Friday, July 25, 2014

CCC 110 - André Waignein

Today the Consonant Classical Challenge presents Belgian composer, André Waignein. It's important to remember that there are many ways to write classical music (such as tonally), and there are many reasons to. Some composers need to create whole worlds by the sheer force of their will. Waignein's goal is a little more modest, I think. He just wants to write music that people can enjoy.

Most of André Waignein's catalog consists of works for wind ensemble. Writing effectively for winds has some special challenges. Most wind ensemble music sounds somewhat flat and monochromatic -- not so with that of André Waignein. He blends instruments carefully to create a rich, nuanced palette of sounds.

Waignein's use of tonality is simple and straight-forward. Although he does use four-note and five-note chords, most of his harmonies are triadic. And while they don't often resolve in the manner prescribed by traditional music theory texts, they do move in patterns that are accepted practice in more popular musical forms.

That's not to say that Waignein writes pop music. Rather, like Leroy Anderson, he uses some of the language of popular music integrated into a classical setting to communicate with his audience. "Relativite" for solo piano is the essence of Waignein's aesthetic. It's a simply melody in a simple setting.

"Song and Dance" can almost be considered an extension of that aesthetic. The work begins with another simple, beautiful melody, and then moves through a medley of popular styles.

André Waignein is capable of more complex composition, too. His "Missa Solemnis" has some jazz/pop elements, but mostly it sets the Latin text to some gorgeous melodies that enhance the meaning. In some ways, this work reminded me of similar large-scale compositions by John Rutter. Note that Waignein chooses to use a wind ensemble to accompany the choir, rather than an orchestra.

The title, "Music for Fun" tells the listener exactly what to expect. It begins with a bossa nova and goes through several popular instrumental styles. There's no deep truths being expressed here. Just fun music to make you feel good.

André Waignein is well-known in the wind ensemble world. His music is played on both sides of the Atlantic by high school and college ensembles with some regularity. I'd like to hear more of his other work, though. He's written a quasi-concerto entitled "Three Movements for Piano and Orchestra," as well as an homage to Lionel Hampton for vibraphone and orchestra. If someone would like to be a little imaginative with their pops concert programming, one of these should do nicely.

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