An investigation of selected compositions of Julian Cassander Work, an African-American composer of band literature

Paxton Mandell Girtmon

Abstract

The purpose of this was to demonstrate that the selected band compositions of Julian C. Work provided awareness, knowledge, and understanding about the compositional styles of Julian C. Work for wind band literature and brought to light the efforts of the African-American composer and musician, Julian C. Work, with respect to his significant contributions to the wind band. The study contained a brief biographical sketch of the composer's life and also contained an analysis of the band compositions Autumn Walk, Portraits of the Bible: Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego and Stand the Storm. Each band composition was analyzed with regard to form, harmonic structure, rhythmic structure, and instrumentation. Julian Work described himself as a composer that had been influenced by the music of Debussy and Ravel. However, he hastened to add that he was not wholly an Impressionist, for he hoped that he had developed his own style of orchestration. Like many other Impressionist composers, he insisted on the freedom to use whatever compositional devices that might best serve the needs of his current subject. His melodies were generally built not from strong, broadly articulated themes, but from short motives of narrow range. The effect of the chord was an important compositional device for Mr. Work. If the chord was particularly striking, it may have been repeated in parallel motion. Work also used triads with ninths, elevenths, and thirteenths that often did not resolve as expected. Work liked parallel chords that became typical in Impressionist harmonies. These chords could move by any interval, but most often move by step. Work's extensive chromaticism in his compositions, along with parallel chords, weaken the progression toward the tonic. Julian C. Work, although bound by tradition, sought to create new compositional forms that suited his musical taste. He wished to leave his listeners not with a profound answer, but with an impression.