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Purdue Wind Ensemble
breaks ground in
No list of glass ceilings cracked by women in the 20th century would be complete with a mention of the ceiling labeled successful composers of band music. “Women Who Compose,” the Purdue Wind Ensemble’s inaugural concert of the 2011-2012 season, set for Sunday, Oct. 2, focuses on works by those acclaimed female composers.
It will take place at 2:30 p.m. in the Long Center, 111 N. Sixth St., Lafayette. Admission is free.
“What is music by women like?” is a question often asked, says noted British conductor Diana Ambache. “Usually I refrain from asking what music by men is like. Individual personality is so much more interesting than gender generalizations. To me, the point is that people should hear the music and make their own minds up from listening.”
Historically, many obstacles have stood in the way of women interested in composing. The inability to obtain formal music education, social attitudes, and the lack of self confidence emanating from those attitudes, top the list, says Ambache, who has chronicled the efforts of women to compose over the past 250 years.
As women began to assert themselves in the 20th century, more pieces have emerged, more women are writing for the band genre in particular and more of their pieces are receiving performances. “Three of the four female composers on our program do not write for the band medium regularly,” says Wind Ensemble Director Jay Gephart. Julie Giroux – whose “One Life Beautiful” will be featured Oct. 2 – is the only one.
“The other three – Carolyn Bremer, Germaine Tailleferre and Joan Tower – are prominent orchestral composers. To me, the fact that they have written pieces for band is as significant as Gustav Holst or Felix Mendelssohn writing original compositions for band.
“All four are incredibly talented women who have sought opportunities in a world not wide open to women historically. They have really made a name for themselves and are paving the way for a whole new group of women composers.”
Germaine Tailleferre, the only female member of an influential group of French composers known as “Les Six” will be represented on the concert by her “Overture.” “Tailleferre wrote during a period (the 1920s and 1930s) when it was uncommon for female composers to be recognized in public,” Gephart says. Her “Overture” is written for comic opera in a classical style. “It has an interesting use of color, and is not always predictable. She uses harmony in a very unique way. The technical demands placed on our students by this piece are tremendous.”
Giroux’ “One Life Beautiful” has Indiana ties, having been written in memory of Heather Cramer who died in a biking accident in 2009. She was the daughter of Ray Cramer, Professor of Bands Emeritus at Indiana University. “Giroux gives us a glimpse into Heather’s personality. The music is very passionate which reflects Heather who was passionate about life, her children and her faith.”
Joan Tower’s “Fascinating Ribbons” sounds like it might be a take-off on George Gershwin’s “Fascinating Rhythm.” Not so, says Gephart. “Ribbons refer to the streams of woodwind 16th notes that are very prominent throughout the piece. It is a very skillfully crafted composition.”
“Early Light” by Carolyn Bremer, draws its inspiration from a traditionally male sport – baseball. “It’s a light-hearted piece inspired by a trip to a baseball game and all the anticipation and excitement that comes with it. It includes snippets of the National Anthem and even a whip crack depicting the first hit of the game,” says Gephart.
Opening for the Wind Ensemble on the Oct. 2 concert is Purdue’s Fall Concert Band directed by Steve Cotten. Among the works they will perform are Jennifer Higdon’s “Rhythm Stand” and “Tinker to Evers to Chance” by Carolyn Bremer.
The concert is sponsored by Purdue Bands & Orchestra which offers an array of free concert band, jazz and orchestra events. For more information visit www.purdue.edu/bands
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