Even Tanglewood has a band at John Mackey's Blog

July 7, 2005

Even Tanglewood has a band

(note: This post was written in 2005, when I was much more of a sexist asshole. Much of the humor here does not hold up…)

Newman emailed me last night to tell me about this year’s Tanglewood schedule, which he’d picked up over the weekend. One part of Tanglewood is the Boston University Tanglewood Institute, a training program for younger musicians. We’re not sure if this is the first year they’re doing it, but this year, Tanglewood has a band. And they got the master, H. Robert Reynolds, to conduct it. This feels like quite a major stamp of approval from the titan of summer music festivals — and of “shi-shi-la-la Art” in general. As Newman said, “What’s next? The Concertgebouw Marching Cadets?”Band just gets bigger and bigger. Or maybe it’s losing weight, in the superficial sense.

If you’re a composer who grew up wanting to write orchestra music, and you listened to Barber rather than Grainger, you probably start with the attitude that you should be writing orchestra music, and band somehow isn’t the goal. So, you marry Orchestra. Orchestra is hot. Okay, maybe not hot, but at least she’s the kind of hot that you know you should like. At the very least, she’s very pretty. And she’s really, really smart, and speaks, like, seven languages, and she knew everybody (but she only ever wants to talk about Beethoven). But you quickly realize that Orchestra thinks she’s better than you, and she acts like every minute she spends with you is come kind of charity work. You get her gifts, and shower her with attention, but you soon realize that she doesn’t appreciate you at all, and she’s neglectful, and at worst, abusive.

And then one day, you meet Band at a party.

“What do you do?” she asks. “Um, I’m a composer,” you reply, expecting little reaction, but Band lights up and exclaims, “oh my God, that’s HOT! Do you have any music I can play? The newer, the better! Let me get you a drink!”

Band is loud. She’s not quite as pretty as Orchestra, and she’s a bit, shall we say, bigger-boned, but she has that truly “hot” aspect to her that Orchestra never had. And most importantly, Band loves what you do. Whereas it was like pulling teeth to get Orchestra to look at your new music (and if she looked, she was generally not impressed, often comparing you unfavorably to one of her many ex’s — like Dvorak), Band thinks it’s awesome. Band tells you things like “you’re special and perfect and I’ll appreciate you and your music like Orchestra never has, and never will.”

What is Composer supposed to do?! Did I mention how loud and boisterous Band is? (Let’s say she’s a screamer. Totally your type.) You have a blast when you’re with her, and your friends agree that she’s a lot cooler than Orchestra, and they see how she treats you much, much better. How can Composer not be expected to stray?

Luckily for Composer, he figured this out around the age of 30, and not much, much later. He just feels bad for all of the other Composers who haven’t yet caught on and left their dysfuncional, abusive relationships.


3 Comments to “Even Tanglewood has a band”  

  1. At 12:01 pm on October 1, 2012
    Tom H. Says:

    Indeed, Band may not be the prettiest girl at the ball…but she’s got it where it counts. I play the bari sax with a community concert band and have been doing so for the past 10 years and will continue to do so for as long as I can. There’s one thing I haven’t seen yet…community orchestra. I guess Orchestra thinks she’s too good for that sort of thing. πŸ˜‰

    Right now I get the privilege of playing Xerxes with the band and it is just awesome! I just love the groove of the bass line. I’ve shared with my conductor more of your works for concert band and sure do hope to perform them someday.

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  3. At 9:07 pm on September 6, 2013
    Rebecca Says:

    As both a band and orchestral player, I have to say I agree! The only thing better than the wind section of an orchestra is a band itself. Orchestra just doesn’t get that intense power that band does! We have a little more fun too I believe πŸ˜‰

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  5. At 5:35 pm on March 9, 2014
    Elizabeth de Brito Says:

    Thank you John Mackey for vocalising in a perfect analogy what everyone who plays in a band thinks. I’m a clarinet player, I’ve played in several bands and orchestras and Bands are way cooler.

    Not that I don’t appreciate orchestral music but generally woodwind and brass parts in orchestra, especially clarinet, are very limited. Bands offer so much more scope for wind players, more potential and better demonstration of the skills and the various timbres the wind section can create. We can also play quietly on occasion in between being loud and boisterous.

    I started writing a blog about wind band music 2 weeks ago, promoting it because not nearly enough people know about it, it’s almost completely ignored in Britain and near impossible to find recordings, so I’m making a project to create a definitive, fun database of pieces, composers and resources to find wind band music. The address is: http://windbandwonderland.wordpress.com

    I’d be honoured to hear your thoughts

    I would love to put this quote on one of my main pages if you wouldn’t mind. I’ve heard your Kingfisher’s Catch Fire piece, it’s incredible. Until I read the program notes I thought the 2nd movement sounded like lots of kingfishers flying above the water, trying to catch fish. I love it and I’m writing a post about the piece right now. It’s the first piece of yours I’ve listened to, I plan to find more very soon. Thanks again for that analogy πŸ™‚

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