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John Mackey

John Mackey

General Info

Year: 2008
Duration: c. 5:10
Difficulty: IV (see Ratings for explanation)
Publisher: Osti Music
Cost: Score and Parts - $120.00   |   Score Only - $20.00


Full Score
Flute I-II
Oboe I-II
B-flat Soprano Clarinet I-II-III
B-flat Bass Clarinet
E-flat Contra-Alto Clarinet (optional)
E-flat Alto Saxophone I-II
B-flat Tenor Saxophone
E-flat Baritone Saxophone
B-flat Trumpet I-II-III
Horn in F I-II
Trombone I-II-III
Double Bass (optional)
Percussion I-II-III-IV-V-VI, including:

  • Bass Drum
  • China Cymbal
  • Crotales
  • Maracas (2)
  • Marimba
  • Splash Cymbals
  • Suspended (large)
  • Tambourine
  • Tam-tam
  • Tom-toms (4)
  • Vibes
  • Xylophone


In Score:

  • The instrumentation page in the score indicates that there are two bassoon parts, but there is only one.

Program Notes

Though many of his pieces are extremely virtuosic, Undertow is the first of Mackey's works written specifically for intermediate band. It was commissioned by the Hill Country Middle School Band and premiered by that ensemble with its conductor, Cheryl Floyd, in May 2008. The work is significantly different than much of Mackey's output in terms of technical difficulty, but many characteristic elements of his writing are nonetheless present, including biting semitone dissonance within a tonal context, frequent use of mixed meter, heavy percussion effects and, perhaps most importantly to this work, a pervasive ostinato. The metric pattern for the piece is an alternation of 7/8 and 4/4 time, which provides an agitated "out-of-step" pulsation throughout. The energetic opening melody cycles through several repetitions before washing away into a gentle stream of percussive eighth notes. From here, a countermelody emerges that slowly ratchets the energy back up to its original level, where the initial melody returns to round out the explosive conclusion.

- Program note by Jake Wallace

Undertow was written to portray a spinning current that is capable of pulling a large ship under water.

- Program Note from New Diana High School Band concert program, 12 February 2016


State Ratings

  • Texas: IV


To submit a performance please join The Wind Repertory Project

  • University of North Dakota (Grand Forks) University Band (James Popejoy, conductor) - 7 March 2023
  • Susquehanna University (Selinsgrove, Penn.) Symphonic Band (David Rohrer, conductor) - 3 December 2022
  • Scarsdale (N.Y.) High School Bands (Jason Noble, conductor) - 26 April 2022
  • Kingsburg (Calif.) High School Wind Ensemble (Michael Schofield, conductor) – 22 April 2022 (2022 San Joaquin Valley (Calif.) Concert Band Invitational)
  • Appalachian State University (Boone, N.C.) Concert Band (T.j. Anderson, conductor) 24 February 2022
  • Mukwonago (Wisc.) High School Wind Ensemble (Emma Angoli, conductor) – 13 December 2021
  • San Jose (Calif.) State University Wind Ensemble (Arquin Abaya, conductor) - 2 December 2021
  • Chadron (Neb.) State College Wind Symphony (John Wojcik, conductor) - 9 April 2021
  • University of Missouri (Columbia) University Band (Amy M. Knopps, conductor) – 27 February 2020
  • University of Minnesota (Minneapolis) High School Honor Band (Emily Threinen, conductor) – 26 January 2020
  • South Oldham High School (Crestwood, Ky.) Wind Ensemble (Ryan McAllister, conductor) – 16 December 2019
  • Shenandoah Conservatory Concert Band (Winchester, Va.) (Keith Taylor, conductor)– 26 October 2019
  • Hopatcong (N.J.) Wind Ensemble (Kurt Zimmerman, conductor) – 16 May 2019
  • Abilene (Tx.) Christian University Wind Ensemble (Brandon Houghtalen, conductor) – 25 April 2019
  • Penn State University (University Park) Concert Band (Robert Hickey, conductor) – 25 April 2019
  • Hanover Wind Symphony (Whippany, N.J.) (Matthew J, Paterno, conductor) – 23 April 2019 (ACB 2019 Annual Convention (Woodcliff Lake, N.J.))
  • Georgia Institute of Technology (Atlanta) (Concert Band) (Benjamin J. Diden, conductor) – 14 April 2019
  • Harlandale High School (San Antonio, Tx.) Symphonic Band (Chase Failing, conductor) - 2 April 2019
  • Randolph (N.J.) High School Symphonic Winds (Carl Della Peruti, conductor) – 6 March 2019
  • Ithaca (N.Y.) College Concert Band (Brian Diller, conductor) – 4 March 2019

Works for Winds by This Composer

Adaptable Music

All Wind Works