Gold Train Variations

(I’ve Been Working on the Railroad)

For: Concert band / wind band
page one of Gold Train Variations

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Year of composition
Martin Tousignant
Year of arrangement
Moderate (Grades 4-6)
8 minutes
Classical music
License details
For anything not permitted by the above licence then you should contact the publisher first to obtain permission.

This piece was conceived as a short training exercise (a loco-moto perpetuo, as it were) and virtuoso romp for symphonic band, written primarily for the amusement of my good friend, and fine musician, Eric Fassbender. The simple melody of the beloved children’s song, "I’ve Been Working On The Railroad," provides a surprisingly rich source for motivic material, either directly or through the use of various canonical devices. There are five divisions in the Scherzo-Fantasy, the first four separated by fanfare: Exposition, where most source material is presented in a more-or-less straightforward manner; Development, where the tune is subject to various treatments of contrasting colors, moods, and textures; Recapitulation, where prior material returns to accompany the tune, now morphed into a hymn-tune, then a march-hymn; Finale, a march grandioso. A train horn interrupts the final cadence, and a short, descriptive coda concludes the piece. The musical depictions of train horns that occur throughout represent the variety of harmonizations one may hear through the night air near our home in Michigan, USA. Yes- there is a snippet of the University of Southern California’s "Tribute to Troy" within the coda. We are Trojan parents, and the tune fit quite well! The Scherzo-Fantasy also contains several recurring harmonic ideas, e.g. the melody harmonized with lowered 7ths and 3rds, and quartal harmony. These harmonizations are not only for the sake of variety, but also for the interesting results that fuel motivic development. The humor suggested by the scherzo character of the piece is mostly broad (with apologies to Berlioz), but at times, certain gestures that occur within the "band" genre are gently parodied, and hopefully, they will be recognized and enjoyed by those familiar with them. Many thanks to Marty Tousignant for his expertise and inspired musicianship.

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