The World Association of Symphonic Bands and Ensembles (WASBE) was founded in 1981 to create more worldwide awareness of the wind medium. Frank Battisti became the president of CBDNA in 1979 and had previously considered creating a group like WASBE. He believed that “an international association of this kind could help develop and advance the wind band/ensemble as a viable musical medium on the global scale.”[1] Battisti obtained “seed” money from CBDNA in 1981 and established WASBE with the help of William Johnson (California Polytechnic State University) and Timothy Reynish (Royal Northern College of Music Wind Orchestra, Manchester, England. The first WASBE conference took place in Skien, Norway, in 1983. The organization holds a conference every two years, featuring performances from ensembles that perform works written by composers worldwide.[2] Today WASBE is the only international wind band organization and remains “dedicated to enhancing the quality of the wind band internationally.”[3]

1981 – From a Dark MillenniumJoseph Schwantner

After the success of …and the mountains rising nowhere, there was great interest in having Schwantner write another piece for winds. From a Dark Millennium was commissioned by the Mid-American Band Directors Association and premiered in 1981 by the University of Northern Illinois Wind Ensemble. The instrumentation is similar to that of …and the mountains rising nowhere, leaving out saxophone and euphonium. When asked why he left out those instruments, Schwantner hoped professional orchestras would also consider programming his works for winds.[4]

The music for From a Dark Millennium matches the second movement of Schwantner’s chamber piece Music of Ambers, Sanctuary. Schwantner often used poetry to spark inspiration for his music, and both From a Dark Millennium and Sanctuary were based on a poem he wrote:


            deep forests

a play of shadows,

            most ancient murmurings

from a dark millennium

            the trembling fragrance[5]

In the opening measures, the piano and vibraphones present an octatonic scale that influences the melodic and harmonic material throughout the piece. Schwantner also employs a compositional technique he calls “static pillars of harmonies,” described as “long periods of unchanged pitch clusters which undulate through small manipulations of orchestration or registration.”[6]

1981 – Symphony No. 3, In Praise of WindsGunther Schuller

Gunther Schuller (1925-2015) was an American composer, conductor, author, and performer. He began his musical career as a horn player with the American Ballet Theatre in 1943 and joined the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra in 1943. From 1945 to 1959, he was a member of the Metropolitan Opera House Orchestra. Schuller began composing at a young age and wanted to bridge the gap between “serious” music and jazz. He coined the term “Third Stream” to create a fusion between both mediums. In 1955 he began writing “Third Stream” music and published 12 by 11, which was scored for jazz combo and chamber ensemble. Schuller stopped playing horn professionally in 1959 to focus on composition and teaching. He held positions at the Manhattan School of Music, Yale, and the New England Conservatory. He had significant influence at the Berkshire Music Center at Tanglewood while he served as the first head of compositional studies from 1963 to 1984 and the artistic director from 1970 until 1984. In 1994 he was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for his piece Of Reminiscences and Reflections.[7] Schuller became an advocate and friend of the wind band when he first played for the Goldman Band in New York City. He conducted performances at CBDNA and WASBE conferences and composed several works for winds.[8]

Symphony No. 3, In Praise of Winds, was commissioned by the University of Michigan to honor the centennial celebration of their School of Music. This symphony is in four movements:

    1. Andante, spaciously. Allegro.
    2. Moderato Tranquillo (to the memory of Alec Wilder, a remarkable musician and uncorruptible human being)
    3. Scherzo
    4. Finale Rondo

According to the composer:

The first movement, with its somewhat somber and portentous opening, soon develops into a bright allegro . . . The second movement is mostly slow and serene, exploiting quartal harmonies and the more pastel colors of the ensemble. A virtuoso Scherzo follows . . . Movement four is cast in Rondo form in which both the main thematic material (fanfare in character) and the interspersed ‘episodes’ are constantly varied, either in orchestration or in substance.[9]

1981 – A Child’s Garden of DreamsDavid Maslanka

David Maslanka (1943-2017) was born in New Bedford, Massachusetts. He studied composition with Joseph Wood at Oberlin College Conservatory, graduating in 1965. In 1963 he spent a year studying with Gerhardt Wimberger at the Salzburg Mozarteum in Austria. Maslanka completed a master’s and doctorate at Michigan State University, where he studied with H. Owen Reed. He taught at Geneseo College (1970-1974), Sarah Lawrence College (1974-1980), New York University (1980-1981), and Kingsborough Community College, CUNY (1981-1990) before retiring to Missoula, Montana, to focus on composing.[10] Throughout his career, he wrote more than 50 works for winds.

