Asphalt Cocktail: Drunken Relief

I finished the final draft score of “Asphalt Cocktail” today.  Now I just need to generate the parts, which is usually a pain in the asphalt.  (HA!  I may be a little loopy…)

If you’re curious to see the score, you can check out the PDF on the newly-added “Asphalt Cocktail” page.

If you’re a horn, euphonium, or trumpet player, let me know how those parts look. There are some trumpet leaps that I haven’t tried before, the euphonium part is awfully high (and I’m worried it’s too high), and there are some nasty horn sounds that I’m hoping are possible (very low, brassy flutter-tongued stuff).

I feel pretty good about the piece, but I’m way too close to really be able to tell anything about it anymore. The percussion section basically plays rock percussion for six minutes. The highlight, if it works the way I hope, is on page 37, where the groove finally settles into a trashy rock 4/4, complete with back-beats accentuated by the slamming of metal-filled steel trash cans into the floor. (A shout-out to Scott Harris at Stephen F. Austin State University for showing me that.) The trash can is small (only about 12″ tall), and it’s picked up and slammed by the lid handles (with the lids taped on like crazy), so it’s a controlled slam that should sound a little like an amplified set of chains.

It’s kind of like the Mahler Hammer, but more white trash.


Nikk says


The Euphonium A-flats and A-naturals are going to be somewhat tough but certainly not impossible. If anything, they will sometimes be pinched and suffer some intonation troubles, but honestly...any decent college euph player should be able to handle them without a problem.

P.S. The meter signatures look good. Glad it worked out! ;-)

Montoya says

I go to B flats in my piece for Euph.

Jonathan says

Mr. Mackey,

How were you able to make the time signatures look the way they did?
I use Finale 2009, and I it's pretty close to Finale 2008.

P.S. It looks like a fun piece!

Benford says

Trumpet parts look okay. You like high A's, huh? LOL That high D could be tricky but if we're talking primarily college to play it, shouldn't be a problem if there are plenty of trumpet majors in the ensemble.

Congrats on another piece finished!

David says

The horn part isn't bad at all. Assuming some one can flutter tongue, they should be able to flutter tongue in the low register. And that not that low anyways. So it should be fine.

Joey says

I think i got it. Since it sounds "rocky" you chose Asphalt, and (this is just a guess) you choose Cocktail because of the part of the percussion.

I am a trumpet player at Southwest HS in Fort Worth (director Mr. Dunn you may know him) and I am the biggest fan of your music. I love every piece. You are a genius with music. Thank you for contributing your work.

The trumpet parts look good. Can guess there will be some cheating on those slurs ("legato tounging") but I'm sure U.T. won't. They're pretty good.

The horn part looks fun. This year at Southwest we are playing Kingfisher's (CANT WAIT!) and I am doubling on French Horn and helping with the C. Anyway, I'd say that Asphalt Cocktail beats that piece out of the water. It looks extremely tough, but possible, and I'm sure you'll get the effect you want.

Don't know too much about Euphonium, but I have "The Debutante" solo for trumpet and Euphonium and the Euphonium part goes just as high.

I want to be a composer when I get older and you are definitely my hero. What music program do you use for writing? Mine is not so good.

John says

Wow -- comments! Thanks for the feedback about the individual parts. MSU commissioned the piece, and they wanted a flashy opener, so I'm sure they're expecting something technically challenging. I just wanted to be sure I hadn't written things that were completely impossible.
As for the cool, big time signatures, those are courtesy of Nikk Pilato (see comment from Nikk above). Here, step by step, is exactly what Nikk told me. I did it just like he suggested, only I used a different font:

Go into Document Options. Find the Time Signatures option.

Under Vertical Adjustment, set the Top Symbol to: -0.05208 and set the Bottom Symbol to -0.45139

Now, go to the Fonts option. In the middle option (Notation), find the Time (score) option and set the font that works best (I used one called Californian FB on my PC, and the Mac has defaulted to Cochin 58B...any number of fonts will work with some experimentation). I like the look of the serif font for the time signature, the sans serif looked weird to me, but it can certainly work. (Note from John: agreed. Sans serif fonts looked wrong.)

Ok. Now, your score will look pretty weird. The final step is...go into the Global Attributes dialog box under plugins, and click off ALL the time signatures from displaying. Now, select which staves you want them to display on (since you are not doing an open score like I was, I assume that top middle and bottom would work well). Voila!

