Tight Squeeze

From Wind Repertory Project
This work has been identified for inclusion in the Small Band Repertoire Initiative. You may find discussion of the work's challenges and merits under the Discussion tab above. You may also contribute your own thoughts and recommendations by joining the WRP.

Alex Shapiro

Alex Shapiro

Subtitle: For Concert Wind Band and Pre-Recorded Soundscape

General Info

Year: 2013
Duration: c. 3:15
Difficulty: IV (see Ratings for explanation)
Publisher: Activist Music
Cost: Score and Parts - $80.00   |   Score Only - $15.00


Full Score
C Piccolo
Flute I-II
B-flat Soprano Clarinet I-II
B-flat Bass Clarinet
E-flat Alto Saxophone I-II
B-flat Tenor Saxophone
E-flat Baritone Saxophone
B-flat Trumpet I-II
Horn in F I-II
Trombone I-II
Bass Trombone
Electric Bass
Percussion, including:

  • Cowbell
  • Glockenspiel
  • Marimba
  • Suspended Cymbal
  • Tom-Tom
  • Vibraphone
  • Xylophone


None discovered thus far.

Program Notes

From the acclaimed composer of Paper Cut, Alex Shapiro, this unique, high-energy work could be described by the following: imagine Arnold Schoenberg, Henry Mancini, and Charlie Parker walking into a dance club in Havana, and staying for three minutes. Tight Squeeze ventures into new territory as it explores chromaticism and syncopation against a prerecorded percussion groove. The result is the repertoire's first electroacoustic twelve-tone techno Latin bebop band piece! Okay, maybe Schoenberg did all that first, but it never sounded quite like this!

- Program Note from publisher

On the heels of composing Paper Cut, which pairs a wind band with not only an electronic track but a ream of printer paper, I knew I wanted to create another even more up-tempo, groove-oriented piece that would be fun for fidgety teenagers with the attention spans of diabetic gnats. Okay, even fun for calmer musicians. Unexpectedly, that turned out to feature a twelve-tone row theme, possibly the world's first for high school band, at least this far west of Vienna.

Initially the melody only had eight notes. When I noticed that none repeated themselves, I decided to go for broke, in a tip of the hat to my beloved 90-year old German composition teacher Ursula Mamlok, who was a renowned serialist during the earlier years of her career. The only serialism I've ever been interested in is granola, but I had a good time with this little tone row, which I paired with a techno-rock-infused percussion groove and electric bass line (yeah, I know; Schoenberg did that first), plus a few Latin rhythms and a hint of jazz. Voila: Electroacoustic Twelve-tone Techno Latin Bebop.

The twelve pitches are first introduced in all their chromatic glory at bars 7-10, and they reappear in different keys throughout the piece. The music, however, is not really in any key at all, since I only think in terms of keys if I'm locked out of my car. And if I were locked out of my car, this is probably the kind of thing I'd be hearing in my head while frantically trying to get back in.

Which leads to the title, which has nothing to do with my car. It has everything to do with a young gull who landed on a rock in front of my desk window as I was finishing this music, with a sizable flounder, uh, floundering in his clamped beak. The rather goofy-looking bird was having a challenging time figuring out how to swallow his windfall. I said to the bird, "Wow, tight squeeze!", and immediately realized that all these notes that were cramming the score page would soon be squeezing through the students’ instruments, as snugly as a fat flounder in a gull's mouth. I also realized that talking to birds is pointless; they make lousy conversationalists.

I really care about education and about giving students opportunities to be challenged. My observation of much (not all) band music is that it's often very straight and plodding in rhythm, and lacking in chromaticism. Tight Squeeze is another of my humble attempts to broaden the scope of the repertoire. Yessirree folks, for one low price, just look at what's included:

The twelve tone row theme appears in several keys throughout the piece: it first starts on C, later it begins on D, and somewhere in there it also begins on Bb. Dizzying. Packets of Dramamine should be included with each score set. So, students will learn chromaticism by playing almost every note on their instrument! They will learn syncopation! They will learn to pay ridiculously close attention to articulations and phrasing! And maybe even to the band director! And despite all this work, they'll be happy because they get to play really loudly! But wait, there's more!

They'll get a feel for bebop and Latin jazz traditions -- especially important for the players who are not in a jazz band (oh, pity the oboists), but who deserve to play this quintessential American music. Lots of 21st century concert music is infused with various grooves, and classically trained musicians need to be comfortable with all genres. Just like this gull, they should learn to digest everything.

- Program Note by composer


State Ratings

  • MusicFest Canada: B400


To submit a performance please join The Wind Repertory Project

  • Ripon (Wisc.) College Symphonic Wind Ensemble (Tobin Sucha, conductor) - 29 October 2023
  • Christopher Newport University (Newport News, Va.) University Band (Mark P. Johnson, conductor) - 20 March 2023
  • Shepherd University (Shepherdstown, W. Va.) Wind Ensemble (Scott Hippensteel, conductor) - 24 February 2023
  • Louisiana State University (Baton Rouge) Symphonic Band (Lawrence Williams, conductor) - 28 November 2022
  • Lamar University Symphonic Band (Eric Shannon, conductor) - 6 October 2022
  • Tennessee Governor’s School for the Arts (Murfreesboro) Wind Ensemble (Denny Hawkins, conductor) – 25 June 2022
  • University of Toronto (Ont., Can.) Wind Ensemble (Gillian MacKay, conductor) - 2 December 2021
  • Michigan State University (East Lansing) Spartan Youth Wind Symphony (Arris Golden, conductor) – 21 November 2021
  • University of Illinois (Champaign) Hindsley Symphonic Band (unconducted) - 3 October 2021
  • West Chester (Penn.) University Concert Band (John Obringer, conductor) - 29 April 2021
  • Middle Tennessee State University (Murfreesboro) Symphonic Band (Denny Hawkins, conductor) - 6 March 2021
  • Ball State University (Muncie, Ind.) Symphony Band (Caroline Hand, conductor) – 26 February 2020
  • University of Wisconsin-Madison Wednesday University Band (Allison Jaeger, conductor) – 8 December 2019
  • Arkansas State University (Jonesboro) Symphonic Winds (Shawn Crawford, conductor) – 21 November 2019
  • University of Dubuque (Iowa) Wind Ensemble (Cassandra Blanchard, conductor) – 2 November 2019
  • Stephen F. Austin State University (Nacogdoches, Tx.) Symphonic Band (Chris Kaatz, conductor) – 15 October 2019
  • California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, Wind Orchestra (Christopher J. Woodruff, conductor) – 9 June 2019
  • Kent State (Ohio) Wind Ensemble (Mason Smith, conductor) – 3 May 2019
  • Brevard (N.C.) College Wind Ensemble (Miller Asbill, conductor) - 13 February 2013 *Premiere Performance*

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