Charles Mingus (ed. Theodore Davis)
Subtitle: From Epitaph
Year: 1962 / 2022
Duration: c. 9:50
Difficulty: (see Ratings for explanation)
Original Medium: Jazz orchestra
Cost: Score and Parts - Unknown
B-flat Soprano Clarinet
B-flat Bass Clarinet
B-flat Contrabass Clarinet
B-flat Soprano Saxophone
E-flat Alto Saxophone I-II-III
B-flat Tenor Saxophone I-II
E-flat Baritone Saxophone I-II
B-flat Trumpet I-VI
String Bass I-II
- Drum Set
None discovered thus far.
Epitaph is a composition by jazz musician Charles Mingus. It is 4,235 measures long, takes more than two hours to perform, and was only completely discovered during the cataloguing process after his death. With the help of a grant from the Ford Foundation, the score and instrumental parts were copied, and the work itself was premiered by a 30-piece orchestra, conducted by Gunther Schuller and produced by Mingus's widow, Sue, at Alice Tully Hall on June 3, 1989, 10 years after his death, and issued as a live album.
Accurately convinced that it would never be performed in his lifetime, Mingus called his work Epitaph declaring that it was written "for my tombstone."
- Program Note from Wikipedia
The expanded instrumentation, sophisticated form, and melding of classical and jazz elements found in The Children’s Hour of Dream from Epitaph (1960/2022) is not an anomaly; in fact, Mingus’s first compositions – The Chill of Death (1939) and Half-Mast Inhibition (1940) -- are certainly “third stream,” nearly twenty years before Gunther Schuller coined the term. It was Schuller who championed Mingus’s “concert” music, including Half-Mast Inhibition, Revelations (1955), and premiered and recorded Mingus’s posthumous magnum opus Epitaph -- a 4235-measure, two-hour-long work for thirty-plus instrumentalists about which Schuller wrote “comprehensively represent[s] all the various Minguses we have come to know over the years.”
Epitaph was composed and assembled intermittently over a period of twenty-two years, from approximately 1940 to 1962. Musical material and entire movements existed in many forms in manuscript and performance, including the (in)famous 1962 Town Hall concert and subsequent United Artists recordings. This 1962 performance was especially notable for the presence of a team of music copyists placed at the side of the stage, busily arranging and transcribing the concert as it unfolded, and that the concert and recording were terminated by the stage hands who had determined the performance had -- at nearly midnight -- exceeded the duration agreed upon in the rental contract. After these early efforts at performance, much of this music was considered lost until musicologist Andrew Homzy discovered the manuscript in Sue Mingus’s New York apartment in 1985. The complete Epitaph was, fittingly, not performed in its entirety until ten years after Mingus’s death. Schuller conducted the premiere of the work at Lincoln Center in 1989.
The Children’s Hour of Dream is the fourteenth of nineteen movements in Epitaph. In his Guide to Charles Mingus’s Epitaph, Schuller writes the following:
The Children’s Hour of Dream is in many respects one of the more unusual movements in Epitaph. It contains absolutely no improvisation, makes no attempt to swing, is indeed more contemporary “classical” than jazz (but acquires a certain jazz feeling by being performed by jazz players, with their natural jazz inflections); and finally, is built formally on the principle, first rigorously explored by such composers as Stravinsky and Edgard Varèse, of composing a number of relatively short segments of music -- themes, motives, ideas, phrases -- and then repeating and manipulating the sequencing of these units (there are eight such units…) in constantly changing patterns. Indeed, the work seems to hark back to Mingus’s studies of early twentieth-century music by Bartók, Stravinsky, Ravel, and Debussy.
The piece is scored for nine reed players (totalling three flutes, oboe, bassoon, B-flat clarinet, bass clarinet, contrabass clarinet, soprano saxophone, three alto saxophones, two tenor saxophones, two baritone saxophones), six trumpets, six trombones, tuba, two pianos, guitar, timpani, percussion, drum set, and two contrabasses.
During the editing and mixing of the album Let My Children Hear Music, the jazz critic Nat Hentoff interviewed Mingus for the New York Times. Mingus told Hentoff:
A critic once wrote in the liner notes for one of my own albums that I had never pinned myself down so that anyone could say, “This is Mingus.” He just doesn’t understand that I don't want to be caught in any one groove. Everything I do is Mingus. That’s why I don’t like to use the word “jazz” for my work. I write what I think is classical music too.
- Program Note adapted from University of North Texas Wind Orchestra concert program, 25 October 2022
None discovered thus far.
None discovered thus far.
To submit a performance please join The Wind Repertory Project
- University of North Texas (Denton) Wind Orchestra (Andrew Trachsel, conductor) – 25 October 2022 *Edition Premiere Performance*
Works for Winds by This Composer
- Adagio ma non troppo (tr. Brooks) (1964/2017)
- The Children's Hour of Dream (ed. Davis) (1962/2022)
- Half-Mast Inhibition (1939)
- Epitaph (Charles Mingus composition). Wikipedia. Accessed 22 October 2022