Saturday, September 25, 2010

Theory/Form/Music Major Question

Hi folks -

Here is another post I'll ask you to talk to. This assignment is different than I expected it to be - but very valuable.

The keynote talk yesterday was by Dr. David Meyers, Chair of the University of Minnesota Department of Music. Dr. Meyers' research is centered around the academic canon and how the curriculum (what we teach) relates to that. But that is not all. He is asking very pointed questions about WHAT we SHOULD be teaching in the 21st century and what we SHOULD NOT be teaching in the 21st century. What skills it is vital for an artist to have as they go out into the world, and how so many music programs are focusing on ancient and in some ways, outdated, obsolete traditions instead of being on the razor's edge of technological, musical and aesthetic development.

This is something I think about a lot - but the inertia involved with an Academic music program is pretty massive. To change offerings and the slant of a program would take a lot of collaborative work between all members of a program and it isn't something that is done lightly, or quickly.

To elaborate - his thought process was such: We are teaching students a set of skills (musicianship) at the exclusion of other skills - practical skills - that would allow them to better foster a career after graduation. Basically, there is a wealth of information that students learn to become - say - an orchestral player or player in a small chamber group in their local community. But what we aren't addressing is the idea that attendance to those events is down 39% over the last few years and by the time our current students are finished with school there may be little or no OPPORTUNITY to play in such a group because of attrition.

Why stick to a model of teaching that is going the way of the "do-do bird"?

We need to be - in addition to teaching musicianship - teaching you how to be a smart steward of your career. How to work with others - collaborate - to create your own opportunities for artistry. We need to teach you all how to make vital, meaningful connections with your communitities to both help your career and to help your community. By showing people the value of music in a society we can enrich their experiences, enrich our art and help create an interest in arts education that is lacking now.

His rationale was solid. He went on to talk about students today coming into college more aware of digital music, more likely to have recorded music in their home, more likely to have a clearly defined aesthetic because they are connected to their music all of the time through our mobile music players. Students have access to technology that brings the entire history of music to them daily!

Basically, the question I want to pose is this:

If you could create the curriculum for a department of music - come up with subjects that you would want to be able to study where you went - what what it look like? What skills/technology/topics etc. do you think are important to YOU as a musician and what would you absolutely NEED to study if you had the ability to study ANY subset within music?

I'll write more in a bit - but please talk to this last paragraph. Just a paragraph or two for each of you about your wants/needs in a music program.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Day 1 - CMS National

Well, the first day of the College Music Society Conference is over and I am super tired and ready for rest so that I am ready for more music and discussion tomorrow.

So, a short recap of day 1.

8 AM - MAX/MSP getting started session. I was reminded of what I like about this programming language and I think I am ready to bring that technology into the fold at CSUB. The leader of the session, VJ Manzo was young, hip and engaging. Also, he is working on a book about MAX as a teaching tool.

For information on MAX/MSP, go to

9 AM - A scholar from Argentina talked about the Tango.

Very cool discussion of a dance/song form that has permeated music from all over the world and has roots in Cuba (habanera).

A performance of modern Tango's followed with a quartet. Very good and lots of extended techniques they talked about that were idiomatic of the style.

11 AM - A talk about recording techniques that started poorly and was too simple for me. Basically how to get signal into a DAW.

A bit too "in the year 2000" for me.

There were a series of 10 minute talks about technology - one by a FB friend and a composer I have appeared with on many programs and two CD's recently - Jay Batzner.

It was great. He talked about the history of electronic music and how specific tunes have led to our current music. He drew a line from Xenakis to Lady Gaga - that's all you need to know. Jay is compelling, funny and smart. Nice to finally meet him and chat tonight.

After lunch, a panel of five theorists and musicologists talked about music by living composers - including two of my pieces.

Nico Shuler talked about Duality in Time and Bruce Taggart talked about Hop, Skip and Jump.

Both guys did a great job - Nico with a really cool analysis of each gesture and motive. He just dug in and got it all.

Bruce talked more about form and gesture and delineation of structure through gesture. Loved it all.

After the talk, a concert ensued where about 14 pieces were played, including my two pieces referenced above.