I think it looks really good, and compared with lots of tiny meter changes, this is a lot easier to read. It also makes the piece look legit.

And to answer Joey's question, I still use Finale 2008. I kind of hate it -- holy buggy -- but I manage.

Travis Taylor says

I knew you hated Finale! I knew it!


Count Fosco says

(I don't read music too well, so I'll just trust the other commenters that this piece is brilliant.)

Re: Mahler hammer. I always thought Mahler was pretty white trash, what with all the military-band love. And he and his wife would have been great on Springer, no?

Benford says

Music looking legit? But I thought you were going for trashy....



Ray says

The piece looks awesome. The time signatures look legit too. Sweet job. Looking forward to hearing it.

As for the low horn flutter tongue stuff, that stuff's not bad at all. In fact, if played loud and brassy as you indicate on the score, it should sound damn cool and dirty. I'm liking all the rips, too...ha.

Kasey says

Hi John,

I'm Kasey Warren 1st chair trumpet in my wind ensemble and lead trumpet in my jazz band. I have been inspired by your pieces (especially Redline Tango).

About the piece - I would say that this is a high 4/ low 5 in difficulty./? I see many of the people who have already posted pretty much covered my opinions. Most good high school wind ensembles could pull this off. The trumpet jumps are not as crazy as Gordon Goodwin's 4th trumpet jumps in Sing Sang Sung, so those should be fine. The euphonium part is a little high, yet capable of playing. In fact I have some friends that can play that high. May I suggest that those high notes be an option 8va?

Brandon says

I'm a Euphonium player and just want to say that while you're a little bit evil for keeping the Euphoniums in the top of the tessitura for almost the entire piece hehe (High Ab's galore), it's perfectly doable for the Euphonium players of the ensembles that are in the echelon of skill that will be typically attempting this piece (Universities, and really good--a.k.a "Texas"--HS Bands)

For comparison, the Weber transcription of Hindemith's "Symphonic Metamorphosis" gives the Euphoniums the Bb3~Bb4 octave jumps at the end of the March along with the Horns. And that piece is on the UIL PML for Texas HS bands. The highest note you wrote for the Euphonium in "Asphalt Cocktail" is an optional C5 which is fine, but I wouldn't write anything higher than that, even with *optionals*. Once you get higher than C5 you're in the screamer range of the instrument and there's a huge wall of stuffiness that performers have to work against to play higher than that. I've seen works before that had a C5 written but I've never had to play anything higher than that in an ensemble (though solo literature is another story).

Robert Benton says


We read this piece on Friday (you should have the recording soon) and it will be great. As you'll hear on the recording, balancing it so that you hear everything that's going on would be the number one issue (at least that's the way it was from my seat). Of course keeping the tempo up will be a challenge as well, but nothing we can't do.

Being a euphonium player, here's my take on the part: it's fine. The high C is well placed, supported and it's not too difficult to jump there from the G. In my professional opinion, the euphonium is at it's best between middle C and high C*. Before practicing the piece, just looking the part over raised an eyebrow, (many repeated measures in the F-G-Ab range) but in practice, there is plenty of rest to make up for any endurance issues.

* - much of this depends on the level of playing. If you were writing for a top university band or one of the DC bands you can go up to Eb (mostly for effects or punctuation). Most other college players will not have difficulty with the C in this piece. Writing for high school, I would stay below Bb

I'm looking forward to working on this piece with you and performing it in March.

Best Regards,

Robert Benton
Michigan State University

Ian Gelarden says

the clarinet solo is WICKED AWESOME! sorry for the slightly informal comment but im playing that solo on this piece and its great. I rarely get to do bends and smears in concert band.

Zack says

Mr. Mackey,
I'm a freshman music ed. major at MSU. I attended the unofficial premiere of Asphalt Cocktail in February. I love the piece. And I have to say I like your changes a lot in this version (the posted from CBDNA). The added build-up before it finally settles into the rock groove at the end gave it a little more closure for me.

Awesome music. Can't wait to hear more.


Peter says

Played at our High School for state competition in which the Band won the State Competition. Asphalt Cocktail was included in the selections. This song is amazing and I fell in love with it. Awesome job.

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