerson, born in New Orleans in 1934, has degrees from Dillard and Indiana universities. He served with an Army band in Arkansas, for which he wrote Essay for Band in 1958, and was later posted to Heidelberg. Following military service he studied composition at the Akademie für Musik in Vienna. He returned to New Orleans, where he has been ever since, teaching at Xavier and Southern Universities, playing jazz piano, and composing. Notable orchestral pieces include A Musical Service for Louis (1972) and the New Orleans Concerto (1976).

“The 'Hindemithian' sound of Essay for Band seems to come by way of Dickerson's teacher at Indiana, Bernhard Heiden. Like Heiden, Dickerson has appropriated gestures from the Hindemith sound world and incorporated them into his own work. As its title suggests, the Essay is a thorough exploration of a single theme. The theme is foreshadowed in the slow introduction and then stated complete by high woodwinds at a faster tempo. The essence of this fast-moving section is counterpoint, each appearance of the theme is accompanied by different material. The quiet middle section includes solo passages that Dickerson indicates are, to him, the emotional core of the piece. The opening music is then reprised (and extended with a setting of the theme against ferocious, Shostakovich-like rhythmic figures). An acceleration brings the music into even higher gear, with broad melodic statements in counterpoint against rapid-fire accompaniment. The piece concludes with the trumpets stating the main theme nobly and defiantly, as if compelling the band finally to join them in the piece's closing major chord.

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