Michael Drapkin played "Hop" and he had some strong ideas about interpretation and even said that the piece was "overmarked". He changed the shape of the piece and while most of it worked just fine, his idea about tempo (about 12 BPM slower than I marked) was too slow. The piece stagnated a bit at that tempo - in my mind.

But, he played it really well, and made beautiful music with it. It's interesting, even too slow, the piece worked really well. I'd like it quicker, but it was good.

Evan Jones (Cello, Florida State Univ) and Rachel Bergman (Flute, George Mason) played Duality well. It was more dainty than I expected, less adventurous and less powerful. They played it well - but it lacked a bit of energy and power. But, again, I am very thankful to have these amazing players play my music. Just an awesome treat.

Thanks to all! Day 2
Is shorter. Thank God.


Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Discussion #1 for Theory AND Form Students

Hi folks -

Sorry this is getting up later than I had hoped - just tired and busy getting ready for the Conference. I'll post about that tomorrow.

Anyway, today's discussion has to do with music that moves you.

As you can expect, there is a ton of music I listen to regularly. I do listen to classical music, but more often than not I am listening to jazz or singer/songwriter types like Ben Folds or Duncan Sheik. Especially when I am listening for pleasure - I listen to more "pop" music than classical or even jazz. Don't tell anyone I said that!

That said - there are certain composers that just absolute floor me with their artistry. Beethoven is one. Brahms is one, too. Of the more contemporary folks - Aaron Copland is someone that I have studied a lot, and someone that I find terribly musical.

So, for your viewing pleasure - here is the Fourth Movement from his 3rd Symphony - probably his most important work. His first two symphonies were composed earlier in his career - when he was a young man and before he found his more accessible voice. Copland, for all of his accessibility, was a beast of a composer as a young man.

Well, after finding a more subdued language - a language that he thought could express his musical point without alienating his audience - he composed this 3rd Symphony.

One of my Grad School teachers - Barney Gilmore - talked to me a lot about this piece. He really thinks of it as "America's Symphony". The themes throughout are SO reminiscent of what we NOW think of as "American" sonorities that the piece seems to ooze Americana from beat one of movement I through the triumphant coda of movement IV.

So, what you have here is Movement IV conducted by the composer.

Listen now - to the whole thing. I'll wait.

Now - FORM students, I want you to talk about what you think is AMERICAN in this piece. That is purposefully broad - just dig in and talk/write about your feelings. It's a touchy/feely assignment. I want your thoughts.

THEORY students, I want you to talk about music (provide a link, too) that moves you - that makes you want to be a better musician. Music that, when you close your eyes and listen to your inner thoughts, reminds you of why you like to make music. It's the music of inspiration.

Write about that, please.

Gotta jet and get some sleep. Thanks for checking the blog - and be sure to give me your REAL name in your posting - so I know who is talking about what!

Take care and I'll post pictures and words about tomorrow after it happens. I have two pieces being played and discussed. Should be a really cool experience.

Good night, y'all.


Thursday, August 5, 2010

Concert on Saturday night - 8/7/10.

If anyone is in the Boston area on Saturday night (8/7/10) I hope you can join me, Dr. Nolan Stolz, Charles Turner and a host of great Boston area performers for a great night of new solo and chamber music.

The concert starts at 7:30 PM and is being held at the Lilypad (1353 Cambridge Street @ Inman Square).

The cost is $10 at the door and will feature a bunch of great Bostonian musicians. If you have any questions call me after 3 PM at 661.330.9304.

The concert is funded in part by a grant I received from American Composers Forum and will feature performances of my flute/cello duo Duplicitous Encounter by Ashley Addington and Rachel Arnold as well as my Sonata for Guitar performed by Keith Calmes.

Also appearing are guitarist Aaron Larget-Caplan, horn player Samantha Benson and flutist Melanie Chirignan.

Hope to see you there!


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Location:Wood Rd,Braintree,United States

Rehearsal today was great!

Just dropping a note on my blog to thank Rachel Arnold and Ashley Addington for a nice 45-minute rehearsal today in preparation for our recording session tomorrow.

At 3 PM tomorrow we start setting up at Fraser Studios at WGBH in Boston to record Duplicitous Encounter.

Going to be fun.

Then on Saturday Keith Calmes records the Sonata for Guitar.

