I would much rather wrestle a gator than a bear; there's a chance that I might survive.
4. You’re trapped on an island. There is one electrical outlet connected to a boombox from 1992. When you were stranded here you only had time to save one cassette out of collection of singles. What is the one pop song you will listen to for the rest of your life?
I want to be coy and say "All By Myself," but, really, probably Bohemian Rhapsody.
5. Who are 3 composers from the past -AND- 3 of your own generation whose music you respect, enjoy, inspires you, etc…
Past: Ludwig van Beethoven, Maurice Ravel, György Ligeti
Present: David Biedenbender, Steven Snowden, Caleb Burhans
Aurora Borealis for wind ensemble
This piece has gotten some serious play recently. I’ve never really gotten into Joel’s harmonic language, which I’ve told him in the past. He writes in a language that makes prominent use of tonal materials. But, I always seem to enjoy Joel’s pieces for another reason.
Orchestration and timbre. He really knows what he is doing when it comes to presenting ideas with multiple instrumental groups. And when writing for a homogenous ensemble, his varied use of timbre keeps the instruments alive.
All that being said, I think Joel kind of succumbed to traditional “band” moves in this one. The oboe solo, the more or less ABA form, the big brass fanfare ending. Don’t get me wrong. Bands eat this stuff up and ask for thirds. But, it doesn’t seem like the music being written for the ensemble is evolving. I played in bands for many years and have developed somewhat of a prejudice against the ensemble because the music is never that innovative or exciting. I think one of the reasons for this is because of the competitive nature of bands in Solo and Ensemble conferences. You have to show that you can play rhythmically advanced music, you have to show musicality in slow sections, you have to have big brass chords that are tuned well, etc etc. So, after some time, composers get stuck in this band music mold because that is what the band needs to take the piece to any competition.
Ok. Band rant over. What I did like about the piece where the parts to which you normally don’t pay attention; the inner lines. The moving lines that keeps the texture going. While I think some moments have the traditional “band” sound to them, many moments did not and were interesting from a sonic point of view that broke the mold of what a band sounds like in that given formal moment.
Lightscapes for string quartet
Joel has written several (one or two I think) string quartets and is getting quite adept with that ensemble. The beginning of this piece is very beautiful. Again. Timbre and moving lines. This is music that is emotive and appeals to nearly any listener. When reviewing this work for the recent competition with Frame Dance, it was clear that this piece lends itself very well to dance and possess the emotional content to support a very flowing and graceful movement. Congratulations Joel!
Personally, I think the cello pizz section goes on somewhat longer than it should. The section that follows is, texturally, very interesting. Despite the rhythmic stoppage and the freeze that the tremolo/trill texture creates, I think it still moves forward in a satisfying way. Joel’s writing in many of his pieces lends itself well to visual accompaniment because it is evokes motion. That is certainly one of his strengths as a composer. His pieces do not stagnate. Even if you do not particular enjoy the harmonic materials, you are still taken on a very satisfying ride.