News, Thoughts, Soapboxes, and/or Essays

Spring 2019 Recap

It’s already July!? It’s already halfway through the summer semester!

The spring semester has been my busiest semester as a professor. Let’s recap:


  • I had a studio of 6 composers, 4 undergrads and 2 grads.
  • I mentored the Freshman Theory II Composition Projects.
  • I oversaw the Sophomore Theory IV Composition Projects.
  • I taught the bassoon part of Woodwind Methods II.
  • I taught Music Entrepreneurship (and wrote a course pack)
  • I oversaw Grad Theory Pedagogy Practicum.
  • We took the wind symphony to Budapest, Bratislava, and Prague.
  • And I was asked to join the NDSU Innovation, Creativity, and Entrepreneurship (NICE) Faculty Fellowship.


  • I had a studio of 3 students in Comp II and 2 students in Comp III.
  • I had one capstone advisee.
  • I taught Advanced Scoring and Arranging.
  • I turned Comp I into a lecture-based class, with 15 students.
  • I organized the 18th annual VCSU Composers Concert.

At NoteForge/As a Composer

  • I recorded and produced an album.
  • I wrote one and a half pieces.
  • I did some massive upgrades to Liszt.
  • I solved a lot of issues with NDSU’s livestreaming.

Some of these things were successful due to my hard work. Some of these things were successful due to my dumb luck. Some of these things could be greatly improved.

Turning Comp I at VCSU into a lecture class was a ton of work. It was fun, and I learned a great deal about video editing, but it took up way more time than I was expecting. Luckily, with those videos in “maintenance mode” now, I’ll have some tweaks but most of it can stand.

I built that class around my ideas about the creative process, which I’m beginning to codify into something tangible. I’m presenting a poster about the process at this year’s ATMI conference.

I didn’t do a bunch of conferences/festivals this year, mostly due to a focus on teaching since VCSU was a new thing. I’m ramping up those things this summer, with a piece at NYCEMF/ICMC last week and a presentation at the VU 3 Symposium in Park City, UT next week.

I wrote a piece for bass clarinet duet + piano, and I started on a tuba sonata that I’m really enjoying, though it’s taking a while trying to find time to write. Which reminds me–This semester I started booking dedicated creative time, so that I’m in the studio working on composition-related things every morning until 10. This worked…most of the time.

I picked up a faculty fellowship in Entrepreneurship, and as a part of that I’ve spent a bunch of time thinking about how to update NDSU’s Music Entrepreneurship class. That’ll be it’s own separate post I’m sure.

I’m glad my Tonal Development final wasn’t this:

I can't find the original author of this, but I can say I found it on the Doublereed-L list some eight or nine years ago.

Doctoral Music Exam – you have 1 hour.

1. Explain the difference between sforza, sforzando, sforzata, and La Forza Del Destino. Be specific.

2. What is the diameter of the hole in the water key on your instrument? If your instrument does not have a water key, what is the diameter of the third moon of Jupiter?

3. List Johann Sebastian Bach's children (include middle names) and give:

a. Date of birth

b. Date of death (if deceased)

c. Last known address

d. Social Security number

4. Name the composers who wrote a First Symphony.

5. Give the opening theme of each symphony in #4 (above).

6. What is the relationship and musical significance of the 10th and 11th bars of the aria “Soldaten, Soldaten” to the aria's final bars (1048-1063) in the Alban Berg opera “Wozzeck”?

7. Who conducted “Tannhauser” at the 1847 Bayreuth Festival? Was he right or left-handed?

8. Trace the development of the “Family Unity” theme in Richard Strauss' “Sinfonia Domestica”. In which key(s) is it presented?

9. Describe in detail the formula for the varnish on violins made by Stradivari during the first third of his career. Explain how this varnish differs from varnish used on his violas. What modern substances could be effectively substituted in duplicating this formula today?

10. What is the optimum acidity/alkalinity (expressed in pH) for soil in which cane for bassoon reeds are to be grown? For bass clarinet reeds?

11. Name the bones and muscles involved in forming a brass player's embouchure.

12. What is the advantage of using xylophone mallet heads made of:

a. Ebony

b. Teak

c. Philippine Mahogany

d. Compressed moose chips

13. Argue both sides of the following statement: “The most important element in music is rhythm.”

* Critique both arguments and decide which is correct, or more nearly correct.

* Compose a three-movement symphonic metamorphosis (not to exceed 1 hour in length) on a theme by Ned Rorem to support your decision.

14. Defend Mozart's use of the glass harmonica and explain why this instrument has lapsed into disfavor, especially among punk rock groups.

15. Give the “Slap-Back” time in seconds (to three decimal places) of each hall used by all major American and European orchestras. Defend your selection of each orchestra as a major orchestra, and name each orchestra's past and present conductors.

16. In which of his symphonies did Franz Joseph Haydn use:

a. Clarinets

b. Horns

c. Tympani

d. Bassoons

17. Write the first 25 bars of Stravinsky's “Circus Polka” (from memory), and analyze.

18. What is the Koechel number of Mozart's 4th Horn Concerto?

19. Develop a simple set of rules that explain the harmonic and melodic progressions, voice leadings, and rhythmic notation of the music of Bartok.

20. Give the ratio between the bore and overall length of a Couesnon Contra-Bass trombone, Model G-571a, when the slide is in flat 4th position. If the position is used in conjunction with both thumb valves (F and D) to play the 7th note of the overtone series, what note will be sounded? Will it be sharp, flat, or in tune? If sharp or flat, by how many hundredths of a semitone?

21. Who invented the Ocarina? In what year? Why?

22. Explain the musical inconsistencies as to key, notation, accidentals, etc, found in the original score of Robert Schumann's Symphony #3.

23. Write a seven-voice motet in the style of Orlando di Lassus in invertible counterpoint. Extra credit if the motet can also be performed backwards.

24. Using materials commonly found in the kitchen, construct a 15 rank, 3-manual positiv organ (with pedals) and use it to perform two pieces by Oliver Messiaen.

25. Reconstruct the missing movements of Schubert's Unfinished Symphony.

26. Give the Russian, German, and Serbo-Croatian equivalents of the following Italian terms: Tuffato, Con Amore, Cadenza, Fugato, Garbonzo, Mafioso, and Ferrari.

27. Explain why Benny Goodman could use parallel octaves, but you can't.

But seriously, I'm finished with my summer class! And now I'll have to actually get back to work and write music!