Oct. 7, 2015 --
“The President’s Own” U.S. Marine Band’s Web Exclusives for the month of October include Narong Prangcharoen’s Lokuttara in the New Music Corner and John Philip Sousa’s march, “Boy Scouts of America” as the March of the Month.
The music of Thai composer Narong Prangcharoen has been called “absolutely captivating” by the Chicago Sun-Times, and he has established an international reputation as a leading composer of his generation. He has received many international prizes including the 2013 Guggenheim Fellowship, the Alexander Zemlinsky International Composition Competition Prize, and the Toru Takemitsu Composition Award. In 2007, the Thai government named Prangcharoen a Contemporary National Artist, presenting him with the Silapathorn Award, one of Thailand’s most prestigious honors. Prangcharoen’s music has been performed around the world by the Baltimore Symphony, Minnesota Orchestra, the China Philharmonic Orchestra, the Tokyo Philharmonic, Pacific Symphony, Grant Park Orchestra, and the Melbourne Symphony, among others.
Prangcharoen received his doctorate of musical arts degree from the University of Missouri-Kansas City (UMKC), where he is also currently on the faculty. He founded the Thailand Composition Festival in Bangkok, now in its tenth year, and has been awarded a Music Alive composer residence with the Pacific Symphony for the 2013–16 seasons.
In 2014, Prangcharoen was the recipient of the prestigious Barlow Prize for Music Composition at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah. The resulting commission is Lokuttara for wind ensemble and this recording is from the world première conducted by Marine Band Director Lt. Col. Jason K. Fettig on March 22, 2015 at the Rachel M. Schlesinger Concert Hall at Northern Virginia Community College in Alexandria. The composer provides the following program notes:
Lokuttara means ultramundane. It is the power that enables the mind to transcend beyond the world, or beyond the limits of our system. This piece is mainly focusing on the texture and timbre inspired by chanting or praying. For example, the texture of this piece is imitating the rhythm of speech or the singing of words or sounds, called “reciting tones,” as in a chant or prayer. The timbre enlightens the listener to the sound and atmosphere beyond the material world, echoing the transcendence of Tibetan monk chants. The direction of the lines are mainly focused on the departure from a low register to a high register as if the mind transcends from the physical world to the world beyond our system. The thematic and harmonic materials are controlled by the set of pitches which function as the main material for the entire piece. Lokuttara consists of three main sections divided fast—slow—fast. Although the material is from the same pitch collection, the music in each section transforms into many different forms.
Listen to Lokuttara
John Philip Sousa’s march, “Boy Scouts of America” was composed in 1916 at the request of Dr. Charles Hart, the president of the Boy Scouts. According to Sousa, the march “absolutely breathes the boy; it visualizes the supple step of the boy marching, and not the heavy tread of the man.”
A March 1, 1917 article in “Scouting Magazine” provided more background into the origination of the composition:
When Mr. Sousa agreed to write a march, he said that he would not do it unless he could get the proper inspiration. It was suggested that he should try to feel again as he did when as a small boy of twelve years he was reviewed by General Grant and the President of the United States… He also wished to have it symbolize the Spirit of Youth, especially the Youth of America—and he certainly has done it. …The critics, his publishers, and Mr. Sousa himself think it one of the two or three best he has ever written, and that it ranks with the “Washington Post” and the “Stars and Stripes.” It has a splendid swing, and makes those who hear it want to keep time with their feet. It is full of life and energy and is pervaded with a youthful joyousness that is wonderful. … It is called “The Boy Scouts of America March,” composed expressly for and dedicated with admiration and affection to the Boy Scouts of America, by John Philip Sousa. …The march was first played at a public performance on October 30 at the Metropolitan Opera House, Philadelphia where Mr. Sousa was then engaged. So the Boy Scouts have now a march of their own—composed by the most famous march writer of the world. They should be very proud, and also grateful.
This recording of “Boy Scouts of America” was featured on the 1977 recording, “The Heritage of John Philip Sousa” conducted by then-Marine Band Director Lt. Col. Jack Kline.
Listen to “Boy Scouts of America”