Wow, I'm lucky!

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Wednesday, July 21, 2010

CMS National Update

Just got word today that pre-concert lectures were added to the itinerary at CMS National. Before the 4 PM concert on September 23 - five of the 20 works will be discussed by scholars from around the country. Both of my works - Duality in Time and Hop, Skip and Jump - were selected for the panel.

Duality in Time

Dr. Bruce Taggart from Michigan State University will discuss Hop, Skip and Jump and Nico Schuler from Texas State University will discuss Duality in Time.

I am honored to be part of this experience and I'll be re-examining these pieces before this trip so that I am ready for any and all questions.

Guitar Arts Series update

As you may know - CSUB is launching an annual Guitar Arts Series this year. This six concert series will bring artists from around the world to Bakersfield to present stunning programs featuring the diverse repertoire of the classical guitar. Solos, duos, trios, quartets and chamber music will all have their place on this concert series.

The concerts begin on Saturday October 9, 2010 with Los Angeles Based duo Gregory Newton and David Grimes. Newton and Grimes will perform in the Choral Recital Hall (MUS. 127) at 7:30 PM.

On Monday November 15, 2010 students and faculty from the CSUB guitar program perform solos, duos, trios and full ensemble works. This event will be held in the Choral Recital Hall (MUS. 127) at 7:30 PM.

CSUB Applied faculty member, Roger Allen Cope, performs on Saturday January 22, 2011 with various chamber players from Los Angeles. This concert will focus on exciting literature from the chamber music repertoire that features guitar. This concert will take place at the beautiful Metro Galleries and will start at 7:30 PM.

Bostonian Aaron Larget-Caplan visits CSUB on Friday February 25, 2011 for a recital of music from his recently released CD – New Lullaby Project. Larget-Caplan will perform at the beautiful Metro Galleries and will start at 7:30 PM.

On Sunday March 13, 2011 CSUB student guitarists will present a concert of chamber music with their peers in the CSUB Music Department. This Sunday afternoon event will be held in the Doré Theatre and begin at 4 PM.

The final concert of the inaugural season will feature Florian Larousse on April 14, 2011 at Metro Galleries at 7:30 PM. Mr. Larousse is the winner of the 2009 Guitar Foundation of America International Competition.

Ticket Prices:

With limited seating for these exclusive events, it is highly recommended that tickets be purchased in advance

Individual Concerts:(six total events)

General Admission: $12

Seniors (60+): $8

Students: $6

Subscriber Rates:

General Admission: $60 (16% savings) 

Seniors (60+): $40 (16% savings) 

Students: $30 (16% savings)

To subscribe to the series: Send a check for the appropriate amount (plus $4 for shipping & handling) payable to CSUB to:

A CSU Bakersfield Guitar Arts Concert Series Pass will be sent via return mail in 7-10 business days. If there is a concert during that delivery window, a ticket will be placed on reserve in your name at the ticket table.

How do I pre-order tickets for specific events?

Call (661) 654-2511 and leave the event name and date, your name, phone number and number of tickets needed. Tickets will be held for you up until 15 minutes before the concert start time.

On the night of the concert: Tickets will be made available at the door, 30-minutes prior to the event.

Cash and Check ONLY.

For more information, find us on the web:

Subscribe to our email list here:

Contact Jim Scully, Director of Guitar Studies for additional information.

Jim Scully, Director of Guitar Studies

Department of Music, CSU Bakersfield

9001 Stockdale Highway

Bakersfield, CA 93311

661.654.2511 (office) or 661.330.9304 (cell)

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Parma records Bouncing About

Last summer, Parma Recordings approached me about recording some of my chamber music, but I just couldn't afford the cost of the recording sessions and while I was disappointed, I let it got quickly. While the quote was high - their work is absolutely stellar and the cost covers recording, artist fees, artwork, duplication, international distribution and everything in between. It is an all-in cost. So, it was a neat opportunity, but there is no shame in being unable to pay nearly 5 figures to get 13 minutes of your music recorded.

Well, in early July Parma came calling again - this time the cost was much lower because a session that was already planned opened up. So, after a quick negotiation, Parma recorded my piece for violin and piano - Bouncing About - on July 12 in Prague, Czech Republic.