Maslanka was known for using meditation and spirituality in his compositional process. For example, in Composers on Composing for Band: Volume Two, the composer explains:

For me, composing begins by going into the meditation space, first to gain a sense of energy of the people who have commissioned the music, specifically their need in asking for a piece, then to ask what wants to happen in the music. What I receive is a series of what I would call dream images that have strong spiritual-emotional feelings. People have asked how I know I’m not just “making this up.” I certainly make no absolute claim for my mediation images, but I have come to perceive a qualitative difference between these experiences and idle fantasy over time. I would suggest that idle fantasy itself is a potential first step on the continuum to powerful vision.[11]

In 1980 John and Marietta Paynter commissioned Maslanka to write his first piece for wind ensemble. A Child’s Garden of Dreams was written during the summer of 1981 and premiered by the Northwestern Symphonic Wind Ensemble in 1982. This piece was based on a selection from Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung’s book Man and His Symbols. Jung tells the story of when another psychiatrist brought him a handwritten book his ten-year-old daughter gave him as a Christmas present. The book contained twelve dreams she had dreamed over two years, each story beginning with “Once upon a time.” The dreams were quite weird and unchildlike. About a year later, the daughter died of an infectious disease. After her death, Jung concluded that these dreams were a preparation for death.[12]

Maslanka selected five of the twelve dreams the child wrote about to use in A Child’s Garden of Dreams:

    1. There is a desert on the moon where the dreamer sinks so deeply into the ground that she reaches hell.
    2. A drunken woman falls into the water and comes out renewed and sober.
    3. A horde of small animals frightens the dreamer. The animals increase to a tremendous size, and one of them devours the little girl.
    4. A drop of water is seen as it appears when looked at through a microscope. The girl sees that the drop is full of tree branches. This portrays the origin of the world.
    5. An ascent into heaven where pagan dances are being celebrated; and a descent into hell where angels are doing good deeds.

1982 – Grand Pianola MusicJohn Adams

John Adams (b. 1947) is an American composer and conductor. His father taught him to play clarinet as a young boy, and he began playing in local bands and other community ensembles. He began composing at the age of ten and went on to study composition with Leon Kirchner at Harvard University. Adams moved to Northern California in 1971, where he taught at the San Francisco Conservatory from 1972 to 1982. He left the Conservatory after being selected as composer-in-residence for the San Francisco Symphony from 1982 to 1985. Adams was conferred honorary doctorates from Harvard, Yale, Northwestern, Cambridge, and the Julliard School. In 1993 he was awarded the Grawemeyer Award, and in 2003 he received the Pulitzer Prize in Music for On the Transmigration of Souls, a piece commissioned by the New York Philharmonic to commemorate the first anniversary of September 11, 2001.[13]

Grand Pianola Music was written during Adams’ time as composer-in-residence with the San Francisco Symphony and commissioned by General Atlantic Corporation and David M. Rumsey. The piece utilizes orchestral winds (two flutes, two oboes, 2 Bb clarinets, two bassoons, two horns, two trumpets, two trombones, tuba, and percussion), two solo pianos, and three amplified voices. John Adams writes that a dream inspired the piece:

Grand Pianola Music also started with a dream image in which, while driving down Interstate Route 5, I was approached from behind by two long, gleaming, black stretch limousines. As the vehicles drew up beside me, they transformed into the world’s longest Steinway pianos…twenty, maybe even thirty feet long. Screaming down the highway at 90 m.p.h., they gave off volleys of Bb and Eb major arpeggios. I was reminded of walking down the hallways of the San Francisco Conservatory, where I used to teach, hearing the sonic blur of twenty or more pianos playing Chopin, the Emporer Concerto, Hanon, Rachmaninoff, the Maple Leaf Rag and much more.[14]

Grand Pianola Music is written in three movements. The first two movements are labeled 1A and 1B, and the final movement is called “On the Dominant Divide.” Adams used “On the Dominant Divide” as an experiment on his Minimalist techniques by sticking to “the barest of all possible chord progressions, I-V-I.”[15]

1984 – Smetana FanfareKarel Husa

San Diego State University commissioned Husa to write a piece for a 1984 festival honoring the life and music of Czech composer Bedrich Smetana.

Smetana Fanfare was premiered on April 3, 1984, by the San Diego State University Wind Ensemble. Husa used excerpts from Smetana’s
Wallenstein’s Camp, a symphonic poem written in 1859 when the Czech composer was exiled from Prague.[16]

1985 – Winds of NagualMichael Colgrass

Michael Colgrass (1932-2019) began his musical career as a percussionist and studied percussion and composition at the University of Illinois, where he graduated in 1954. He then continued his studies with Lukas Foss at Tanglewood and Darius Milhaud at the Aspen Festival. Colgrass had an extensive career as a percussionist and played for various ensembles. As a composer, he received commissions from prestigious ensembles like the New York Philharmonic, Boston Symphony, and the San Francisco Symphony. Colgrass was awarded the 1978 Pulitzer Prize for Music for his piece Déjà vu, and in 2002 he published a book titled My Lessons with Kumi.[17]

Winds of Nagual was commissioned by the New England Conservatory and premiered on February 14, 1985. Colgrass based the composition on the writings of Carlos Castaneda, who spent a 14-year apprenticeship with a Yaqui Indian sorcerer. Don Juan Matis trained Castaneda in pre-Columbian techniques of sorcery meant to find the creative self, what Don Juan refers to as the nagual. The piece is programmatic, and each character has a different musical theme. Movements include:

