In Different Voices
five wind ensembles

Robert Morris

Performance Notes

  1. FORCES - In Different Voices is scored for symphonic band divided into five wind ensembles. The band's standard instrumentation is augmented by a small number of musicians playing amplified instruments and a few additional percussion players (who may actually be keyboard performers and/or composers). Each station has its own conductor and complement of percussion instruments.

  2. PERFORMANCE ENVIRONMENT - The composition may be played outdoors in a park or pavilion, or it can be presented in a large room. (A concert hall is far less desirable than a large open space.) The five wind ensembles are optimally positioned in five stations more or less surrounding the audience. (The score shows other, less desirable set-ups.) At three points in the piece, a few players move from one station to another; these mobile players travel through the audience playing various kinds of musics and textures.

    The audience may be seated in concert hall fashion, but it is best if they are able to move freely throughout the performance space and/or sit at tables provided with refreshments.

  3. DURATION - In Different Voices lasts one hour. Due to the diversity and scope of its musical materials, the composition is intended to be a complete concert in and of itself. Thus, it may be presented twice or three times in an afternoon or evening.

  4. HISTORY - The composition was commissioned in 1975 in connection with the United States Bicentennial by Keith Brion and the Yale Band. With the aid of a MacDowell Colony Fellowship and a Faculty Leave from Yale University, I was able to compose the piece in the first half of 1975. Grants from the American Music Center and A. Whitney Griswold helped with the preparation of the score and parts.

    Two performances were held on the evening of February 28, 1976 at the Yale Commons adjoining Woolsey Hall in New Haven, Connecticut. The Commons is used as a large cafeteria during the day. It measures approx. 100' by 400', has high ceilings and a wooden interior. The audience sat at long tables furnished with beer, wine, soda and various snack foods. No extra or last-minute rehearsals were necessary; one dress rehearsal was held that afternoon in the performance space.

    1. Since the band is augmented by only a few extra percussionists and jazz/rock musicians, the performance forces are easy to locate in most urban and/or academic environments. In addition, the necessary organizational administration needed to mount In Different Voices already exists to handle the characteristic performance situations in which bands are so often involved (marching, half-time shows, outdoor concerts, variable instrumentation, etc.)
    2. The notations used in In Different Voices are as follows:
      • traditional notation for traditional western music
      • spacial notation for non-western and modern western music (complex ensemble passages typical of modern music are rarely employed)
      • standard improvisational notation (using standard chord symbols, etc.) for jazz and pop music
    3. The five conductors are solely responsible for the overall coordination of the five ensembles. Three basic tempos are used: MM. 60. MM. 80, and MM. 90 providing ratios of 2:3, 3:4, and 8:9 (rarely). The composition of the overlaps of different ensembles allows some freedom of tempo; at other times, one ensemble will "lead" the others due to its local prominence or continuity.
    4. Rehearsals of the five ensembles can occur simultaneously in five medium sized (class) rooms. Since there is no "competition" from other pieces on the program, there is ample rehearsal time for the more difficult passages of the piece.

    The conductors will need to have a few rehearsals among themselves to coordinate their tempos etc. Only one dress rehearsal and walk-through is necessary for an adequate performance. In sum, the total time and effort for the performance is no more than that for a traditional concert.

  6. PHILOSOPHY - In Different Voices is a homage to the history and diversity of wind music from all parts of the world, in sacred, secular and popular forms, and in all performance media from solo to large-ensemble music. To this end, the piece is written in over fifty different musical styles; no actual quotations are used, however. Such styles include Big Band jazz, Japanese Shinto and Buddhist shrine music, Classical serenades and concertos, Acid Rock, Medieval plainchant, American marches, African instrumental music, concerto grossos, Dixieland, ritual music from Borneo and Australia, serial twelve-tone structures, fife and drum corps music, Tibetan chant, English Tudor polyphony, etc. Each section is labeled in the score indicating the location and date of the musical reference. (For instance, "Cambridge, 1588" labels music in the style of William Byrd or his contemporaries.)

    The inherent vitality and flexibility of the wind band (as contrasted with the symphony orchestra) was a continual inspiration to me as I composed the work. The mobility of such ensembles places In Different Voices within the scope of many good symphonic bands.

    It is my hope that In Different Voices can serve as a kind of allegory of the healthy interaction of all the cultures and peoples of the world. In such a vision, no one society or culture dominates any of the others; various groups may choose to interact and negotiate but without loss of identity or integrity. The five stations may be thought of as regions whose citizens (the mobile players) may mutually immigrate to allow the formation of new ensembles and different kinds of life-styles (music). In fact, one might find a similar thread in much of American music, especially by those composers whose works have had an influence on In Different Voices such as Charles Ives, Henry Brant, Elliot Carter and John Cage.