The CD will be released in mid-2011 and I'll have the first audio edits in a couple of weeks. The performers were: Lukáš Klánský, piano and Ondřej Lébr, violin.

Here is a picture from the session:

I'll post audio when I get it, but in the meantime - look to the right sidebar and see the new ReverbNation Widget for my audio. If you look around there enough you will be able to play a live recording of Bouncing About performed by Bakersfield Symphony players Julia Lawson-Haney and Patrick Bender.

Needless to say - very exciting times.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Music 105 - Jazz Appreciation Listening Assignment

Hi all -

If you are a student in my Jazz Appreciation course at CSU Bakersfield - you are in the right place. For your furlough assignment I want you to listen to and watch to the following song on YouTube:

This composition was recorded by Jelly Roll Morton in 1926 and is a wonderful example of New Orleans Jazz and a good representation of Jelly Roll Morton as an arranger.

Additionally, read my sample Listening Based Writing Assignment that talks about this piece, found here:

After you have dealt with the video and read the paper, I want you to watch the following video and write two paragraphs about what you see/hear. Use my sample paper as a guide about content and language usages. If you are unsure about how to use a word - look it up. Don't guess.

Great tune - really talk about the soloing and the musical characteristics you hear. Try to grapple with the music as much as possible.

This 2 paragraph assignment (no less than six good sentences per paragraph) is due by Monday, April 19 by 5 PM PDT. Please just post your paragraphs as comments in this blog post.

Be sure to include your full name to receive credit.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Scully heading to College Music Society National Conference

I just received word that both pieces I submitted - Duality in Time (flute and cello) and Hop, Skip and Jump (solo clarinet) were accepted for performance at the CMS National Conference in September in Minneapolis.

Looking forward to the trip - now to write some grants to cover costs.

More later, with links.

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Location:Lightner Way,Bakersfield,United States

Friday, January 29, 2010

Berklee School of Music

So, I stumbled upon the Berklee College of Music. Why couldn't I run into Esperanza?

Anyway, I went to the bookstore next door and was floored.

A Ben Monder composition book?

The Kurt Rosenwinkel composition book?

Unreal. I'll be woodshedding big time when I get home to my guitar.

I am going to email Ben (who appeared at CSUB in 2005) when I learn one song - maybe Sleep - which seems to be able to be played by mere mortals.

This guy is crazy good and there isn't a more original sounding guitarist alive in my opinion. His concert at CSUB is up on YouTube. The sound isn't great, but it's some of the only Monder available and it is amazing.

Here was the spread of Fake Books. Too cool:

Yeah, we all need to move here. Now.

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So, on Wednesday I got up and cruised over to Fenway Park. Realize, this is no small thing for this Angel fan. The Red Sox almost killed me as a 14 year old. They returned from the dead to beat Gene Autry's Angels in the ALCS. That beat down lingered until 2002 and some would say until the Angels beat the Sox in 2009 to advance to the ALCS.

I respect the Sox, but can't stand some of their players and the attitude of a lot of Red Sox fans in So Cal. Anyway, everyone here in Boston was cool, even inviting. I went to the Merchandise store across Yawkey Way and an old-timer working there quipped, "we all have our problems" when I told him I was an Angel fan.

Anyway, here is a pic I saw as I exited the Green Line to locate Fenway:

I hate Jonathan Papelbon. All the better that the Halos unclothed him in the ALCS this year.

But, seeing the stadium was cool. I didn't pay the money for an indoor tour. I might still tomorrow.

Cool stuff.

And this was cool if a bit weird:

The retired numbers - with 42 for Jackie Robinson in a different color. A dark color. Friggin' Bostonians.

Still cool to see the park.

Oh yeah, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention how filthy it was on Yawkey Way.

This is directly across from the front gate into Fenway:

Stay classy Boston.

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Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Music Theory Homework

So, music theory students of the world (well, OK, CSUB) here is your first theory assignment. It is due on Monday when I return:

Compose two phrases in 4/4 time in the key of C minor.

The first phrase must conclude with a phrygian half cadence, the second with a perfect authentic cadence.

After bass notes and roman numerals, add a melody that moves you musically - be sure to include NCT's to richen sound.

