This month we added 25 new ensemble titles to the SmartMusic Repertoire Library. Included are new pieces for choir, jazz ensemble, concert band, and string orchestra.
Today we’re featuring Vince Gassi’s “Bang Zoom!” which was recently added to the SmartMusic Repertoire Library. This is a very popular, fun, and easy concert band piece. It’s also a great percussion feature.
Press the play button below to hear “Bang Zoom!”
Vince was kind enough to share his thoughts on the creation of the piece – and offer tips on performing the piece with your students.
Composer Vince Gassi on Bang Zoom!
Creating is one of the most fun activities I know of. When we are a creative state we can be absorbed in a project for hours before it dawns on us how much time has passed. On the other hand, creating an original work can often be challenging.
Thomas Edison’s saying about genius also applies to creativity: one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration. It’s a remarkable process and an ability we all possess. However, as a favorite composer of mine once remarked about the creative process, “Sometimes it’s easy and sometimes it ain’t so easy.” So how do we generate original ideas; where do they spring from?
To begin, having a catchy title has often helped me and with a title like “Bang Zoom!,” featuring the percussion was a no-brainer (see mm. 36–44). Aside from the mallet percussion part, this piece calls for three percussionists plus a timpani player. Of course, it’s important to try and keep all parts interesting to play throughout.
First problem? How to Start?
My first instinct? Movement!
Simple is often the best so why not start on the tonic. A sustained note that moves (zooms) up. How far? A tritone! Why not! You can see how this idea is extended a little, from one note in measure 2 to two notes in mm. 4 and 5.
Ok, that’s the intro! Now for a theme. Once the creative spark is there, our rational thinking takes over. Measure 13, first two notes; a variation on the “Bang Zoom” motif but now extended and developed into an eight-bar theme. Notice the shape of the melody (m.13–20—alto sax, trumpet, baritone). From m.17, beat 4 to m. 18 beat 4, it has the same shape as 1 the accompaniment figure in mm.10, 14, and 18. I often like to find places where I can reuse ideas. It’s like figuring out a puzzle.
For contrast, in the slower section, I wanted a different melodic shape or interval direction (see mm. 49, 56, and 58 where the interval is reversed i.e., going down instead of up). You can hear fragments of the main theme in mm. 51–52 (compare with mm. 17–19). For a bit more variety, and because it’s always cool to give the low instruments the tune, see mm. 69-83.
You’ll also notice more percussion “photo spots.” The melody is presented in yet two more times from mm. 84–91, each with a different accompaniment. The flutes and bells now have the theme at 84. Additionally, at 92 there is an interplay of the two-note motif; group one (clarinet, low winds, brass) and group two (flute, alto saxes). Have your baritones bring out the little counter-melody in m. 93 in imitation of the trumpet melody at 92. Music is all about communication and interplay and it becomes a lot more fun when we engage in it.
I would encourage you to point out each of these photo spots out to your students. Knowing what is going on in parts other than their own is crucial to the band’s cohesiveness. You know the old saying, “you don’t come to rehearsal to learn your part, you come to learn everyone else’s.” There are many components of this piece (and music in general) that your students can become aware of and internalize. Ensure that your students know “who’s got the tune” at each point in the piece.
Point out the melodic fragments that pop up here and there (mm. 51–52 compared with mm.17–19) or how one instrument section supports another (eg., clarinets and baritone support flutes at mm. 84-91 or the contrasting accompaniment figure from mm. 92-99). Go even further and get your students to think, talk, and write about what images or associations the melody, harmony, rhythm or any other part of this piece (or any other pieces) conjure up for them. We all respond to music differently and it’s amazing to tap into your students creativity in this way.
Reflections on the Creative Process
You know, I never realized how complicated it all sounds when attempting to describe a musical work using the English language. Honest, it wasn’t this intellectual a process when I was writing it. It shows how mysterious the creative process can be.
In his book “The Blackwinged Night: Creativity in Nature and Mind,” F. David Peat states that “Creativity is the meeting of Dionysus and Apollo, where poetic intoxication is tempered by the demands of structure, logic, and rationality.”
When asked about his creative process in 2004, Jerry Goldsmith stated, “To describe how one writes music is impossible. I can’t intellectually tell you how it gets from the head and the heart, through my arm, down to my hand, and onto the paper.” Goldsmith may not have been able to intellectualize his process but, in the end, it didn’t really matter. He was a master! By the way, that “favorite composer” I mentioned earlier . . . yep . . . it was Goldsmith!