Several Pulitzer Prize-winning composers wrote works for wind bands during the 1970s, including Leslie Bassett, John Corigliano, Karel Husa, and Joseph Shwantner. In addition, more composers were starting to write art music for winds, and the concept of serious artistic merit began to be addressed. From 1973-1978, Acton Ostling Jr. conducted research to evaluate what repertoire for wind bands met the criteria for serious artistic merit. In order to create a panel of evaluators, he surveyed 312 conductors, asking them to nominate ten conductors known for programming great music. Twenty men were selected for this endeavor:

Frank Battisti, New England Conservatory

Harry Begian, University of Illinois

Frank Bencriscutto, University of Minnesota

Paul Bryan, Duke University

Frederick Ebbs, Indiana University

Frederick Fennell, University of Miami

Charles Gallagher, University of Maryland

Robert Gray, University of Illinois

Donald Hunsberger, Eastman School of Music

Donald McGinnis, Ohio State University

James Matthews, University of Houston

Kenneth Moore, Oberlin Conservatory of Music

James Neilson, G. Leblanc Corporation, Educational Department

John Paynter, Northwestern University

Robert Reynolds, University of Michigan

William D. Revelli, University of Michigan (Emeritus)

Richard Strange, Arizona State University

Robert Wagner, University of Oregon

David Whitwell, California State University – Northridge

Keith Wilson, Yale University[1]

Ostling sent the panel a list of 1,481 compositions that were scored for ten or more winds, used mixed instrumentation, and required a conductor. 314 were evaluated as serious artistic merit using Ostling’s list of ten criteria:

  1. The composition has form—not ‘a form’ but form—and reflects a proper balance between repetition and contrast.
  2. The composition reflects shape and design, and creates the impression of conscious choice and judicious arrangement on the part of the composer.
  3. The composition reflects craftsmanship in orchestration, demonstrating a proper balance between transparent and tutti scoring, and also between solo and group colors.
  4. The composition is sufficiently unpredictable to preclude an immediate grasp of its musical meaning.
  5. The route through which the composition travels in initiating its musical tendencies and probable musical goals is not completely direct and obvious.
  6. The composition is consistent in its quality throughout its length and in its various sections.
  7. The composition is consistent in its style, reflecting a complete grasp of technical details, clearly conceived ideas, and avoids lapses into trivial, futile, or unsuitable passages.
  8. The composition reflects ingenuity in its development, given the stylistic context in which it exists.
  9. The composition is genuine in idiom, and is not pretentious.
  10. The composition reflects a musical validity which transcends factors of historical importance, or factors of pedagogical usefulness.[2]

1971 – Apotheosis of this Earth – Karel Husa

Apotheosis of the Earth was written in 1971 as the second piece in what Husa considered a compositional triptych. This triptych includes

Music for Prague 1968, Apotheosis of this Earth, and a ballet for orchestra named The Trojan Women. These three scores addressed serious issues of international concern. Apotheosis of this Earth was commissioned by the Michigan School Band and Orchestra Association and dedicated to William Revelli. The piece consists of three movements: Apotheosis, Tragedy of Destruction, and Postscript. Husa meant for the work to warn about the consequences of humanity’s abuse of the Earth’s environment.[3] In the score, Husa offers the following explanation of the piece:

The composition of Apotheosis of this Earth was motivated by the present desperate stage of mankind and its immense problems with everyday killings, war, hunger, extermination of fauna, huge forest fires, and critical contamination of the whole environment.

Man’s brutal possession and misuse of nature’s beauty – if continued at today’s reckless speed – can only lead to catastrophe. The composer hopes that the destruction of this beautiful Earth can be stopped, so that the tragedy of destruction – musically projected here in the second movement – and the desolation of its aftermath (the “postscript” of the third movement) can exist only as fantasy, never to become reality.

In the first movement, Apotheosis, the Earth appears as a point of light in the universe. Our memory and imagination approach it in perhaps the same way as it appeared to the astronauts returning from the moon. The Earth grows larger and larger, and we can even remember some of its tragic moments (as struck by the xylophone near the end of the movement).

The second movement, Tragedy of Destruction, deals with the actual brutalities of man against nature, leading to the destruction of our planet, perhaps by radioactive explosion. The Earth dies as a savagely, mortally wounded creature.

