Charles Carter’s Overture for Winds
Published by Bourne Company, Inc.
Unit 1: Composer
Charles Edward Carter was born in Ponca City, Oklahoma on July 10, 1926. He has been composing and arranging band music (particularly concert band literature) for over 45 years. He received the Bachelor of Music degree from Ohio State University and the Master of Music degree from the Eastman School of Music, where he studied with Bernard Rogers and Wayne Barlow. When he was a senior at Ohio State he wrote his first symphonic band composition, which was performed in concert the next year. In 1951 he began arranging for the Ohio State marching band and was part time instructor of low brass. In 1952 he wrote his first two compositions designed for the educational market: Metropolis and Overture In Classical Style. Mr. Carter migrated to a new position as assistant director of bands at Florida State University in 1953. For the next 43 years Carter arranged for the various bands at FSU. During this time he continued to compose band pieces for the educational field and was also invited to guest conduct throughout the South and Mid-West. In 1984 he was presented with the Distinguished Service to Music award by Kappa Kappa Psi National Band Fraternity. Mr. Carter is now retired from Florida State University but continues to compose and arrange for concert band. He has many published works to his credit, including over thirty compositions for wind band.
Unit 2: Composition
Overture for Winds was composed in 1959 – when Carter was 33 – and published by Bourne, Inc. It is a Grade 3 piece and takes approximately five minutes to perform. The overall form of the piece is ABA with a bright, opening fanfare that is repeated many times throughout the piece, followed by a slower, more lyrical section ballad section. The coda is essentially a restatement of the opening theme.
Unit 3: Historical Perspective
Overture writing seemed to be a very popular thing for wind band composers to do during this time. Other composers such as C. Catel, H. Jadin and Mendelssohn were known for their writings of overtures for band, too. This particular form of overture (ABA) is very common among composers, primarily because it gives the audience a clear, recurring theme to base the piece around, as well as provides a contrast of that theme with the ballad-like section with reduced instrumentation. Overtures in opera, for example, were used to introduce various thematic materials to be presented during the course of the acts. This piece is a miniature version of the original overture idea and form.
Unit 4: Technical Considerations
The scales of Eb Major and Bb Major are required for the full ensemble. Recurring four-note sixteenth slurs are written for all woodwinds and most brass at some time(s) in the piece. Mostly the rhythms are either quarter, eighth, or sixteenth, with occasional triplets thrown in for rhythmic variation, so nothing too difficult there, although the abbreviated sixteenth runs may need a little work in the upper woodwinds.
Unit 5: Stylistic Considerations
The contrasting styles of march-like staccato and sweeping slurs are used in this piece, typical of wind band overtures of this era. Dynamics range from fff to p, with numerous written crescendos and decrescendos throughout. Some serious air is required for the opening and closing fanfares, as those are the two loudest spots in the piece. Air support is also crucial in the lyrical sections; it should sound flowing and effortless, as if someone was humming this tune while washing dishes. Articulations should remain light and bouncy for the most part so that the piece doesn’t bog down and drag (which would make it really boring).
Unit 6: Musical Elements
The main theme is always stated in Eb Major. Phrases are clearly marked (also with dynamics) in a four-measure pattern. The harmony adds additional depth to the melody by providing solid, accented downbeats and pushing each phrase forward onto the next. Three contrasting themes are used (as outlined in Unit 7). There is a meter change from 2/4 to 4/4 two measures before letter C, and it changes back to 2/4 at letter E, which is also where there is a key change (Bb Major) and return to the main theme.
Unit 7: Form and Structure
The overall form of the piece is as follows:
Section A mm. 1-49
mm. 1 Theme A Full Band
mm. 9 Theme A Full Band
mm. 17 Theme B Thin texture, instruments alternating 2 measure phrases
mm. 39 Theme A Full Band
Transition mm. 50-51 Full Band rit, rall. Baritone Solo
Section B mm. 52-78
mm. 52 Theme C Flute, Clarinet, Oboe melody, sax, tuba, baritone acc.
mm. 64 Theme C Flute, Oboe, Cornet melody to Full Band melody and acc.
