Bulosan: On American Democracy

From Wind Repertory Project
Andres R. Luz

Andres R. Luz

Subtitle: Grand Passacaglia for Narrator, Wind Symphony, and Fixed Media, op. 17 (2021, rev. 2023)

General Info

Year: 2021, rev. 2023
Duration: c. 26:00
Difficulty: V+ (see Ratings for explanation)
Publisher: Post-Classical Music, through Murphy Music Press
Cost: Score and Parts - $400.00 | Score Only - $75.00


Full Score
C Piccolo
Flute I-II*
Oboe I-II
English Horn
Bassoon I-II
E-flat Soprano Clarinet
B-flat Soprano Clarinet I-II-III*
B-flat Bass Clarinet
B-flat Contrabass Clarinet
E-flat Alto Saxophone I-II
B-flat Tenor Saxophone
E-flat Baritone Saxophone
C Trumpet I-II-III*
Horn in F I-II-III-IV*
Trombone I-II*
Bass Trombone
Percussion I-II-III, including:

  • Bongos (2)
  • Brake Drum
  • Chimes
  • Crotales
  • Glockenspiel
  • Lion's roar
  • Marimba
  • Shakers
  • Snare Drum
  • Suspended Cymbals (2: small and medium)
  • Tam-tam
  • Tom-toms (3: small, medium, and large)
  • Vibraphone
  • Wood Blocks (5)
  • Xylophone

Fixed Media

*Doubling recommended


None discovered thus far.

Program Notes

Carlos Sampayan Bulosan (November 24, 1913 – September 11, 1956) was an English-language Filipino novelist and poet who immigrated to America on July 1, 1930. He never returned to the Philippines and he spent most of his life in the United States. His best-known work today is the semi-autobiographical America Is in the Heart, but he first gained fame for his 1943 essay, "Freedom from Want."

- Program Note from Wikipedia

My D.M.A. dissertation project is a musical composition for wind ensemble and narrator entitled Bulosan: On American Democracy.  Consistent with my interest in Filipino and Filipino-American sources, the work draws inspiration from selected excerpts from two important literary opuses written by the immigrant labor union organizer and writer, Carlos Bulosan (1913-1956), who was active in California and Washington State in the 1930s and 40s. In both his semi-autobiographical novel, America is in the Heart (1946), and the essay, “Freedom from Want” (1943), commissioned by the Saturday Evening Post to accompany Norman Rockwell’s painting of the same name, Bulosan wrote on themes about the preservation of American democracy at a time when it was under threat by the rise of Fascism in Western Europe and Authoritarian Communism in the Soviet Union.  Despite the current body of literature and scholarship focused on the writer’s life and contributions, as well as the awareness and inclusion of America is in the Heart in numerous offerings of Asian American Studies courses in universities across the country, Bulosan’s reputation largely remains unknown to most. Therefore, one of the main drivers of this project is to provoke interest in and pay homage to the legacy of Carlos Bulosan’s ideas at a time when the principles of American democracy and personal liberty for all are being challenged in our time.

The composition Bulosan: On American Democracy is fashioned after the ancient Baroque passacaglia form of continuous variations which unfold in counterpoint against a fixed bass melody that recurs throughout.  This is a deliberate compositional choice because of the form’s capacity to express an evolving musical argument that steadily gains momentum with repeated iterations of the fixed subject, much like the way a contemplation of Bulosan’s profound message would increasingly resonate and evolve with thoughtful consideration in one’s mind over time.  When one considers the ability of music to illustrate the argument and evolution of ideas over time, the conflation of a musical argument with a narrative or philosophical one can be effective as made evident in the numerous programmatic works in the canon, particularly those from the 19th century.  The fusion of the passacaglia form with a narrative element thereby emphasizes the idea of the grand passacaglia as a grand meditation, a focused introspection and emotional response to thoughts on American democracy invoked by the narrator.

The work comprises three parts, illuminating the texts of Carlos Bulosan:

*Part One: Why was America so kind and yet so cruel?

*Part Two: We must live in America where there is freedom for all

*Part Three: We are all Americans that have toiled and suffered and known oppression and defeat

- Program Note by composer

N.B. Extended program notes are found in the Perusal score.


  • Ablaze Records: Wind Orchestra Masters Call-for-Scores, 2022, winner.


State Ratings

None discovered thus far.


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Works for Winds by This Composer