Stuart High School

Last night, I finished the draft of the short score of the commission for Stuart High School in Falls Church, Virginia. This means I still have to orchestrate it, but there’s now an 11-minute piece — currently scored for roughly 12 trombones, 7 percussionists, and some saxes. I’ll start the real orchestration later today.

I’m pretty excited about this piece. There were two ideas I was playing with in this one. First, it’s almost entirely based on a six-note motive that Edge plays in the U2 song, “Where the Streets Have No Name.” That motive bookends the song as an accompaniment figure, but I thought I’d base the entire piece on that motive.

The other idea was to write something that has pretty much no tune at all. (Newman said if it’s got no tune, but only chords and motives, it’s basically Beethoven. I wish.)  The whole piece is all about chords. It’s almost like a pop song in search of a melody, with chords pretty much entirely ripped from traditional pop progressions — I, IV, V, vi, and the occasional ii.

This one is happy. Happy, happy, happy. We’re talking Eb major all the way. AEJ thinks it sounds like daybreak. (She also said, moments after hearing the piece for the first time, “oh, schools are going to march that piece like crazy.”) Doug Martin, the Director of Bands at Stuart High School, thinks it sounds like sunshine music. Now we’re working on the title. Steve Bryant already has a piece called “First Light,” and I’m bummed, because that would be a great title for this piece. I’ve stolen titles from Steve before (see RedLine), so I’m considering “Firster Light” for this one.  Or maybe “First Light Tango.”

Speaking of stealing — the last chord of the piece is, note for note and with identical scoring, the same as the final chord of the first movement of Holst’s Suite in Eb. I have always loved that chord, particularly the way I heard the Dallas Wind Symphony perform it under Junkin at Midwest a few years ago, and I’ve always wanted to match that level of brightness and optimism in one of my own pieces. Thus, I literally stole Holst’s chord, but added glock and crotales. So mine is shinier! Suck on that, Holst!

For the curious, here’s a PDF of the short score.

On another note, we’ve been watching American Idol, and I have to ask — when did “American Idol” become “American Unwed Teen Mother Idol?” Other than Adam Lambert, this season is a joke.


Fosco! says

"Where the Streets Have No Name" is absolutely killer, mainly because of The Edge. I can't wait to hear this piece!

Jason says

Can't wait to here the new piece. Have you considered calling it "Daybreak"?

Doug Martin says

Hey there anyone/everyone who reads this...this is essentially my first post on here, though I've been a reader for years, ever since I first encountered John's music. Yes, I'm the lucky guy who has the mp3 and whose band will be the first to get to play this new piece. John is right when he says it's happyhappyhappy, but he neglects to mention the GORGEOUS opening section/movement. I hesitate to say more about the piece - I think it's better to just hear the piece rather than read what someone has to say about it - but I will say that I think you're all going to love it. I sure do. And if you're near our neck of the woods on May 8, we hope you can join us for the premiere.

Jeff says

I will pay you $100 if you title Doug's piece "Suck on that, Holst"

Robert D. Pore says

You could call it "Dawn and Mackey's Rhinestone Journey."

Steve from Austin says

No love for Danny Gokey? Man...

Ryan says

Mr. Mackey:

Thanks for continuing to write quality music for band that kicks ass.

Your new piece is going to be awesome whatever you decide to call it. I hacked through some of it on the piano... can't wait to hear the real thing!


Kevin Howlett says

In a diatonic progression, in my book nothing beats iii.

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