Development of A mm. 79-99 High WW to low WW to Full Band
Transition mm. 100-115 (four
stage sequence with crescendo allargando)
Section A mm. 116-163
mm. 116 Theme A Full Band
mm. 124 Theme A Full Band
mm. 132 Theme B Thin texture, instruments alternating 2 measure phrases
mm. 156 Theme A Full Band
Coda mm. 164-end. Full Band
Unit 8: Suggested Listening
Charles Carter, Symphonic Overture
Elliot Del Borgo, Overture for Winds
Felix Mendelssohn, Overture for Winds Op.24
W.A. Mozart, Overture to the Marriage of Figaro
Unit 9: Additional References and Resources
Dvorak, Thomas. Best Music for Young Band. Brooklyn, NY: Manhattan Beach Music, 1986.
Rehrig, William. The Heritage Encyclopedia of Band Music. Westerville, OH: Integrity Press, 1991.
1. Students will correctly perform the rhythms in the piece. (Standards 1, 2, 5)
2. Students will describe the form of the piece and draw a listening map to reflect their understanding of the piece. (Standards 6, 8)
3. Students will learn how to “pass the baton” between melodic and harmonic lines. (Standards 2, 3, 5, 6, 7)
4. Students will learn about the genre of the piece and the background of the composer. (Standard 6, 9)
5. Students will compose their own overture themes. (Standards 4, 5)
Historical Background Activity: Learning Goals 4 & 5
To learn about the historical and cultural background of this piece, students will complete a Webquest. In the Webquest, students will research information from online sources about Charles Carter (the composer of this piece), as well as a couple other composers and their famous overtures. Students will get to listen to examples of a few famous overtures (including this one) to get ideas on how overtures are constructed. At the end of the Webquest, students will compose their own overture themes! (See Webquest link below for more details.)
There is also a written assessment (a fill-in-the-blank, matching, and short answer quiz) to go along with this activity, in addition to the composition project, based on the information gained from the research done in the Webquest. (See end of unit)
Rhythm Activity: Learning Goal 1
There are several challenging and interesting rhythms in Charles Carter’s Overture for Winds. In this activity, the students will be given rhythmic excerpts from the piece and will be asked to write in the counting below the presented rhythms. The idea here is that they will gain independence in counting and when they start actually playing the piece, there will be fewer rhythmic issues. This means that the rhythm activity should be given to them before they ever play the piece. (See rubric below for grading of rhythm exercises.)
1. Write the appropriate counting below each printed note in the rhythms below.
Grading Rubric for Rhythm Activity:
· Each exercise is worth 10 points
· Partial credit may be awarded
· More than 4 mistakes warrants a re-do
· Extra credit if you can correctly identify where (what letters) the excerpts occur in the piece! (up to 3 points)
After the rhythm exercises have been graded, choose several students (who did well with the first rhythm activity) to clap the examples. Pick one student for each example and have the rest of the class “echo” that rhythm back, also clapping. The students can now transfer their written rhythmic counting skills to a bodily performance of the rhythms, without having to worry about notes, which will then transfer easier to playing the rhythms on their horns.
2. Perform the rhythms on a single pitch.
Now, have each section perform one of the rhythms on a single pitch while the other sections of the ensemble listen for accuracy and togetherness of the section playing. Ask for student feedback and responses after each section performs their example. (Some questions you might ask could be: How accurate are their rhythms? Are they in tune? Are they breathing, entering, and releasing together?) This activity will boost listening and evaluation skills immensely for both the performers and the listeners, as everyone will have to do both roles at some point in the exercise. Once every section has played, you can split it up woodwinds/brass/percussion (however you like), then listen to the entire band play all the examples on one pitch and provide feedback on what you hear.
3. Play the rhythms as they occur in the piece.
Then, have the entire band play each example together, as written, which contains the notes that are found in Overture for Winds. Now that the students know how to count the rhythms and have practice actually playing the examples, they are ready to directly apply this knowledge to the piece. By taking these challenging excerpts from the piece and breaking it down one step at a time, the students will be better equipped to play this piece in its entirety.
Melody and Harmony: Learning Goal 3
Using major melodic sections of the piece, the students will listen to and fill in blanks for who has the melody at each section, and who has the harmony, or “accompaniment.” Have the students follow along in their music as they listen to a recording and answer the following questions:
1) Who has the melody from the beginning to letter A?
2) Who has the harmony from the beginning to letter A?
3) Which instruments push the momentum forward 9 measures before A while everyone else is resting?
4) Who passes the theme (melody) around from A to B?
5) Who has the solo 2 measures before C?
6) Who has the melody at C?
