Music of Joseph Schwantner at the University of Delaware

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Joseph Schwantner

Joseph Schwantner

On Thursday, February 21, New Music Delaware will present a chamber concert of music by Joseph Schwanter, conducted by Dr. Wesley Broadnax. Dr. Broadnax, formerly on the faculty of the University of Delaware, is Visiting Assistant Professor of Music & Director of Bands at Drexel University. A native of Texas, Dr. Broadnax received his bachelor’s degree in music education from Stephen F. Austin State University and taught for several years in the Texas Public Schools. He received both the master’s and doctoral degrees in Wind Conducting from Michigan State University. Dr. Broadnax maintains an active schedule as a guest conductor, clinician and adjudicator.

Wesley Broadnax

Wesley Broadnax

I have been enjoying preparing for this concert, in part because Dr. Broadnax is so knowledgeable and so passionate about Schwantner’s music. In this post, he shares some of his insights.

What initially drew you to Joseph Schwantner’s music?
WB: I was initially drawn to Schwantner’s music as a young college student performing his . . .and the mountains rising nowhere (1977) with my college Wind Ensemble in Texas.  It was the most unusual, yet fresh sounding work I had ever heard up to that point.  The work incorporated an array of percussion instruments, as well as making use of glass crystals (wine glasses) and instrumentalists singing.  I was, in a sense, mesmerized by this work that I urged my wind ensemble conductor to let us play “more” works by this composer.  It was at this point in the late 1980s that my love for Joseph Schwantner’s music was realized. I became a fanatic for his musical language.

What do you find is the biggest challenge for players of his music?
WB:I believe the greatest challenge in Schwantner’s music is clearly the rhythmic aspect of his music.  Although his music delineates clear rhythmic patterns, it is the composite rhythms that pose more issues for players–figuring out what part of the overall rhythm YOU are part of.  Also, because of the minimalism aspects of his music, it can be a bit overwhelming (as with most minimalistic music)–executing repetitive rhythmic patterns over a long period of time.

What will this New Music Delaware concert display about the scope of his body of work?
WB:New Music Delaware Festival will allow audience members and participants of the festival to hear the wide range of musical output by this composer–from solo to chamber to large wind ensemble.  Schwantner has contributed to several performance media with important works that have proven to be groundbreaking in their own right.  His solo marimba work Velocities is a well known work in the percussion repertoire and is often programmed on recital performances; his Sparrows for soprano and chamber ensemble is one of the most “colorful” works for contemporary chamber ensembles to date; his Rhiannon’s Blackbirds displays the virtuosity of tone color, rhythm, and melodic/harmonic development within a chamber ensemble.  His Recoil is the fourth and newest of his wind ensemble works, which includes the saxophones for the first time in all of his wind ensemble works.

What would you tell someone who has never heard his music to listen for? What should the listener expect?
WB:If one is listening to Schwanter’s music for the first time, it is of particular importance to listen for the sounds of bells  (ringing sounds from crotales, piano, triangles), singing by the instrumentalists, pyramiding and layering of harmony, and an “atmospheric” sound to his music.  He is heavily influenced by poetry and text, and his music will often reflect such references.  He has his own unique sound apart from most composers of today.

New Music Delaware
Thursday, February 21, 2013 at 8:00 pm
Puglisi Hall, Roselle Center for the Arts
University of Delaware, Newark, DE

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