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Ritual Music (grade 5)

Ritual Music was commissioned by the Belle Vernon, Pennsylvania, Area High School Symphonic Band and their conductor, Mark Surovchak. Mark’s only suggestion to me as I began work on the piece was that it be in ABA form, as he stated that his ensemble had not played anything in that form in quite some time. This was also a good opportunity for me, as I rarely use that form and it challenged me to create something unique within such a standard structure.


The resultant piece is somewhat programmatic, although I did not have a clear story in mind as I wrote the music. In general, I had images of some sort of primitive, and perhaps violent, ritual, maybe a sacrifice or something of that nature. Since I had no clear cultural background in mind, I was led to the idea of using instruments that could be identified with different cultures. Therefore, early on in the compositional process, I decided to use both the djembe and didgeridoo as prominent voices within the texture of the piece.


Musically, the work opens ominously with piano, low winds, percussion, and the djembe and didgeridoo. A faster “A” section follows and this section is divided into its own smaller ABA form, with a general sense throughout of building toward the end of the section. The “B” section of Ritual Music is slower and also divided into its own smaller ABA form, beginning with an extended oboe solo, continuing through a chordal passage and revisiting a full ensemble presentation of the oboe material. Following a return to the opening “A” section, the piece concludes with a massive accelerando to a dramatic finale.

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