7) Who accompanies the melody at C?
8) There is an additive layering of textures at the transition (F). In what order do the following instruments pick up this transitory quarter note motive: saxophone, flute, trumpet, clarinet, French horn, baritone (Note: Some instruments may share the same number, as they may come in at the same time.)
9) Circle the scale degree that everyone holds in the last chord:
Tonic Dominant Supertonic Mediant Leading Tone
As you can see from #9, the students must have some prior exposure to scale degrees and chords (particularly triads) so that they can accurately answer the question. It would be helpful (and probably necessary) to have the students play each section all together a few times as they are attempting to answer the questions. This will require them to listen closely to what everyone else is doing and inevitably increase musicianship. You might need to break it down further (have only melody or only harmony play) if there are some spots the students still can’t figure out.
To help maintain the continuity of the baton-passing sections at A and H, you might use a simple, scalar warm-up that will show the students how to pass the melodic “baton” between sections of the ensemble (see below). I think two-measure phrases would work best so that the students can work to maintain the continuity of the scale (by passing the baton at the octave for the next group to play coming down the scale). Remind them not to clip the end of the phrase, but rather to gently hand off the melody to the next section (e.g. as if singing or passing an egg). You can make a game out of it by randomly calling on various sections to “catch” the baton so that everyone has to be attentive, since no one knows when their section will be called!
Form: Learning Goal 2
For this activity, the students will create visual representations of Overture for Winds in the form of listening maps. I have provided below a few examples of listening maps from a few famous pieces with accompanying audio so that the students can follow the listening map as they listen to the piece. You will need to explain how the symbols correspond to the sounds they are hearing, so that they know how the listening map visually depicts the audio example. Then, play Overture for Winds (CD recording) again while students fill out their own listening maps (in groups of 2 or 3). Be sure to explain that the maps can use symbols (squiggles, geometric shapes, dots, etc.) or pictures (animals, people, instruments, etc.) to represent what’s going on in the music. Tell them to be creative!
Listening map examples:
W.A. Mozart’s Eine Kleine Nachtmusik
Khachaturian’s Sabre Dance
Haydn’s Symphony No. 94, “Surprise,” 2nd mvt.
Rubric for Grading Listening Maps:
All graphics are related to the sound sources in the music.
Most graphics are related to the sound sources in the music.
One or two of the graphics are related to the sound sources in the music.
Graphics do not relate to the sound sources in the music.
The pictures and other forms of notation are completely accurate with the contour and rhythm of the music.
The pictures and other forms of notation are mostly accurate with the contour and rhythm of the music.
Few pictures and other forms of notation are accurate with the contour and rhythm of the music.
None of the pictures or other forms of notation are accurate with the contour and rhythm of the music.
The map is exceptionally attractive in terms of design, layout, and neatness.
The map is attractive in terms of design, layout and neatness.
The map is acceptably attractive though it may be a bit messy.
The map is distractingly messy or very poorly designed. It is not attractive.
Glossary of Useful Terms (GÜT = German for “good to know these terms”)
Use what you know and have learned in this unit, as well as the information presented in the Webquest to answer the following questions:
Matching: Below are the vocabulary words that are contained in this unit. Match the correct word with the correct definition. (7 points)
1. ___f____ Allegro con Moto a. slowing of tempo, usually with increasing volume; most frequently occurs at the end of the piece.
2. ___e____ Crescendo b. becoming slower
3. __b or c__ Ritardando c. becoming slower
4. __b or c__ Rallantando d. return to the previous tempo
5. ___d____ A Tempo e. growing, becoming louder
6. ___a____ Allargando f. cheerful, lively
7. ___g___ Overture g. an introductory piece, often designed
to initiate an opera or other dramatic work
Fill in the Blank: Use your knowledge as well as your student packet (and Webquest) to complete the statements below. (9 points)
1. Always practice with a ____________________. (Metronome)
2. ___________ the rhythms before you play them on your instruments. (Clap or Count)
3. Overture for Winds was composed by _______________________. (Charles Carter)
4. Overture for Winds is in _____ form. (ABA)
5. Name one other piece by Charles Carter: _________________________. (Symphonic Overture)
6. Name two other composers who composed famous overtures:
(Mozart, Mendelssohn, Elliot Del Borgo)
7. An _______________ often opens an _____________ or other dramatic work. (overture, opera)