Saturday, January 24, 2015

Video of the Week: Chance's A-ri-rang

This week, I remember back to when I played trumpet in the high school band.  My fondest memory is "Variations on a Korean Folk Song" by John Barnes Chance.  Perhaps this memory is reinforced by my living in Korea for two years, or maybe because it's just cool music.

The tune is very easy to pick out.  The piece starts out simply, and then in the first variation, the tune becomes both accompaniment (played faster and repeated) and melody (played slower).  After exploring different variations, slow and fast, the composer ends with a finale that may well be some of the best band music ever written.  Starting at time 5:53, the drums begin one layer of the melody, and then one by one more layers are added until it builds a wall of awesome sound.


Note: while searching for a good recording of this piece, I came across several other candidates.  The one I chose is boring visually, but the recording is the most professional I could find, and sounds the closest to what I remember in high school (if only I had that recording).

There are a couple of good recordings played by an orchestra instead of band, but Chance had originally written it for band, and that finale I talked about earlier doesn't work so well with string instruments.  It just doesn't sound Korean enough.  So, I didn't choose any of those recordings.

However, I'll include this bonus video, a marching band version with added drums and an impressive color guard.  I would have used it for my main pick, but it cuts out a couple of parts, and it's not the version I played in high school.  Still very impressive.  The extra drums give it a different kind of energy.

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