Wind bands (concert bands, marching bands, etc.) are a big part of school music in the United States and elsewhere. There are small school districts where the concert band is the only music education students receive in high school. Even in districts where general music and performance ensembles are diverse and abundant, eco-literacy can be cultivated in band. An interdisciplinary movement, David Orr defined eco-literacy. "The ecologically literate person has the knowledge necessary to comprehend interrelatedness, and an attitude of care or stewardship." Wind bands provide opportunities for conversations that matter. In band, students can expand and reinforce what they know about environmental issues (such as parks and wilderness conservation, protected species, and the challenge of waste). These conversations help students understand the musics they perform; and, I think, help them to perform better. Many times I've worked harder on music after I understood it better. Though I cannot cover all music that can be used in the wind band to cultivate eco-literacy, I'll begin using ten examples (program notes from the California community band, Foothills Symphonic Winds, webpage). For those teaching ensembles, these ten likely will remind you of others (I've previously, for instance, discussed the ecological messages of Dave Maslanka's music).
- Beautiful Oregon, by James Barnes: "Few regions of the lower 48 States can boast the scenic beauty of Oregon. As one travels from the Kalmiopsis Wilderness in the Southwest past the Three Sisters and Mount Hood to Portland, turning east through the Dalles, then going on through the Umatilla and Willowa Mountains to Hell's Canyon, one can only admire Oregon as a region of stunning natural beauty. While composing this work for Michael Burch-Pesses and his fine band, I closed my eyes and thought of the fresh, cool air, the countless streams teeming with trout and the gorgeous, snow-capped mountains that seem to go on endlessly. Such rare beauty is uncommon in our world, and I daydreamed that I could be there again."
- Reflections on the Hudson, by Nancy Bloomer Deussen: "Reflections On The Hudson is one of Ms. Bloomer Deussen’s environmental compositions inspired by the beauty of nature. Subtitled “An American Poem”, it was written when the composer lived in New York City, while she sat on a park bench overlooking the Hudson River in Manhattan. She tells that it depicts both internal reflections as well as actual reflections in the water. While it has no specific program, its meaning can be found in the feelings it produces in the listener. The steady flow of the river, conveyed by the music, is punctuated with the daily boat traffic. Mid-day activity, including ships’ whistles, gives way to the calm flow of the evening. Meter changes and measure lengths convey the sense of interplay of the river’s currents."
- Yosemite Autumn, by Mark Camphouse: "How could any human not be profoundly moved by such stunning beauty? How could any American not take immense pride in our nation being so richly blessed with such an abundance of natural beauty? . . . finally, how could any composer not be inspired and hopelessly tempted to “get the creative juices flowing’ in trying to capture the rich history and majestic landscape that is Yosemite? The remaining portion of this family vacation was doomed. I was there physically with my family - hiking, horseback riding, and doing the things tourist do. But the creative part of me was definitely somewhere else - absorbed in thinking about ways I might try to go about capturing musically the awe-inspiring sights and sounds of Yosemite: Glacier Point, Half Dome, El Capitan, and Yosemite Falls, to name just a few."
- From Every Horizon, by Norman Dello Joio: "Native New Yorker Norman Dello Joio composed the score for one of the films, entitled “From Every Horizon,” featured at the 1964 New York World’s Fair. These multi-media presentations were designed to educate the public and give a glimpse of the benefits that technology would bring for the future. A sense of optimism pervaded the exhibits of computers, communications, the space program, and new energy sources. Subtitled A Tone Poem to New York, Dello Joio’s composition is in three movements. The first opens and closes in a pastoral mood that portrays the slower pace at the edges of town; the hustle and bustle of the daily commute into the big city marks the center of a typical day. The short adagio second movement reflects the nature of an evening – generally tranquil, but interrupted by natural and man-made sounds. Flowing without interruption into the third movement, the vibrant energy of this metropolis bursts forth. There is the decisive flow of commuters on foot, cars, and public transit. Deliveries are made to businesses and ships move about the harbor. The tired tourist seeks out one more show or landmark."
- Lauds, by Ron Nelson: "Lauds is one of the seven canonical hours that were selected by St. Benedict as the times the monks would observe the daily offices. Three (terce, sext, and none) were the times of the changing of the Roman guards and four (matins, lauds, vespers, and compline) were tied to nature. Lauds, subtitled Praise High Day, honors the sunrise; it is filled with the glory and excitement of a new day."
- Mountain Song, by Philip Sparke: "It was inspired by frequent visits by the composer to Mayrhofen in the Austrian Tyrol. On Sunday mornings the village is quiet and peaceful, the only sound being the rhythmic tolling of the church bell. The mountain peak, behind the village, is a gentle three-hour walk. As the climber ascends, the broad panorama of the Ziller Valley is glimpsed through the trees. A sudden fresh breeze catches the climber by surprise, rustling a nearby branch. A few steps further and we’re above the tree line and the full beauty of the surrounding scenery is revealed. After a short rest, the climber starts down again, eventually returning to the village and the echoes of the church bell."
- Sunrise at Angel's Gate, by Philip Sparke: "In October 1999, I was privileged to be invited to Flagstaff, Arizona, to take part in the centenary celebrations of Northern Arizona University. The University is two hours drive from the Grand Canyon, so a visit was compulsory! It’s really not possible to describe this amazing natural phenomenon – it’s just too big. You can’t even photograph it effectively but it undoubtedly leaves a lasting impression on anyone who visits it. Sunrise and sunset are the best times to view the Canyon, as a sun low in the sky casts shadows that give depth and form to the vast panorama. Angel’s Gate is one of the many named rock formations on the northern side of the Canyon and in this piece, I have tried to depict the sights and sounds of dawn there, birdsong in the early morning sky and the gradual revelation of the Canyon itself as sunlight reaches into its rocky depths."
- Shenandoah, by Frank Ticheli: "In my setting of Shenandoah I was inspired by the freedom and beauty of the folk melody and by the natural images evoked by the words, especially the image of a river. I was less concerned with the sound of a rolling river than with its life-affirming energy — its timelessness. Sometimes the accompaniment flows quietly under the melody; other times it breathes alongside it. The work’s mood ranges from quiet reflection, through growing optimism, to profound exaltation."
- October, by Eric Whitacre: "October is my favorite month. Something about the crisp autumn air and the subtle change in light always makes me a little sentimental, and as I started to sketch I felt that same quiet beauty in writing. The simple, pastoral melodies and subsequent harmonies are inspired by the great English Romantics (Vaughn Williams, Elgar) as I felt that this style was almost perfectly suited to capture the natural and pastoral soul of the season."
- Machu Picchu, by Satoshi Yagisawa: "After considering these remarkable ideas I wished to musically describe that magnificent citadel and trace some of the mysteries sealed in Machu Picchu’s past. Three principal ideas dominate the piece: 1) the shimmering golden city of Cusco set in the dramatic scenery of the Andes, 2) the destructiveness of violent invasion, and 3) the re-emergence of Incan glory as the City in the Sky again reached for the sun."