Price: full set $95; score $25
Commissioned By: Montoya Music
Duration: ca. 4:45
Grade Level: 3.5
I was never in a rock and/or roll band. When I tell non-musicians that I play(ed) percussion, their mind instantly turns to drumset. And to be honest, I was never that good at playing the skins. In fact, the only times I have ever played drumset in a live musical setting was in high school marching band, playing tejano music for my mother’s office party, & for my upper-level competency jury in college.
But my limitations as a drumset player don’t keep me from enjoying a good rock and pop song! I am heavily influenced by “popular” music and one can find its DNA flowing through all my compositions as well as my marching band arrangements. The use of power chords, backbeat, & groove are a staple of my music and I’d be foolish to not acknowledge the influences pop music provides.
I have tried many times to write a piece for young(er) band but the work always ended up at least a grade level harder than intended. Truth be told, I find writing for “real” grade 3 band extremely difficult. I knew I wanted to write a “real” grade 3 but wasn’t sure when I would do it, or what the piece would be “about.” Friend and colleague Robert H. Sloan informed me that he was going to present at a conference and his topic would be multi-media and wind music. He inquired if I had any electronic and winds pieces. I told him I had a piece in mind for grade 3 and electronics. It was now time to put up.
There are a lot of great pieces and composers out there that utilize winds and electronics. In my humble opinion, Steven Bryant’s Ecstatic Waters is the pinnacle of winds and electronics. I’ve written two works for pre-recorded electronics and percussion so I’ve had a little bit of experience with this medium. But I knew I wanted to try something different not only for myself, but for the genre.
Part of the problem I encounter when utilizing electronics is getting the right sounds. I could write for synthesizer but who’s to say each band would have the same type with the same sound banks? I also don’t want to ask bands to buy the piece and then have to buy a sample library for a laptop. And I don’t want to have to create an app for a piece to trigger the electronics (a fantastic idea by, again, Steven Bryant). I also wanted to find a way to account for differences in tempo. When using pre-recorded electronics, you’re locked into the previously recorded tempo. But what if groups need to go slower or want to go faster? I wanted to find a way to utilize virtual instruments that could be played in real time.
As luck would have it, technology now allows us to carry a miniature laptop, music player, video game machine, word processor, internet browser, camera, and phone in our pockets. And with proper amplification, I could utilize a free app for iOS as the virtual instruments that I needed. Using the app Garage Band, I had guitars, keyboards, and drums, both acoustic and electronic, at my disposal. Now what kind of piece to write…
After some thought, I figured I would just write a rock song for band. I am utilizing rock band instruments, so why not just call it what it is? And because the app I was using was called Garage Band, and some of us have been in rock bands and/or dream of being a rock star, why not just call it Garage Band?
This is my attempt at writing a rock/pop song for band and electronics. The electronics gave me a whole different set of sounds and textures to use within the wind ensemble. Want a guitar sound but don’t have kids that can play guitar? Use the app! Want an old school 80’s drum machine? Use the app!
I couldn’t write a piece about rock and pop without directly referencing some of my favorite songs. The songs directly referenced in Garage Band include: Live & Let Die – Paul McCartney, Kashmir & When the Levee Breaks – Led Zeppelin, No Leaf Clover – Metallica, In the Air Tonight – Phil Collins, Bang, Bang – Jessie J, Ariana Grande, & Nicki Minaj, Bullet the Blue Sky – U2, Glory & Gore – Lorde, and Jack & Diane – John Cougar Mellencamp. This is not to say that there aren’t more songs that indirectly influenced the piece. I’ve loved pop music since the early 80’s and this piece is bound to have some Bon Jovi, Aerosmith, Journey, AC/DC, Michael Jackson, Guns N’ Roses, and others flowing through the piece.
So take out your lighters, leather pants, & black eyeliner. For those ready to rock, we salute you!
Garage Band is Montoya’s thirteenth work for symphonic winds and is dedicated to Robert H. Sloan.