Then add inner voices and be sure that you have not committed any sins of spacing, doubling, parallelism and the like.

Post any questions you have on this blog - others will benefit.

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Tuesday, January 26, 2010


Here is the view from my window seat on United Airlines flight 162:

I have loved flying since I was a child - the view of the terrain and bodies of water and what look like crop circles are a big part of that. But, that is not all. Ther are other things - more fleeting and less palpable - that endear me to flight.

I haven't a clue what all of them are, but I know them when I encounter them. It could be the gentle rumble of turbulence or the anticipation of take-off, but those are easy to spot. It could also be the amazing nature of it all. A massive machine of metal filled with people and things leaping through the air only to land 3000 miles away. It's just stunning.

Anyway, as a musician I am, of course, traveling with 60 GB's of audio. For a five day trip. Yeah, overkill. Anyway, I brought with me a massive cross-section of music. On the drive the LAX I listened to Duncan Sheik, and a mix of other rock/pop music. I was terribly tired and that drive at 4:30 AM was painful.

Then when I arrived at the terminal, after the dance with the ticket counter and security, I opened up a book that I have been neglecting for 18 months now - The Rest is Noise by Alex Ross. I am about 100 pages into the book that chronicles 20th century music in a way only Ross can, and I decided to listen to the pieces he was discussing as I read.

Six Orchestral Pieces by Webern, various Bartok, and others. It is stunning music and so well constructed that I can discern structure as it comes. It is pristine in that way. The composers between 1880 and 1930 really looked inward AND outward to find what their heart drove them towards. That single focusedness is to be commended. That bravery to leap off the deep end and create new sounds is astonishing.

So my question to my Theory students at CSUB - who are required to read this blog while I travel to Boston for the premier of my new piece - Duplicitous Encpunter - is this:

What music stirs your soul and why? What do you respond to musically?

As you answer these questions, listen to a favorite song this evening for homework and listen to the harmonies and describe them as well as you can. Tell me the name of the song and the artist/composer so that I might go to YouTube to hear myself.

Be sure that you post something before 12 midnight on Wednesday (CA time)

Gonna go back to listening...

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Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Bed time posts...

So, I am a bad blogger. I don't do it enough and what I do write isn't ground breaking.

Shit, it isn't interesting.

So, I'm going to try to be better -so I will use the countless hours I spend at bedtime in the room of my 4 3/4 year old triplet boys to keep a better blog on the Internets.


Winter break has been a revelation. I have been busier than 10 dogs in a butcher's shop. In addition to the normal holiday stuff, I completed a 7 minute duet for flute and cello (Duplicitous Encounter) and finalized two movements of a Sonata for Solo Guitar. I still need a damn name for that one!

These pieces are - by far - my favorite pieces I have written. They are complex (or at least not simplistic) and beautiful - a duality I strive to attain.

Both works will be premiered in the next eight weeks. In late January I head to Boston to hear the duet at a venue called the Lilypad. The players playing the piece - Rachel Arnold and Ashley Addington - are great and terribly musical. They will do a wonderful job and I really look forward to hearing them play the piece.

The sonata starts getting rolled out on January 15 in New Jersey by Dr. Keith Calmes - a friend and Julliard trained guitarist. He will then travel to California to premier whole work for the first time on February 21 at CSU Bakersfield.

Oh yeah, I almost forgot. I also built a HUGE play yard/swing set for my boys over break.

Here is a pic:

Yeah, that was intense. About seven days - two of which were eight hour days - were used up to build that bad boy. It was fun though, and I enjoyed the change of pace. There is a peace that I can fall into when doing that kind of work, listening to my iPod (lots of Duncan Shiek, RENT, David Tanenbaum playing Brouwer or Maxwell-Davies) and just doing what the directions say. Being creative is a tiring activity. Sometimes it is nice to just do something that requires discipline but not much creative energy.


Lastly, I'd like to thank my wife for making this composing possible. There were a few days where she bit the bullet and dealt with the trio all by herself so I'd have an uninterrupted chunk of time to work. That was awesome and the only way I've been so productive this year. I wrote a lot of music this year and she helped every step of the way by hanging with the crazies we call children.

Thanks Jenn!

Gotta run!