West Bank School of Music
Composers' Workshop 1983

  Jon kneels in front; Maggie sits at the piano; Dave E., Glen, Dave S., and Matt stand, surrounded by instruments used in the workshop.

Workshop participants took a break during a rehearsal on stage at the Walker Art Center.

The caption for the above picture in the Star & Tribune said:

Original compositions will be performed in the West Bank School of Music New Music Project concert, to be held at 8 p.m. Sunday [May 29, 1983] in the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis. Musicians including, from left, David Edminster, Jon C. Nelson, Glen Newton, David Sletten, Maggie Brinich and Matt Barber will play jazz, neo-romantic, traditional, atonal and improvised music selections.

The concert was also presented Sunday, May 22, at the Janet Wallace Fine Arts Center of Macalester College.

David Edminster's "Dead Heat" opened the program. It featured two performers, Glen on trumpet and Jon on euphonium, playing the same music in different meters, starting at different times. The euphonium part had three beats per measure, and the trumpet had four beats per measure, so when the trumpet's entrance was delayed by several bars, the two finished in a dead heat. Because of the rhythmic challenge, both Dave and Matt conducted --- one conductor per performer.

On Matt Barber's "Funeral Music", Glen played bass trombone, and on Maggie Brinich's "Daybreak at Leech Lake", he played vibraphone, French horn, and flugelhorn.

Glen Newton's four-movement suite, "The Elements", closed the first half of the program. Larry Weller conducted "The Elements" and several other of the pieces on the concert.

Jon C. Nelson's "Random Reflections" opened the second half of the program. Glen played French horn, D trumpet, trombone, and cornet on that selection.

Glen did not play on David Sletten's composition, "Maggie's Mambo", or on David Edminster's "I Peace You". He played euphonium on Jon C. Nelson's "Subliminal Forethought of Summer's Haze".

David Sletten's five-movement "M. X. Suite" (Reveille, Assembly, Mess, Retreat, and Taps) closed the program. Despite the military names of the movements, based on military bugle calls, Dave introduced the work as the "Music Experimental Suite". Glen played trumpet.

The workshop, organized by Warren Park, head of the West Bank School of Music, brought together composers who were also skilled performers. Early meetings of the participants included demonstrations of the varied instruments and tonal colors available. All were familiar with the clarinet, trumpet, and other common instruments, but the demonstrations of the less common instruments and effects led to their inclusion in some of the compositions on the program.

For example, Matt demonstrated slapping bamboo wind chimes together, and Glen used this effect in "Fire", one of the movements of "The Elements". He also demonstrated the Asian bells, and Glen used them on "Water", another of the movements.

Jon demonstrated a variety of techniques on the synthesizer and even loaned the instrument to Glen so he could work out the details of synthesizer use on "Fire" and "Air", a movement built around the capabilities of Jon's synthesizer.

David Sletten demonstrated his facility in the saxophone's altissimo range, and Glen incorporated this into the highest of the three tenor sax parts on "Water".

David Edminster demonstrated the shawm and rackett, and he also showed how the bassoon (in the hands of the right player) has a uniform tone while skipping through large intervals from the bottom to the top of its range. Glen used all of these in "Fire".

Composer Glen Newton comments:

As the composer/musicians met periodically to rehearse and assess the progress of one another's works, the practical feedback we gave and musical ideas we shared were not only a tremendous learning experience but built camaraderie and commitment to the performance. Selecting participants who would both create and perform the music was a vast improvement on an earlier WBSM composers' workshop I'd participated in, in which the composers and performers were two disjoint sets of people. In that workshop, two of the five performers left the country two weeks before the performance to take orchestral positions in South America, so we had to bring in new performers, and the percussionist (who was not one of the replacements) was unprepared for the concert, missing entrances and notes throughout. In contrast, in the 1983 WBSM workshop, each of us was prepared as a performer and had a very good understanding of each of the compositions beyond our own parts.