    1. The Desert: Don Juan Emerges from the Mountains
    2. Carlos Meets Don Juan; First Conversation
    3. Don Genaro Appears
    4. Don Genero Satirizes Carlos
    5. Carlos Stares at the River and Becomes a Bubble
    6. The Gait of Power
    7. Asking Twilight for Calmness and Power
    8. Don Juan Clowns for Carlos
    9. Last Conversation and Farewell[18]

1985 – Colors and Contours Leslie Bassett

Colors and Contours was commissioned by the CBDNA and premiered at their 1985 conference in Boulder, CO. In his analysis of the piece, Larry Rachleff wrote:

In his single-movement composition, Leslie Bassett continually unfolds and reworks his material in a similar way to Baroque Fortspinnung, in which the musical structure is based on a continual process of textural and gestural change. Bassett’s manipulation and varying developmental treatment of repeated concepts create separate episodes and ensure unity. …In Colors and Contours, both whole-tone and octatonic formations manifest themselves, primarily in horizontal and vertical appearances displayed through staggered, isolated ensemble entrances and in other less obvious ways.[19]

Although Colors and Contours is printed in one movement, Bassett described the piece as being in two, with a euphonium solo linking them together.[20] Lullaby (for Kirsten, commissioned to celebrate the birth of H. Robert Reynolds’ second daughter, was also premiered in 1985.

1989 – On Winged Flight: A Divertimento for Band Gunther Schuller

On Winged Flight: A Divertimento for Band premiered at the American Bandmasters Association conference in Tallahassee, FL, on April 3, 1983. It was commissioned by the United States Air Force Band and dedicated to the conductor, Lt. Col. James Michael Bankhead. This work is written in five movements:

    1. Prelude
    2. Pastorale
    3. Nocturne
    4. Scherzo
    5. Parody

On Winged Flight is light-hearted and quite different from Schuller’s earlier Symphony No. 3. The final movement “Parody,” states, “With a respectful bow to Messrs. Charles Ives, James Reese Europe, and Henry Fillmore.”[21]

  1. Frank L. Battisti, The New Winds of Change: The Evolution of the Contemporary American Wind Band/Ensemble and Its Music (Delray Beach, FL: Meredith Music Publications, 2018). 133.
  2. Ibid. 133-134.
  3. Unknown, “History,” World Association for Symphonic Bands and Ensembles, June 30, 2020, https://wasbe.org/history.
  4. James Richard Popejoy, "From a Dark Millennium" Comes the "Music of Amber": A Comparative Study of Two Works by Joseph Schwantner (University of North Texas, 2000). 18-20.
  5. Timothy Salzman, ed., A Composer's Insight: Thoughts, Analysis, and Commentary on Contemporary Masterpieces for Wind Band, vol. 1 (Galesville, MD: Meredith Music Publications, 2003). 137
  6. Ibid. 132.
  7. Neil Butterworth, Dictionary of American Classical Composers, 2nd ed. (New York, NY: Routledge, 2005). 399-401
  8. Frank L. Battisti, The New Winds of Change. 378.
  9. Norbert Carnovale, “In Praise of Winds, for Band (Symphony No. 3),” AllMusic, accessed December 10, 2022, https://www.allmusic.com/composition/in-praise-of-winds-for-band-symphony-no-3-mc0002441198.
  10. Neil Butterworth, Dictionary of American Classical Composers, 2nd ed. (New York, NY: Routledge, 2005). 295-296.
  11. Mark Camphouse et al., Composers on Composing for Band, vol. 2 (Chicago, IL: GIA Publications, 2004). 200.
  12. Timothy Salzman, ed., A Composer's Insight: Thoughts, Analysis, and Commentary on Contemporary Masterpieces for Wind Band, vol. 2 (Galesville, MD: Meredith Music Publications, 2003). 111.
  13. John Adams, “John Adams Biography - Earbox - John Adams,” Earbox, March 4, 2022, https://www.earbox.com/john-adams-biography/.
  14. John Adams, “Grand Pianola Music - Earbox - John Adams,” Earbox, December 8, 2016, https://www.earbox.com/grand-pianola-music/.
  15. Ibid.
  16. Nikk Pilato, “Kaddish,” Wind Repertory Project, accessed December 8, 2022, https://www.windrep.org/Kaddish.
  17. Neil Butterworth, Dictionary of American Classical Composers, 2nd ed. (New York, NY: Routledge, 2005). 85-86.
  18. Michael Colgrass, Winds of Nagual (New York, NY: Carl Fischer, 1987).
  19. Michael Votta, ed., The Wind Band and Its Repertoire: Two Decades of Research as Published in the College Band Directors National Association Journal (Miami, FL: Warner Bros., 2003). 25.
  20. Ibid. 23.
  21. Frank L. Battisti, The New Winds of Change. 125.


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