The last movement is a Postscript, full of the realization that so little is left to be said: The Earth has been pulverized into the universe, the voices scattered into space. Toward the end, these voices – at first computer-like and mechanical – unite into the words “this beautiful Earth”, simply said, warm and filled with regret…and one of so many questions comes to our minds: “Why have we let it happen?”[4]

1972– Choral and Shaker Dance – John Zdechlik

John Zdechlik (1937-2020) spent his entire life in Minnesota. Born in Minneapolis, he began piano lessons at six and eventually joined his high school band on trumpet. He completed all three of his degrees at the University of Minnesota, earning a bachelor’s degree in music education and graduate degrees in theory and composition.[5] During his Ph.D., he studied composition with Paul Fetler and Dominic Argento. Fetler supported Zdechlik’s interest in composing for band and encouraged his endeavors. In 1970, In 1970 Zdechlik accepted a position at Lakewood Community College (now Century College), where he remained until retirement in 1997.[6]

Chorale and Shaker Dance was published in 1972 and inspired by the Shaker melody for “Simple Gifts.” When Zhechlik wrote the piece, he was unfamiliar with Copland’s Appalachian Spring (1944).[7] The piece begins with a six-measure chorale in the woodwinds, followed by a fragment from the Shaker tune. He uses fragments and motives from “Simple Gifts” throughout, finally presenting the melody in its entirety towards the end of the piece.[8] In 1989, Kjos published Chorale and Shaker Dance II as a simplified arrangement of the original.

1972/1974– Gazebo Dances – John Corigliano

American composer John Corigliano (b. 1938) is the second composer, after   Aaron Copland, to win a Pulitzer Prize and an Oscar for his compositions. He was born in New York City to successful musicians: his father was the concertmaster of the New York Philharmonic from 1943-1966, and his mother was an accomplished piano soloist. Corigliano completed a degree at Columbia University in 1959 and studied composition with Otto Luening. He also studied privately with Paul Creston and Vittorio Giannini from 1962-63. He began teaching composition at the Manhattan School of Music in 1971 and was appointed associate professor at Lehman College in 1973. Corigliano joined the faculty at Juilliard in 1991 and still teaches there. He received an Academy Award in 2000 for his film score for The Red Violin and was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in Music in 2001 for his Symphony No. 2.[9]

Corigliano’s Gazebo Dances, written in 1972 for four hands, is dedicated  to to specific people for each movements. Movement 1 was written for his mother, Rose Corigliano, and her best friend, Etta Feinbert. Movement 2 was written for music critic, John Ardoin. Movement 3 was written for Heida Hermanns, his father’s accompanist. Finally, movement 4 was written for his friend Jack Romann and photographer Christian Steiner. He gave the piece its title after arranging the four dances for both band and orchestra, referring to the pavilions in towns where public concerts were traditionally given. Corigliano writes, “The delights of that sort of entertainment are portrayed in this set of dances, which begins with a Rossini-like overture, followed by a rather peg-legged waltz, a long-lined adagio and a bouncy tarantella.”[10]

1974– The Passing Bell – Warren Benson

In 1967, Warren Benson accepted the position of Composition Professor at the Eastman School of Music and remained there until his retirement in 1993. Throughout his career, Benson wrote ninety works, with eighteen specifically for wind band. He was committed to creating more art music for the wind band medium.

In 1974 the Luther College Concert band from Decorah, Iowa, commissioned Warren Benson to write a piece in memory of Dennis Rathjen, who had served as the band’s clarinetist and concertmaster before dying of Hodgkin’s disease in 1968. Benson wrote The Passing Bell as a single-movement chorale-like work based on two hymns: Jesu, Meine Zuversicht (Jesus, My Confidence), andMerthyr Tydvil L.M.D. Benson chose the title to reference the sound of bells that often accompany funerals. The opening measure begins with a solo clarinet meant to honor Dennis Rathjen. The clarinet starts on a C above that staff, which is then passed around the ensemble. The Passing Bell opens with a state of reflection and creates harmonic tension by stacking fourths and fifths.[11]

1975 – Kaddish – W. Francis McBeth

William Francis McBeth (1933-2012) was born in Lubbock, TX, where he studied music at a young age. He studied composition with Macon Sumerlin at Hardin-Simmons University, and with Kent Kennan and James Clifton Williams at the University of Texas. Additionally, he studied with Bernard Rogers and Howard Hanson at the Eastman School of Music. In 1957, Dr. McBeth accepted a position as Professor of Music, Resident Composer, and Chairman of the Theory-Composition Department at Ouachita University in Arkadelphia, Arkansas. When he retired in 1996, he was named Trustee’s Distinguished University Professor. He also served as a conductor of the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra from 1970-1972.[12]McBeth wrote over forty pieces for wind band, including Chant and Jubilo (1962), Mosaic (1964), Masque(1967), and Beowulf (1986).

