As we were previewing this year’s new concert band arrangements, we were struck by several really good, new arrangements for young band based on Asian folk melodies and styles. Drawing on traditional Chinese and Japanese folk tunes, as well as original work featuring Eastern-influenced tonality, these pieces are wonderfully authentic and interesting to play. They provide excellent programming variety, will broaden your students’ musical experience (especially in developing their ears), and create fantastic multi-cultural educational opportunities – a joint lesson in Asian geography and world history would be perfect!
On our recommendation, one of our regular Ohio teachers programmed the Chinese Folk Fantasy. He was somewhat concerned about authenticity and how it would be received by his Chinese-American families. They loved it, so it comes recommended with first-hand classroom and concert experience! Likewise, your students will enjoy the rhythmic qualities of Ryukyu Bushi, the sonic similarities between Reflections of Asia and wind band standard Variations on a Korean Folk Song, and the taiko drums in Japanese Pictures will just be a blast!
Chinese Folk Fantasy
arr. James Curnow
If you’re looking for an alternative programming option, look no further! Combining three traditional Chinese folk melodies, Chinese Folk Fantasy is full of characteristic sounds and rhythms. There is a good deal of 8th note rhythmic doubling and the pointed rhythmic patterns and Eastern tonality will peak your audience’s interest and challenge your students – this one will stretch their ears and increase their harmonic independence.
Bold and exciting, this characteristic work draws inspiration from both traditional and modern Japanese music, and features taiko drums! Plenty of rhythmic punch contrasts with legato phrases, traditional-sounding pentatonic counterlines, and some western harmonies in this enjoyable, multi-cultural work.
Reflections of Asia
Featuring a charming, simple pentatonic melody that passes around the ensemble, varied articulation, and excellent percussion writing that incorporates common auxiliary instruments, Todd Phillips has created a pleasant, folk-type original work evocative of Variations on a Korean Folk Song sans variations. This is a great choice for developing student ears and technique, as well as light playing style.
Patrick J. Burns
Ryukyu Bushi is based on a Japanese folk melody from the Ryukyu Islands where the martial art of karate originated. This dramatic little tune appears throughout the piece, sometimes accompanied by clapping, sometimes by tenor drum, triangle, tambourine, and cymbal. Your young players will enjoy playing this exciting little piece as much as they’ll like saying its title.