Winds of Nagual

From Wind Repertory Project
Michael Colgrass

Michael Colgrass

Subtitle: A Musical Fable for Wind Ensemble on the Writings of Carlos Castaneda.

General Info

Year: 1985
Duration: c. 25:00
Difficulty: VII (see Ratings for explanation)
Publisher: Carl Fischer
Cost: Score and Parts - Rental   |  Full Score Only - $65.00


1. The Desert: Don Juan Emerges from the Mountains - 4:17
2. Carlos Meets Don Juan; First Conversation - 0:54
3. Don Genaro Appears - 0:34
4. Don Genero Satirizes Carlos - 1:46
5. Carlos Stares at the River and Becomes a Bubble - 2:26
6. The Gait of Power - 2:27
7. Asking Twilight for Calmness and Power - 4:36
8. Don Juan Clowns for Carlos - 6:50
9. Last Conversation and Farewell - 4:46


Full Score
Flute I-II-III-IV-V-VI (all doubling piccolo, V-VI doubling Alto Flute)
E-flat Soprano Clarinet
B-flat Soprano Clarinet I-II-III-IV-V-VI
B-flat Bass Clarinet
E-flat Contra-Alto Clarinet
B-flat Contrabass Clarinet
B-flat Soprano Saxophone
E-flat Alto Saxophone
B-flat Trumpet I-II-III-IV-V-VI (Trumpet V-VI double Cornet)
Horn in F I-II-III-IV-V-VI
Trombone I-II-III-IV-V-VI (Trombone V-VI should be bass trombones)
Euphonium (2 players)
Tuba (2 players)
String Bass (2 players)
Celesta (and piano)
Percussion I-II-III-IV-V, including:

  • Bass Drum
  • Bongos
  • Cowbell (5)
  • Crash Cymbals (3: large)
  • Crotales
  • Field Drum
  • Gongs (3)
  • Marimba
  • Parsifal Bells
  • Snare Drum
  • Suspended Cymbals (4: large)
  • Temple Block
  • Tenor Drum
  • Timbales
  • Tubular Bells
  • Vibraphone
  • Xylophone


  • Alto Flute. m.73, beat 2: Should read two eighth notes, not two quarter notes as printed.

Program Notes

Winds of Nagual is based on the writings of Carlos Castaneda about his 14-year apprenticeship with Don Juan Matis, a Yaqui Indian sorcerer from Northwestern Mexico. Castaneda met Don Juan while researching hallucinogenic plants for his master's thesis in anthropology at UCLA. Juan became Castaneda's mentor and trained him in pre-Colombian techniques of sorcery, the overall purpose of which is to find the creative self -- what Juan calls the nagual.

Each of the characters has a musical theme: Juan’s is dark and ominous, yet gentle and kind; Carlos’s is open, direct and naïve. We hear Carlos’s theme throughout the piece from constantly changing perspectives, as Juan submits him to long desert marches, encounters with terrifying powers and altered states of reality. A comic aspect is added to the piece by Don Genaro, a sorcerer friend of Juan’s, who frightens Carlos with fantastic tricks like disappearing and reappearing at will. The score is laced with programmatic indications such as “Juan entrances Carlos with a stare,” “a horrible creature leaps at Carlos,” “He feels a deep calm and joy,” etc.

The listener need not have read Casteneda’s books to enjoy the work, and I don’t expect anyone to follow any exact scenario. My object is to capture the mood and atmosphere created by the books and to convey a feeling of the relationship that develops as a man of ancient wisdom tries to cultivate heart in an analytical young man of a technological age.

In a 1991 interview, Colgrass described his approach to Winds of Nagual stating, “Important to me in this piece is the sudden change of styles and feelings and moods and tempos. These characteristics are indigenous to the books, where a humorous situation will be followed instantly by a terrifying one. I tried to capture these changes and moods in the music.”

Winds of Nagual was commissioned by the New England Conservatory Wind Ensemble and is respectfully dedicated to its director, Frank Battisti.

- Program Note by the composer, quoted by Frank L. Battisti

The first movement, The Desert, is highly evocative of the opening of Igor Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring. The opening sound of the Eb clarinet is a possible reminder of the bassoon in the treble clef from Stravinsky's ballet. In the third movement, Don Genaro Appears, laughter can be heard from the clarinets. In the eighth movement, Don Juan Clowns for Carlos, clowns from a circus or carnivale can be heard. The clarinet and saxophone sections utilize folk music to make sound that could remind the listener of a memory of painted up performers. And the final movement, Last Conversation and Farewell, a similar sounding feel arises to the Great Gate of Kiev from Pictures at an Exhibition by Modest Mussorgsky.


State Ratings

None discovered thus far.


To submit a performance please join The Wind Repertory Project

  • Eastman School of Music (Rochester, N.Y.) Wind Ensemble (Mason St. Pierre, conductor) - 2 February 2024
  • United States Marine Band (Washington, D.C.) (Jason K. Fettig, conductor) - 22 January 2023
  • Northwestern University (Evanston, Ill.) Symphonic Wind Ensemble (Mallory Thompson, conductor) - 13 May 2022
  • Boston (Mass.) Conservatory Wind Ensemble (Matthew Marset, conductor) - 10 December 2021
  • University of Miami (Coral Gables) Frost Wind Ensemble (Robert Carnochan, conductor) - 14 November 2021
  • University of Minnesota (Minneapolis) Wind Ensemble (Emily Threinen, conductor) – 11 December 2019
  • Baldwin Wallace Conservatory of Music Symphonic Wind Ensemble (Brendan Caldwell, conductor) - 6 December 2019
  • University of Missouri, Kansas City, Wind Symphony (Steven D. Davis, conductor) – 5 December 2019
  • State University of New York, Fredonia, Wind Ensemble (Paula Holcomb, conductor) – 20 November 2019
  • Louisiana State University (Baton Rouge) Wind Ensemble (Damon Talley, conductor) – 20 November 2019
  • Kennesaw (Ga.) State University Wind Ensemble (David T. Kehler, conductor) – 14 November 2019
  • University of Kansas (Lawrence) Wind Ensemble (Paul W. Popiel, conductor) – 14 November 2019
  • University of North Texas (Denton) Wind Symphony (Eugene Migliaro Corporon, conductor) – 7 November 2019
  • New England Conservatory (Boston, Mass.) Wind Ensemble (Charles Peltz, conductor) – 5 November 2019
  • University of Illinois (Champaign) Wind Symphony (Stephen G. Peterson, conductor) – 30 October 2019
  • Ball State University (Muncie, Ind.) Wind Ensemble (Thomas Caneva, conductor) – 25 October 2019
  • Ithaca (N.Y.) College Wind Ensemble (Christopher Hughes, conductor) – 15 October 2019
  • Michigan State University (East Lansing) Wind Symphony (Kevin Sedatole, conductor) – 21 March 2019

Works for Winds by This Composer