Fall 2019 Teaching Recap

Fall 2019 was a challenging semester.

I think I taught alright—none of my classes were new preps. There was just a bunch of it. To recap:

NDSU: MUSC 189: Skills for Academic success, or “how to be a music major”. 1 credit.

NDSU: MUSC 331: Instrumental Arranging. 2 credits.

NDSU: MUSC 385: Music Entrepreneurship. 3 credits.

NDSU: Composition lessons: this semester I had a studio of 6.

NDSU: NICE (NDSU Innovation, Creativity, and Entrepreneurship) Faculty Fellowship.

NDSU: Freshmen composition projects.

VCSU: MUS 120: Comp 1: 15 students. (Online lectures)

VCSU: MUS 220: Comp 2: 10 students. (Masterclass format, new this semester.)

VCSU: MUS 320: Comp 3: 3 students (including one doing a composition capstone project.)

VCSU: MUS 302: Advanced Scoring and Arranging: 5 students, for a total comp studio at VCSU of 33.

Again, no new preps, but just A LOT of moving parts. And that’s not including my composition or technology work.

A couple of things became very clear through this process: the first is that there are some things I need to tighten up in my syllabus if I have any hope of giving timely feedback, and the second is that my teaching philosophy and my assignments don’t always match up.

Luckily Spring 2020 is going to be lighter, which is great because next fall likely won’t.

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Three New Pieces

Over the past month or so, three new pieces have shown up on the website. Together, they represent 40 minutes of new music.

So working backwards, Calibrating the Moon is a tuba sonata written for Connor Challey. No media or score (partially because it’s a commission, and partially because issuu has decided to start charging for embedded documents), but there’s a program note. This work will be premiered nearly next month at NDSU.

Also receiving its premiere next month is Tape Piece, which is a tape piece (like stereo fixed media) about and using tape (like scotch and duct). Unlike Calibrating the Moon it does have media. It’ll also receive its premiere next month, but given that it’s tape, you can hear it in all its glory right now if you’d like.

Finally comes Four Views of the Butterfly Effect, which is a commission from the MinusOne Quartet, and which was a pain to write. I’ll dive into an explanation of it a little later. No program note, score, OR media at the moment, because all I have are mock-ups.

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Upcoming Performances for Spring 2020

Hey look! It’s some upcoming performances!

On February 10, I’ll be giving a Faculty Composition Recital at NDSU. The program includes the full cycle of The Notes Between the Notes and world premieres of Calibrating the Moon and Tape Piece. 7:30 PM in Beckwith Recital Hall.

Cassie’s giving her faculty clarinet recital the next day, same time and place.

I’ll be heading to Nashville for a performance of Creatures from the Black Bassoon and a talk on the creative process. That all takes place at the CMS Southern Conference at Vanderbilt University at the tail end of February (Feb 28-Mar 1).

March 12-14, I’ll be heading to the University of Virginia for the 2020 SEAMUS conference, where we’ll hear the American premiere of The Earth Shall Soon Dissolve Like Snow.

At the same time, Stephen Bomgardner will be premiering my first song cycle collaboration with Walter Jordan, Five Pointless Haiku, with Carlyle Sharpe at the University of Central Arkansas as part of the CMS South Central regional conference.

And then at the beginning of April (3-4) I’ll be in Michigan at Oakland University for yet another CMS conference (Great Lakes), talking about the creative process and running the electronics for Crosswinds.

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2020 and my New Year’s irresolutions.

I don’t care much for New Year’s Resolutions.

It’s too easy for me to state some lofty goals and then, due to the hodgepodge of my schedule, to take on a different project in, say, three weeks. I find it to be too…specific for an entire year.

What I like instead is yearly themes. Things I want to spend time doing—or at least considering—over the course of the year. This year’s theme is Content Creation/Curation.

Content creation may seem odd for a composer—everything I create musically gets organized and cataloged and distributed. But a lot of my other projects, less so. For example, some of the things and projects I worked on in 2019:

• A 25-minute album of my Jamie Parsley song cycle

• ~30 hours of video resources for my composition courses (this number will double or triple in 2020)

• A 100+ page course pack for Music Entrepreneurship

• An hourlong presentation on the creative process

• And I released the code for my cloud music project.

A lot of this year’s theme is figuring out just WHAT to do with all that (where should it live, what license should it have, what should be accessible). In terms of content creation, a lot of the writing/presentation process was carved out of available time. For example, I spent a good chunk of June not writing a tuba sonata because I was preparing the Cloud Music presentation. Much of July was lost preparing for the Aspen Composers Conference. Writing this year was built on the idea of transformative change instead of iterative (e.g., write everything from scratch instead of writing incrementally.)

This is also making its way into my teaching—I’ve already begun writing a list of my policies and expectations for my students in a kind of über-syllabus. (I tried a new late-work policy last fall—that’s a whole other post.)

In short, I want to make more stuff and tell you about it.

