MSU prof lets music with Lincoln's words speak for itself

Jan 30, 2017

Tuesday night, January 31st, the MSU Wind Symphony presents a concert of American composers at the Wharton Center. WKAR’s Jamie Paisley spoke with the man who leads the ensemble about to perform two pieces of music centered on periods of American strife: The Civil War & 9/11.


Aaron Copland’s “Lincoln Portrait,” which features the words of the 16th President atop instrumental colorizing of Copland. Plus, a snapshot of America, post 9/11 by way of composer David Del Tredici and “In Wartime.” Those two works are at the center of the MSU Wind Symphony’s concert January 31st at the Wharton Center. And though the music selection has the possibility of being used as a civics lesson to Professor Kevin Sedatole’s students.

"I don't feel like it's my role to do that." says Sedatole. "I think we've had some good discussion about it. Particularly 'In Wartime' and what that means. I know my student who's actually conducting it, he presented this piece last semester in a class called 'Music and Violence' and his final presentation was on this piece which opened up a wealth of questions and possibilities. In fact, the professor of the class came to see me and we talked about it. She's like, 'I want to pick this piece as part of my class now, because it's just perfect for what we're covering, and so poignant for our times right now.'"

The whole term of 'band' almost doesn't make any sense. - Kevin Sedatole

And after David Del Tredici’s 9-11 inspired 'In Wartime,' the MSU Wind Symphony moves to something that is a bit more contemplative, Aaron Copland's 'Lincoln Portrait.'

"Lincoln's words are so poignant, right now. They could not be more poignant that right now. I don't even need to explain that. Everybody understands what I mean. But if you really read what Copland used from Lincoln, particularly the end, which is from The Gettysburg Address. It couldn't be more meaningful to our circumstance, right now."

Though if you attend Tuesday night’s performance at the Wharton Center with the MSU Wind Symphony, there is one word you should avoid… 'band.'

"The whole term of 'band' almost doesn't make any sense. You know, that's why we call the Wind Symphony the Wind Symphony, because it takes on so many different forms, it's chameleon-like almost. Because we are highly influenced by the contemporary music ensemble, like the 'Pierrot Lunaire' ensemble, but built out a bit. So ensembles like eighth blackbird and Alarm [Will Sound]. They have direct influences on the music for the Wind Ensemble, the Wind Band these days. That's not to say that there aren't many pieces still being composed for what would be considered the 'normal band.' But we tend to be very flexible in all of this repertoire just because that's where the composers are taking us."

But given the weightiness of topics like Lincoln and 9/11, Sedatole realized perhaps a bit more optimism as needed in this concert of Americana. "I think the architecture of the concert is going to keep people very involved and interested and we're going to do a little encore at the end, a little Sousa march called 'George Washington Bicentennial' which is a celebration of George Washington's 200th birthday. Just in case somebody need a little bit of a toe-tapper to get out of the building."

The MSU Wind Symphony & Professor Kevin Sedatole perform a concert of American works this Tuesday night at the Wharton Center. More information at music.msu.edu

[The original version of this story misgendered the professor of Music and Violence. The above corrects that error in the second paragraph below the audio.]