A LITTLE MATRIX MUSIC
an acoustic and digital composing toolkit
for band or orchestra
Works across multiple grade levels!
Click the PDF icon to view a sample part
Concert Bb Edition
Concert D Edition
Includes all files, drones, and a virtual clinic up to 1 hour (additional clinics may be scheduled independently)
MAKE MUSIC IN A DIGITAL ENVIRONMENT!
The inspiration for this project piece came from Alex Shapiro and her incredible new curriculum “Putting the E- in E-nsemble.” This course, designed in response to the outbreak and overall concern of COVID-19, was pioneered by the University of Washington. The course (and this piece) are designed to work entirely in an online learning modality, though they can easily be incorporated into an in-person learning modality as well. While Shapiro’s course was originally designed for college students, A Little Matrix Music, written with Alex’s encouragement, makes this entire world accessible to younger students (band and orchestra, from elementary through high school).
To quote Shapiro’s curriculum, “Students will experience collectively composing pieces of music via online collaboration and file transfer. Through this process, they will not only continue to play their instruments, but will more clearly understand the many elements that go into creating a piece of music. By the end of this unit, each student will have progressed from [playing a short passage] to producing a two minute or longer piece of music using their own material combined with that of their fellow students.”
I highly recommend visiting Alex Shapiro’s website to obtain a free copy of her curriculum, which directly impacted the structure of this piece. Here is a link to the free curriculum, which also includes versions written by Dr. Glenn C. Hayes, Director of Bands at University of Wisconsin-Whitewater. These adapted versions are specifically geared toward middle and high schools and include direct ties to the National Standards and more. The combination of these resources and this piece will provide a lasting, musical, and effective opportunity to further the musicianship of your students in a brand new way.
This piece uses a drone as a foundation for everything. The supplied drones were intentionally created in Garage Band using free software samples only. Upon learning this, students will hopefully be motivated to use a free online DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) to create their own drones and explore their creativity further. Note that, upon contacting Alex Shapiro, directors have the option of purchasing customized drones (much hipper than mine!).
A Little Matrix Music comes in two keys – concert Bb and D. This makes the piece equally accessible for bands and orchestras. In both cases, ALL transpositions are available, so it is easy to perform this as a full orchestra as well.
The music progressively works through various elements of music – from rhythmic cells to short motifs, melodies (developed from those motifs), countermelodies, some opportunities to add color / dissonance, and the opportunity to compose or improvise any of these elements.
Students record their own sections and then upload to a central location. They are then able to download recordings by other students and begin to assemble them in interesting and creative ways (no two projects will ever be the same). At the very end of this project, every student will have their own complete, unique, recording featuring themselves and their classmates.
Of course, in order for this to be successful, there are many “rules” implemented at various stages of the project in order to avoid overwhelming students. Learn more, and hear some sound samples from The University of Washington here.
To learn more about how to harness Shapiro's curriculum to its fullest potential, consider contacting the following list of consultants:
Sample video by Brian Rabuse:
Alex Shapiro is known for her genre-blind acoustic and electroacoustic pieces, including a significant catalog of electroacoustic works for wind band for musicians at all performance levels. Published by her company Activist Music LLC, Alex's music is heard daily in concerts and broadcasts across the U.S. and internationally, and can be found on over thirty commercially released recordings.
Alex has been a lead clinician at many conferences including The Midwest Clinic and TMEA, speaking about creative uses of technology in performance. Among her published writings is the chapter, Releasing a Student's Inner Composer for the 2013 GIA Publications book, Musicianship: Composing in Band and Orchestra, in which she explores ways to encourage expression. Two of her electroacoustic band pieces, Paper Cut, and Tight Squeeze, are included in the GIA book/CD series, Teaching Music Through Performance in Band, Volume 10. Educated at The Juilliard School and Manhattan School of Music, Ms. Shapiro advocates tirelessly for other artists. She is the Symphonic and Concert writer member of the Board of Directors of ASCAP, and serves on the Board of Directors of the ASCAP Foundation and The Aaron Copland Fund for Music.
Glenn C. Hayes is the Director of Bands and Professor Music Education at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater. Throughout his career, he has been a tireless champion of contemporary music within the music education curriculum. As a 5-12 instrumental music educator early in his career, Hayes was a pioneer by programing music for band, synthesizer and ambient sound and encouraging students to explore the music via composition. He continues to inspire 6-12 musicians annually at the UW-W summer band camps.
As a collegiate conductor/educator/musician, Hayes has commissioned and programmed music for band and electronics, band and video and band with amplified soloists. He has also created curricula and coached/guided performers and ensembles in the realization of graphic and video scores. Hayes is a member of the Comprehensive Musicianship through Performance Project based in Wisconsin for over 20 years. He has conducted and presented clinics and workshops throughout the world.
Brian Balmages is an award-winning composer and conductor. His music has been performed throughout the world, including premieres at the College Band Directors National Conference, the Midwest Clinic, Carnegie Hall and the Kennedy Center. His commissions have ranged from elementary schools to professional symphony orchestras. He is a recipient of the A. Austin Harding Award from the American School Band Directors Association and the Distinguished Alumni Award from James Madison University. His music was also performed as part of the 2013 Presidential Inaugural Prayer Service with both the President and Vice President in attendance.
He is a recipient of the A. Austin Harding Award from the American School Band Directors Association and the Distinguished Alumni Award from James Madison University. His music was also performed as part of the 2013 Presidential Inaugural Prayer Service with both the President and Vice President in attendance.As a conductor, Mr. Balmages enjoys regular engagements with all-state and regional honor bands / orchestras as well as university and professional groups. Conducting engagements have included the United States, Canada, Australia and Italy. He is Director of Instrumental Publications for The FJH Music Company and Assistant Director of Bands and Orchestras at Towson University.