The Band Works of James Clifton Williams

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Joe Barry Mullins

Advisor Department



One of the most prolific composers of serious band music was James Clifton Williams. In this study selected works by the composer for the wind band are analyzed, and major events which seem relevant to his career and creative work are traced from his birth in 1923 in Traskwood, Arkansas, until his death from cancer at the age of fifty-two in Miami, Florida. Fanfare and Allegro, Symphonic Suite, Dedicatory Overture, Symphonic Dance No. 3: "Fiesta," and Caccia and Chorale were selected for anaysis from data gained through a random survey of the membership of the American School Band Directors Association. The works are analyzed according to formal structure; melodic, rhythmic, and harmonic content; texture; instrumentation; and scoring. Biographical and historical data were obtained from the composer's friends, family, and colleagues through interviews, letters, and other sources. To Williams a good composition was constructed of small amounts of melodic, rhythmic, and harmonic material. All works analyzed are constructed of short motives which recur varied and developed. Themes often evolve through a process of motivic development. Many of the themes are modal with the Dorian, Lydian, and Phrygian modes occurring most frequently. Crisp, articulate rhythm is a prominent feature of the works analyzed. One source of the forward thrust of Williams' band music is the many and varied ostinato figures. Williams' harmonies are contemporary and diverse. Many instances of nonfunctional major chords, altered chords, and bitonality are commonly found. Tritone cadences occur frequently; dominant-tonic cadences are rare. All compositions studied show the composer's propensity for enharmonic spelling. The words "brilliant" and "dramatic" generally apply to the sound of the composer's music. Scoring is carefully thought out with parts often conceived for particular instruments. His knowledge of the capabilities of the various instruments is evident in the scores. As a composer Williams was a romantic and a melodist. His music shows the influence of such composers as Stravinsky, Bartok, and Howard Hanson. The skill and imagination with which he manipulated his material and the influence he had on serious band music demonstrate his unique ability and stature as a musical craftsman and composer.