Kaddish was commissioned by Howard Dunn and the Richardson High School Band and premiered in March 1976. The Kaddish is an ancient Jewish prayer for the dead recited in Hebrew. One English translation of the Kaddish reads:

Exalted and hallowed be God’s great name in the world which God created, according to plan.

May God’s majesty be revealed in the days of our lifetime

and the life of all Israel — speedily, imminently,
To which we say: Amen. 

Blessed be God’s great name to all eternity.

Blessed, praised, honored, exalted,
extolled, glorified, adored, and lauded
be the name of the Holy Blessed One,
beyond all earthly words and songs of blessing, praise, and comfort.
To which we say: Amen.

May there be abundant peace from heaven, and life, for us and all Israel.

To which we say: Amen.

May the One who creates harmony on high, bring peace to us and to all Israel.

To which we say: Amen.[13]

Clifton Williams passed away on February 12, 1976, and McBeth wrote his setting of Kaddish as a memorial to his former teacher. In his program note, McBeth explains that this piece is “a combination of all emotions that surround the death of a friend – cries, shouts, resignation, and sorrow – but the work should end as an alleluia, an affirmation of life.”[14]

1977 – Dream Sequence – Ernst Krenek

The College Band Directors National Association commissioned Ernst Krenek’s Dream Sequence, which premiered on March 11, 1977, and was conducted by the composer at the CBDNA’s 19th national conference. Dream Sequence is in four movements:

    1. Nightmare
    2. Pleasant Dreams
    3. Puzzle
    4. Dream about Flying

Dream Sequence is scored for a full ensemble that includes piano and harp, but excludes euphonium. It is important to note that the piece requires two tenor saxophones, three baritone saxophones, and ten trumpets.[15] In the score, Krenek notes the following:

The title Dream Sequence hints at the imagery that may loosely be associated with the music. It does not mean that the music describes any particular dreams or narrates any story. Nightmare and Pleasant Dreams indicate the general character of the music. Puzzle is a strictly constructed serial piece (perhaps the result of a sleepless night than of any dream…). The last movement is evocative of the sentiments that accompany the familiar Dream About Flying.[16]

Dream Sequence is a tone poem and incorporates serialism. The third movement follows a matrix of five sections that are rotated in a pre-determined order (listed at the top of the score), and uses twenty-five tones.

1977 – …and the mountains rising nowhere – Joseph Schwantner

Joseph Schwantner (b. 1943) began his musical training by learning guitar and tuba in grade school. He studied music theory in high school and won his first composition award for a jazz work, Offbeat, in 1959. He completed a BM in composition at the American Conservatory of Music in Chicago. He completed graduate degrees (M.M. and D.M.A.) at Northwestern University, where he studied with Alan Stout and Anthony Donato. He taught at the Chicago Conservatory College, Pacific Lutheran University, and Ball State University before taking a position at the Eastman School of Music in 1970. From 1982-1984 he took a leave of absence to serve as composer-in-residence with the Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra, where he worked with conductor Leonard Slatkin. In 1986 he taught at the Julliard School and joined the faculty at Yale in 1999. Schwantner has won many awards for his compositions, including the Pulitzer Prize in 1979 for his orchestral work Aftertones of Infinity.[17]

…and the mountains rising nowhere was commissioned by Donald Hunsberger and the Eastman School of Music. The commission was made possible by a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts and premiered in 1977.[18] Schwantner’s first piece for wind ensemble is dedicated to the author Carol Adler and takes its name from a line in her poem, “Arioso:”

arioso bells                                                                                                                   sepia                                                                                                                          moon-beams                                                                                                                  an afternoon sun blanked by rain                                                                             and the mountains rising nowhere                                                                            the sound returns                                                                                                         the sound and the silence chimes[19]

Schwantner describes the piece as Baroque in style because of the amount of ornamentation, but it also incorporates other elements, including tonality, atonality, and serialism.[20] …and the mountains rising nowhere is written with full instrumentation except for saxophone and bass clarinet, and incorporates crystal glasses that must be set to specific pitches. When first opening the score, the conductor will notice that Schwantner hand-wrote his music, and only lists measures for instruments when they are playing. He hand-wrote his scores this way until 1990.[21] After …and the mountains rising nowhere, Schwantner went on to write more works for winds, including Sparrows (1979), From a Dark Millennium (1980), In Evening’s Stillness (1996), and his latest work for winds The Awakening Hour (2017).