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Summer Travel, Creativity, and my Facebook News Feed

I realized in February or March of this year that I hadn’t been to any conferences during the 18-19 academic year. This bugged me. It’s hard to maintain a dialogue with other composers when you’re sitting in your office all the time. Of course, the Spring semester was filled with creating a composition lecture series for a class, so at least I wasn’t just watching Netflix.

I ramped up some submissions this summer, and I went to NYCEMF/ICMC in June, VU3 in Park City, UT in July, and the Aspen Composers Conference in August.

Considering Park City and Aspen were paper/presentation submissions, I spent most of June preparing for the July paper (Cloud Music: Audience Participation and Cloud Computing in Electroacoustic Music) and most of July preparing for the August paper (Inspiration/Perspiration: Creating a map of the music composition creative process). It was nice doing some word-thinking instead of note-thinking, but now I need to write something like 20 minutes of percussion quartet music by the end of the year. But that’s a different conversation.

NYCEMF/ICMC was a blast, as always. I spent a bunch of time with Josh and Ioannis, and worked several concerts as technical staff. OU had a good showing this year, I think five of us had works through the conference. We spent more time in Greenwich Village this year (the conference moved from the lower east side to NYU), so I got my bakery fix at Mille-Feuille and spent way too little time at Strand Bookstore (I bought a volume of Ginsberg poetry).

I spent part of July in the mountains of Utah. The VU 3 Symposium for experimental, electronic, and improvised music was hosted in Park City, and it was an incredible experience I might write more about later. It was chock full of weird technical stuff, presented in a non-judgmental and non-hierarchical way. Not that normal conferences are necessarily judgy, I think that’s just my insecurity coming out.

Anyway, it was a validating and supportive group (reminding me a lot of the last CFAMC conference I attended), and nearly immediately after I returned home, I dove into revising a paper on creativity that I presented the next month at the Aspen Composers’ Conference (which was well-received). Because of all that, this summer was a season of creativity, spending a bunch of time around creative people, thinking about the creative process, how we teach creativity, and so on.

And then I have airport downtime and I check Facebook. Jeez! Facebook! How little original content there is on Facebook. Aside from the Ads. Or from pages I like. So much of it is shared content. So little of it is thought-provoking.

I originally had a listing of the top thirty or so posts, categorized by original vs. shared content, if there was any commentary, things like that, but it just got to be tedious. The simple point is that there was/is a vivid discrepancy between the creativity at the conferences and the creativity (or lack thereof) in my browser.

This has caused me to look closer at the creative research I’m doing, and how I can better focus on 1) presenting it to a wider audience, and 2) integrating more of it in my own work.

And that’s the plan for this fall.

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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.

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Cloud Music to be presented at 2019 VU Symposium

I’m pleased to announce that I’ll be presenting Cloud Music: Audience participation in electronic music , at the the 2019 Vu 3 Symposium in Park City, Utah!

Cloud Music is a work for audience participation and cloud computing. Audience members load a website on their mobile device, specify values, and then submit those values to a web server. The web server is periodically polled by a Max patch, which uses the user-specified data to launch Cloud sprites, which then drift across the screen. If a user specifies that a cloud should be a thunder cloud, it reacts with other thunder clouds.

Cloud Music is the first proof of concept in an ongoing project to unify audience participation, cloud computing, and interactive performance.

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Tempest in a Teakettle accepted at NYCEMF/ICMC 2019

The New York City Electroacoustic Music Festival (NYCEMF) is always a fun time with great music and incredible people. This year they’re hosting the International Computer Music Conference as well, and I’m pleased to announce that Tempest in a Teakettle, which I presented there in 2017, will be returning to the program for this year as well.

The full list of works is available at Looks like I’m in good company!

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Reverie of Solitude selected for Diffrazioni 2019

Dear Kyle Vanderburg,

I am pleased to inform you that your work: REVERIE OF SOLITUDEwas selected for the third edition of Diffrazioni – Firenze Multimedia Festival – March 26-31, 2019 sound, light, art, technology, neuroscience, nanotechnology, robotics.

in the category: ACOUSMATIC


Best regards, 

Alfonso Belfiore

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Creativity November 2018: Finger Cymbals

It’s November, National Novel Writing Month, which means it’s time for another tape piece!*

*For some of you this might seem to be a non-sequitur, so let me explain. While I was in Norman, our group would have a creativity pact every November. Walter (writer of some of my best program notes) would participate in NaNoWriMo, Steven would work on album tracks, I’d write a tape piece. Prep work could be done outside of November, but the bulk of the work had to happen between the kickoff doughnut night at Donut King on Lindsey street (10 PM on Mondays), progress reports would be assessed at subsequent doughnut Mondays, and the project had to be completed in time for the December Third holiday meal. If you didn’t finish your project, you owed the winners a cake.

Given that I just finished that saxophone and percussion piece and I had a pair of finger cymbals lying around, I thought it would be cool to do a piece totally from finger cymbal sounds.

Turns out, finger cymbals only really have about one sound, so this project has been harder than I thought. To make it more interesting, I’m trying to write this as a tape piece AND as a finger cymbals and tape piece.

So here’s the progress thus far:

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Kyle Vanderburg