The Wind Band Music of Henry Cowell: 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

The Wind Band Music of Henry Cowell

1st Edition

By Jeremy S. Brown


326 pages | 65 B/W Illus.

Purchasing Options:$ = USD
Hardback: 9780815375739
pub: 2018-03-15
SAVE ~$29.00
eBook (VitalSource) : 9781351239264
pub: 2018-03-14
from $27.48

FREE Standard Shipping!


The Wind Band Music of Henry Cowell studies the compositions for wind band by twentieth-century composer Henry Cowell, a significant and prolific figure in American fine art music from 1914-1965. The composer is noteworthy and controversial because of his radical early works, his interest in non-Western musics, and his retrogressive mature style—along with notoriety for his imprisonment in San Quentin on a morals charge. Eleven chapters are organized both topically and chronologically. An introduction, conclusion, series of eight appendices, bibliography, and discography complete this comprehensive study, along with an audio playlist of representative works, hosted on the CMS website.

Table of Contents

LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS: Facsimiles of Manuscripts and Printed Music, Photographs, and Poetic Texts


FOREWORD: From the Series Editor

PREFACE: From the Author



CHAPTER 1: Introduction: Destined to Compose for Wind Band

A Brief Overview of American Wind Band History

Details of Cowell’s Arrest and Sentencing

Prison Composer and Musician

A Note on Dating Cowell’s Compositions

Isolation from the Musical Mainstream

CHAPTER 2: The Genesis of the Early Band Works

San Quentin State Prison

A Conspiracy of Bandsmen

Cowell and the San Quentin Concert Band

Sidney Robertson Cowell’s Views of Cowell’s Band Music

"The Jute Mill Works"

Hypothetical Questions

CHAPTER 3: Celtic Set for Band: The Countless California Confluences

Discovering "Irishness" with the Help of Percy Grainger


Cowell’s Devotion to Writing for the Wind Band

Making Contact: Expressions of Admiration

CHAPTER 4: The Celtic Set Letters from Cowell to Grainger, 1937-1940

The Dialogue Begins

A Summer of Unexpected Pleasures

Grainger’s Band Shell Letter of 24 August 1939

A New Cellblock Routine

Parole and Release into the Custody of Grainger

The Final Weeks at San Quentin

CHAPTER 5: Celtic Set—Composed by Cowell, Edited by Grainger, Rescored by Goldman


Early Performances

"Reel" ("Interlochen Camp Reel")



A Speculation

CHAPTER 6: Cowell on His Own: Sublime Wind Band Music

The Cowell Approach

"Air for Band"


The Realization of the Wind Ensemble Concept

CHAPTER 7: Unpublished Band Works for Friends and Fellow Prisoners, 1938-1940

"Herman’s Wedding March"

"Quaint Minuet"

"Crystal Set" and "Quaint Minuet"

Vox Humana

"The Exuberant Mexican: Danza Latina for Band"

"Christ lag in Todesbanden"

Polonaise by Chopin

Symphony No. 3 for Band with Strings

Easter Music

"Fire and Ice"

CHAPTER 8: On Parole: Compositions for Band

Birthday Gifts for Grainger

"Blarneying Lilt"

Shipshape Overture

Little Concerto for Piano and Band

Festive Occasion


CHAPTER 9: Works for Band, 1942-1950

"Animal Magic of the Alaskan Esquimo"

Hymn and Fuguing Tune No. 1

"Grandma’s Rhumba"

A Pedagogical Study in the Spirit of Grainger

A Curse and A Blessing

CHAPTER 10: "Simplification with Substance": 1950-1965


Singing Band

CHAPTER 11: Conclusions

An Original Wind Band Scoring

An American Work Ethic and Inspiration in Adversity

Cowell’s Transethnic Aesthetic vs. the Eurocentric Mantra

The Spiritual Power of Music and the Absence of Rage

BIBLIOGRAPHY:Suggested Further Reading

DISCOGRAPHY: Recorded Performances

APPENDIX 1: The Wind Band Works of Cowell: A Classification

APPENDIX 2: The Unfinished Band Works of Cowell

APPENDIX 3: Inventory of Letters Consulted

APPENDIX 4: Grainger’s Letter of Support for Cowell’s Parole

APPENDIX 5: Scoring Comparison of the Four Version of Celtic Set

APPENDIX 6: A Henry Cowell / Ben Weber Curiosity

APPENDIX 7: Directions to Cowell’s New York Home

APPENDIX 8: The Cowell Collective

INDEX 1: Titles of Musical and Literary Works

INDEX 2: Names and Subjects

PLAYLIST: Recorded Examples

About the Author

Jeremy S. Brown is Professor of Music at the University of Calgary and the lead compiler of the Royal Conservatory of Music's inaugural Saxophone Series.

About the Series

CMS Sourcebooks in American Music

The CMS Sourcebooks in American Music series was conceived to underscore the remarkable diversity in our nation’s musical expression and to call attention to both landmark and representative achievements in its evolution. Whether the subject is a concert or stage work communicated through a notated score, a virtual performance frozen in time by modern technology (such as a film score or a recording), or some other mode of preservation not yet invented or standardized, the goal is the same: to gather materials for study, to reconsider and synthesize existing commentary and criticism, and to offer a fresh assessment or appreciation. These carefully written and engaging studies are fully documented, and are directed to teachers of music, students of music, and other lovers of music.

Learn more…

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
MUSIC / General