Concerto for Winds (Stephenson)

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James Stephenson

James Stephenson

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Subtitle: Games

General Info

Year: 2023
Duration: c. 29:50
Difficulty: (see Ratings for explanation)
Publisher: Stephenson Music
Cost: Score and Parts - Available December 2023


1. Introduction - 2:30
2. Mimicry - 9:25
3. Alea - Games of Chance - 6:30
4. Ilinx - Altered Perception - 6:00
5. Agon - Competition - 5:10


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None discovered thus far.

Program Notes

What is a "concerto for wind ensemble"? This is something I constantly asked myself before beginning this piece.

The first thing I decided is that a show-off of virtuosity would be the entire group entering at once, softly; hence the opening of the piece. After that, I decided some obvious things besides ensemble tutti: instrument family virtuosity/expression, section virtuosity/expression, and finally, solo virtuosity/expression.

Additionally, shortly before beginning work on this piece, I was reading a book called Flow, by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. In the book, a description of four games was put forth: games that help us achieve flow, or "the zone". I thought these games might be perfect for a piece of music, where musicians are often seeking that sense of flow while performing. Additionally, the four games immediately spoke to me musically, and I knew I wanted to set them to music.

After a short first movement Introduction, the first game to appear is:

Mimicry (movement 2). While somewhat obvious, I decided to explore many forms of this: players imitating each other, sometimes one beat apart, or at other times several measures apart, or even a tuba mimicking a piccolo, several minutes later. Sections imitate other sections, and families mimic other families. As a whole, there are even times where the entire wind ensemble mimics sounds that might occur in other arenas, outside the formal concert hall space. And of course, there is a fughetta, the ultimate form of mimicry, which culminates in main themes layered over one another, mimicking what other players had done before them.

In Alea (movement 3), I decided to take a chance. Pun intended. After some cadenza material (one form of "chance"), several sections ensue where the outcome will be different every time the piece is performed. Percussion players use actual "instruments" from games of chance: coin-flips, dice, decks of cards, rocks/paper/scissors, and a bingo ball machine. These direct what players actually play, with the music created so that whatever is chosen, the music works out, and is hopefully fun. Which was a main directive for me in composing it - that it be fun to play!

The fourth movement, Ilinx, explores altered perception. Initially it opens with another opportunity for ensemble virtuosity, that being intonation amongst many players at once, while executing a long drawn-out crescendo. Subsequently I tried to create "worlds" where a listener might be transported to a different sense of time and space. Patterns are created to perhaps confuse the listener as to what the pulse might actually be.

Finally, Agon (competition) ends the concerto, where almost every type of "battle" I could imagine gets employed: rhythmic (2 vs. 3), key vs. key, high vs. low, loud vs. soft, slow vs. fast, counterpoint, harmonic (major vs. minor), instrument vs. instrument, section vs. section, and family vs. family. The piece finally ends with the entire ensemble demonstrating loud ensemble playing in unison, essentially answering the question posed by the soft opening chord at the onset.

I would sincerely like to thank Andrew Yozviak, and Timothy Holtan for spearheading the creation of this work, and the 22 ensembles from all around the U.S., who decided to take part in the consortium.

- Program Note by composer


None discovered thus far.

State Ratings

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Works for Winds by This Composer

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