2012 marked the 100th birthday of the late and great Looney Tunes director, Chuck Jones. His work—and the work of his colleagues, Tex Avery, Bob Clampett, Friz Freleng, to name a few—has helped shape my personality for as far back as I can remember. When I was first asked to write a piece that “captured the energy of the students,” I couldn’t help but think that Wile E. Coyote was the man (or animal) for the job. The title, Famishius Fantasticus, is a direct allusion to the faux binomial (the scientific Latin name) of Wile E. Coyote, as shown in the opening freeze-frame of the 1956 Looney Tunes cartoon, There They Go-Go-Go!If this was actually Latin (and again, it is totally made up), one would probably pronounce it fah-ME-see-oos fahn-tahs-TEE-coos, which might roughly translate into something like, “Fantastically Famished” or “Fantastically Hungry.”
Many composers of the Looney Tunes era have defined the cartoon music genre, perhaps most notably Carl Stalling (with the help of Raymond Scott’s extensive Warner Brothers catalogue) and MGM’s Scott Bradley. Famishius Fantasticus is not an attempt to rewrite these masters, but rather to take the techniques that make these scores so exciting—colorful and period orchestration, extended performance techniques, exotic percussion and sound effects, constantly shifting musical textures—and draw my own composition for the wind band medium. Of course, without the animated accompaniment, the visual gags are best left to our imaginations.
Above all else, Famishius Fantasticus is intended to be a wild concert-closer, a “That’s not all, folks!” encore, an existential cat-and-mouse (or coyote-and-roadrunner) chase, and is dedicated to all my friends and colleagues who vehemently go after their dreams, who never give up, and who continue to try new things no matter how many crazy ideas might blow up in their faces.
“Although I am far from a creditable music critic (‘I know what I like…’), I enjoyed the exuberance and homage to Milt Franklyn and to my father. Famishius Fantasticus is both fun and respectful… a most laudable combination… especially when we’re talking animated cartoons!” —Linda Jones Clough
Dakota High School Wind Ensemble
Famishius Fantasticus premiered on December 12, 2012 at Dakota High School (Macomb, Michigan) performed by the Dakota High School Wind Ensemble conducted by Risa Hsu.
View program here.
Markowski Creative (ASCAP)
Flute 1 & 2
Bassoon 1 & 2
B-flat Clarinet 1-3
B-flat Bass Clarinet 1 & 2
B-flat Contrabass Clarinet
Alto Saxophone 1 & 2
B-flat Trumpet 1-3
Timpani (and Air Horn)
Percussion 1: Xylophone, Glockenspiel, Two Wood Blocks (High and Low)
Percussion 2: Triangle, Vibraphone, Tam-Tam, Mahler Hammer
Percussion 3: Crash Cymbal, Flexatone
Percussion 4: Snare Drum, Brake Drum, Stuff*
Percussion 5: Bass Drum, Triangle, Stuff*
*Percussionists 4 and 5 are asked to find various items to dump on the stage floor that “bounce, rattle, or crash.” For example, one might use ping-pong balls, old car hub-caps etc.
The most accurate version of the score and parts is dated December 24, 2012. Please correct the following errata:
Contrabass Clarinet: mm. 93-94, please raise this passage up an octave (unless you have a fancy instrument with a low ‘C’ extension!)
Percussion 5: mm. 48 and 135 should be marked as ‘Bass Drum.’