1978 – Sounds, Shapes, and Symbols – Leslie Bassett

H. Robert Reynolds was appointed Director of Bands at the University of Michigan in 1975, following William Revelli who retired in 1971. In 1977, he commissioned his colleague, Leslie Bassett, to compose a second piece for wind band, and Sounds, Shapes, and Symbols premiered on March 17, 1978. Although the piece consists of four movements, Bassett requests that the program should not list separate movements and designate “in four movements” or “four movements for band.”[22]

Throughout the piece, Bassett uses rhythmic complexity and frequently obscured tonal centers. He also incorporates a variety of meter, tempo, and stylistic changes. Sounds, Shapes, and Textures is about twelve minutes, and requires musical and technical maturity from the ensemble.[23]


  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). 134-135.
  2. Clifford N. Towner, An Evaluation of Compositions for Wind Band According to Specific Criteria of Serious Artistic Merit: A Second Update (Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska-Lincoln, 2011). 14-19.
  3. 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). 74.
  4. Karel Husa, Apotheosis of this Earth (New York: Associated Music Publishers, Inc., 1971).
  5. Richard B. Miles et al., Teaching Music Through Performance in Band, vol. 1 (Chicago, IL: GIA Publications, Inc., 2010). 446.
  6. Timothy Salzman, ed., A Composer's Insight: Thoughts, Analysis, and Commentary on Contemporary Masterpieces for Wind Band, vol. 3 (Galesville, MD: Meredith Music Publications, 2006). 289-290.
  7. Ibid. 292.
  8. John Zdechlik, Chorale and Shaker Dance (San Diego: Neil A. Kjos Music Company, 1972).
  9. Neil Butterworth, Dictionary of American Classical Composers, 2nd ed. (New York, NY: Routledge, 2005). 95-96.
  10. “John Corigliano: Categories: Gazebo Dances (for Piano, Four-Hands) (1972),” John Corigliano | Categories | Gazebo Dances (for piano, four-hands) (1972), accessed December 8, 2022, http://www.johncorigliano.com/index.php?p=item2&sub=cat&item=64.
  11. Timothy Salzman, ed., A Composer's Insight: Thoughts, Analysis, and Commentary on Contemporary Masterpieces for Wind Band, vol. 3. 49-51.
  12. Mark Camphouse et al., Composers on Composing for Band (Chicago, IL: GIA Publications, Inc., 2002). 275-276.
  13. Unknown, “Mourner's Kaddish,” Reform Judaism, accessed December 8, 2022, https://reformjudaism.org/beliefs-practices/prayers-blessings/mourners-kaddish.
  14. Nikk Pilato, “Kaddish,” Wind Repertory Project, accessed December 8, 2022, https://www.windrep.org/Kaddish.
  15. Ernst Krenek, Dream Sequence: Opus 224: (1975-1976); for Concert Band (New York, NY: Universal Ed., 1977).
  16. Ibid.
  17. James Chute, "Schwantner, Joseph." Grove Music Online.2001; Accessed 9 Dec. 2022. https://www-oxfordmusiconline-com.lib-e2.lib.ttu.edu/grovemusic/view/10.1093/gmo/9781561592630.001.0001/omo-9781561592630-e-0000046028.
  18. Timothy Salzman, ed., A Composer's Insight: Thoughts, Analysis, and Commentary on Contemporary Masterpieces for Wind Band, vol. 1. 132.
  19. Joseph C. Schwantner, And the Mountains Rising Nowhere (USA: Helicon Music Corp., 1977).
  20. Timothy Salzman, ed., A Composer's Insight: Thoughts, Analysis, and Commentary on Contemporary Masterpieces for Wind Band, vol. 1. 132.
  21. Ibid. 134.
  22. Daniel R. Davis, "A Performance Analysis of Three Works for Wind Band by Leslie Bassett." (Order No. 9511316, University of Cincinnati, 1994). https://www.proquest.com/dissertations-theses/performance-analysis-three-works-wind-band-leslie/docview/304102952/se-2 (accessed December 7, 2022). 36.
  23. Larry Blocher et al., Teaching Music Through Performance in Band, vol. 3 (Chicago, IL: GIA Publications, Inc., 2000). 544-545.


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