Bringing J.D. Morsch Band Transcriptions Back Into Publication Standards for the Availability of BYU Ensembles
Nicolas Mauricio Ayala Ceron and Faculty Mentor: Dr. Donald Peterson, School of Music
The Brigham Young University Music Performance Library houses a very special collection of hand-written music unique in the world. This collection, known as the J.D. Marsch Collection, includes the music of renowned wind band composer, arranger, and transcriber J. Durward Marsch who dedicated his life to music education as well as to producing a large body of works, most of which are transcriptions for wind bands. The instrumentation for these ensembles is notable for the exclusion of string instruments found in more well-known orchestral ensembles, with the exception of a single String Bass instrument, a later addition to the wind band.
Because of the relative infancy of wind bands in the history of music, the amount of literature available for these types of ensembles is limited. J. D. Marsch, who lived from 1920 to 2015, spent his life’s career as a transcriber of orchestral music into the wind band format. His transcriptions, or “bandscriptions” as he preferred to call them, came out of a necessity to provide wind bands with more mature musical options akin to those for orchestras. His works total over 400 arrangements, of which over 125 are popular orchestral film score transcriptions. Currently, Brigham Young University has the largest collection of these handwritten scores and transcriptions for band, all sitting in drawers waiting for an opportunity to be performed.
The problems with the majority of the pieces found in the J.D. Marsch Collection is that they are all hand-written, most do not include parts available for ensembles to perform, and the instrumentation that is used in these arrangements is now dated in comparison to the available instrumentation in a modern wind band. The challenge for modernizing this collection is then twofold: First, the scores need to be engraved onto a computer for preservation and reproduction purposes, and second, they need to be in some instances carefully re-arranged in order to comply with a modern wind band instrumentation while preserving their original musical characteristics.
In collaboration with Dr. Donald Peterson, director of bands at BYU, we chose a
selection of works to re-engrave and modernize according to popularity and foreseeable demand by BYU ensembles. These include works by Alfred Newman (The 20th Century-Fox Fanfare, The Captain from Castile ) Hector Villa-Lobos (Dancas Caracteristicas Africanas, Basil Poledouris (The Hunt For Red October ) and Jerry Goldsmith (Star Trek- The Motion Picture ). As a result of this project, the Symphonic Band at BYU will Perform J.D. Morsch’s “bandscription” if Jerry Goldsmith’s Star Trek- The motion Picture Soundtrack at their February 2018 Convert. This Piece has not been performed by any band in the world by more than two decades.
From a composer’s perspective, working on this project has given me na inside view into how J.D. Morsch Transcribed music for wind band. Throughout the engraving process it was commonplace to find certain passages of music that were transcribed incorrectly in the original scores. While i have the benefit of computer-assisted engraving, J.D. Morsch and his contemporaries relied strictly on their mind’s ear and perhaps a piano to realize these compositions and arrangements, thus making it difficult to find errors in the transcriptions. Other Characteristics that stood out to me throughout this process were the instrumental relationships that J.D. Morsch preferred in order to accommodate the wind band instrumentation to large orchestral scores. This insight into the how-to of successful wind band arranging will prove priceless as I continue my career as a composer for wind band music myself.
Into the future, I wish to continue transcribing more of J.D. Morsch’s works while I pursue my master’s degree at Brigham Young University, in hopes that these great works will once again be brought to life by the ensembles at BYU.