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Occidental Symphony

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Jacob Bancks

Jacob Bancks


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General Info

Year: 2017
Duration: c. 38:00
Difficulty: (see Ratings for explanation)
Publisher: Jacob Bancks
Cost: Score and Parts - Unknown

For availability, please see Discussion tab, above


Movements

1. Blue Border of the West – 10:35
2. Nebraska’s Cry Went Eastward – 5:20
3. Gone to Join the Shadows – 13:05
4. And the Bands Played Strange and Stranger Music – 8:45


Instrumentation

Full Score
C Piccolo (doubles Flute III)
Flute I-II
Oboe I-II
English Horn (doubles Oboe III)
Bassoon I-II
Contra-Bassoon (doubles Bassoon III)
E-flat Soprano Clarinet
B-flat Soprano Clarinet I-VI
B-flat Bass Clarinet
B-flat Contrabass Clarinet
B-flat Soprano Saxophone
E-flat Alto Saxophone
B-flat Tenor Saxophone
E-flat Baritone Saxophone
B-flat Trumpet I-VI
Horn in F I-II-III-IV
Trombone I-II-III
Bass Trombone
Euphonium I-II
Tuba I-II
String Bass
Piano/Celesta
Harp
Timpani
Percussion I-VI, including:

  • Almglocken
  • Bass Drum
  • Bottles (2), different pitches
  • Brake Drum
  • Chimes
  • Claves
  • Clocktower Bell
  • Cocoanut Shells
  • Coffee Cans (2), different pitches
  • Concert Tom
  • Cowbells (3), graduated
  • Crash Cymbals
  • Crotales
  • Finger Cymbals
  • Glockenspiel
  • Guiro
  • Handbells
  • Kick Drum
  • Ratchet
  • Sanctus Bells
  • Sandpaper Blocks
  • Snare Drum
  • Suspended Cymbal, medium
  • Tam-Tam, large
  • Thunder Sheet
  • Triangle, high and medium
  • Vibraphone
  • Washboard
  • Waterbird Whistle
  • Waterphone
  • Wood Blocks (2), graduated
  • Xylophone


Errata

None discovered thus far.


Program Notes

Bancks previously composed a work specifically for the U.S. Marine Band entitled The Information Age, which was premièred in March 2013. The Occidental Symphony represents his second collaboration with “The President’s Own”.

The composer offers the following in regards to the inspiration for this substantial addition to the repertoire:

Just over 120 years ago, John Philip Sousa was on a ship somewhere over the Atlantic, returning from a European vacation with his wife. Musing on the recent death of Sousa Band manager David Blakely, the composer was inspired to write out the piano score for a new march, finishing it at sea on Christmas Day. This new work (you’ve heard of it?) was The Stars and Stripes Forever, which became 1896’s most enduring piece of Americana.

By contrast, almost everything else about that tumultuous election year is more or less forgotten. The election’s most polarizing slogan -- “Free and unlimited coinage of silver!” -- is unlikely to excite much passion today. Even the winner has faded to near-obscurity: in 2015, the Alaskan mountain named in honor of President William McKinley was officially renamed Denali, its original Native American name. “Gone to join the shadows, with the pomps of that time,” wrote poet Vachel Lindsay of McKinley, “and the flames of that summer’s prairie rose.”

These lines are from Lindsay’s expansive 1919 poem Bryan, Bryan, Bryan, Bryan, a text which provided much of the inspiration for Occidental Symphony. Writing from his own experience as a sixteen-year-old who passionately supported McKinley’s opponent William Jennings Bryan, Lindsay portrays the 1896 election not simply as a dispute over currency, but as a battle in the war between the vigorous, unrefined, optimistic West (“prairie schooner children/Born beneath the stars”) and the decadent, self-interested East (“plutocrats in miles/With dollar signs upon their coats”). The poem’s climax recalls a recitation of the notable Cross of Gold speech which Lindsay heard Bryan give on a campaign stop in Lindsay’s hometown of Springfield, Illinois. Recognizing the speech as a work of a fellow poet, Lindsay quotes Bryan’s most memorable lines directly: “You shall not crucify mankind/Upon a cross of gold.” When Bryan loses the general election handily, to the disillusioned Lindsay it means the “Defeat of the aspen groves of Colorado valleys,/The blue bells of the Rockies,/And blue bonnets of old Texas, by the Pittsburg alleys.” Even more devastatingly, it was the “Defeat of my boyhood, defeat of my dream.”

Just as Lindsay used the story of the rancorous 1896 election to illuminate deeper realities (“There were truths eternal in the gap and tittle-tattle…”), I have tried to use his poem as an inspirational starting point from which to wander freely, rather than a dramatic narrative to be followed strictly; this is a symphony, after all, not a symphonic poem. The movement titles, drawn from the poem, should give the listener some idea of the themes I have taken from Lindsay: a panoramic view of the Mississippi and the western United States (“Blue border of the West”), the enduring conflict between insiders and outsiders (“Nebraska’s cry went eastward”), the ephemeral, transitory nature of once-important civic heroes and villains (“Gone to join the shadows”), and the intoxicating power of political speech (“And the bands played strange and stranger music”). The symphony’s conclusion is also haunted by my impressions of Lindsay’s untimely death: at the height of the Great Depression, the poet took his own life, immediately above the room in which he was born and steps from where he had heard Bryan speak three decades prior.

- Program Note from U.S. Marine Band concert program, 19 March 2017


Commercial Discography

None discovered thus far.


State Ratings

None discovered thus far.


Performances

To submit a performance please join The Wind Repertory Project


Works for Winds by this Composer


Resources