Strange Humors (band)

Wind Ensemble/5'/Difficulty - Medium/2006

Also available for strings and djembe; clarinet quartet and djembe; and sax quartet and djembe
This work is on the Texas UIL Prescribed Music List, classified as Grade 4.

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Poteet High School Wind Ensemble,
conducted by Scott Coulson

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Video of original version for string quartet.
Music by John Mackey, choreography by Robert Battle.
Dancers: Samuel Roberts and George Smallwood.

Strange Humors represents another of Mackey’s works (after “Redline Tango”) that has been transcribed for wind ensemble. The first version of “Strange Humors” was a student piece for string quartet and djembe that Mackey wrote while pursuing his graduate degree at The Juilliard School. It was later adapted for use by the Parsons Dance Company, with choreography by Robert Battle. Its transcription came at the behest of Richard Floyd on behalf of the American Bandmasters Association. The piece represents a merging of musical cultures — the modal melodies and syncopated rhythms of middle Eastern music with the percussive accompaniment of African drumming.

At the heart of the work lies the pulse of the djembe, which remains from the original version. The djembe, an hourglass-shaped drum played with bare hands, is a major part of the customs of west African countries such as Mali and Guinea, where djembe ensembles accompany many functional celebrations of society.

The piece opens with a sultry English horn solo, a line laced with Phrygian influence representing the “typical” melodies of the most northeastern parts of the African continent — most notably Egypt, but also parts of the Arabian peninsula. Later, the saxophones emulate the snaking lines of the English horn. The addition of brass and auxiliary percussion to the original orchestration makes for particular impact during the shout sections of the piece, and the groove of the djembe combined with the quirky rhythms throughout leave an impression that lingers in the listener’s mind long after its conclusion.
Program note by Jake Wallace
Please credit Jake Wallace when reproducing or excerpting this program note


March 1, 2006, ABA convention in Richardson, Texas

Performed by the Baylor University Wind Ensemble, conducted by Richard Floyd.

Commissioned by

The American Bandmasters Association