The STORMWORLD of Stephen Melillo:
Third Millennium Applications for Timeless Music
By, Elizabeth Sokolowski and Ralph Ford
Utilizing Technological Resources to Impact Symphonic Ensembles
Hardware and software used to support curricula are often the focus when considering technological influences in music education. Adjusting the lens to view how technology enhances performance ensembles, a myriad of perspectives develop. Utilizing Internet tools, interacting in a virtual environment, and infusing electronics to augment ensemble sonority impact teacher preparation, curriculum and ensemble performance.
Listening to excerpts, researching scores of varied genres, grades, and styles, and interacting with composers via the internet, provides resources beyond paper catalog descriptions and makes listening to, and studying literature immediate. Recordings are available online in various formats from CDBaby, CDNOW hosted by amazon.com, cd Universe and the Digital Media Mall, a feature of Windows Media Player. Via iTunes (see Fig. 1) teachers are able to preview excerpts, purchase individual tracks, and download albums into digital music libraries. In this format music can be sorted, transported and played virtually anywhere at any time. The iTunes gift feature allows for the legal sharing of music with colleagues, fostering collaboration. The natural extension of this active research and alignment is the development of a comprehensive music education program that ultimately benefits students.
The future-forward technological STORMWORLD of composer Stephen Melillo is an interactive environment providing diverse resources for teachers. Stormworld.com includes an online catalog, piece descriptions, audio samples, score excerpts, and teacher tools. Now in 28 countries, the Music of 21st Century Composer, Stephen Melillo, has been played and recorded by some of the World's finest ensembles and conductors. More than 950 works span from the IBM Thinkpad® to the Concerto for Violin & Orchestra. Currently 117 commissions for Wind & Percussion Ensembles of the 3rd Millennium comprise the body of recorded work called “STORM” works.
Posted on the site are testimonials spanning directors who’ve utilized his teaching tools to world-class international Conductors who continue to render his music. His work can be attained in various formats to meet director’s needs. Since 1993, PDFs have been available to facilitate instantaneous delivery and electronic storage of music. CDRs or Laser Printouts shipped via standard mail are additional options for purchase. PDFs and CDRs enable the production of unlimited legal copies of Melillo’s works for various genres, grades and styles. Storage on CDR conserves space and fosters organization. He states, “The future people talk about is already STORMWORKS' History!”
The Let’s Find Out Teaching Suite: Hypertools for the Music Educator is a powerful professional development catalyst. This trilogy of Scaleworks™, Rhythm Readers™ and Function Chorales™ are designed to establish a foundation for exceptional ensemble musicianship. A DVD guiding teachers in the process, and a CDR including all 22 Function Chorales and resources, comprise the Suite.
STORMWORLDis equipped with links to acquire CDs at www.cdbaby.com or as downloads from iTunes. Melillo’s tools and compositions provide essential, integrated curricula for elementary school beginning bands through university level programs.
Once the technological quest for performance literature begins, resources abound, providing an exciting network of opportunities for teachers. Video conferencing with composers, colleagues, and other schools is now possible. Have you thought about setting up a video exchange concert with any school in the world? Maybe you have an associate on the other side of the state who teaches a similar genre as you. Have you considered looking into the resources that your school district provides to conference virtually? Imagine working on the same composition as another school and observing each other’s rehearsals. Students from partnering schools can dialogue about analysis, discuss differences and similarities in approach to performance, and share live performances. Having a composer/guest clinician to work with ensembles is meaningful, but often funding is a concern. A videoconference with live interaction is an excellent, cost-effective opportunity worthy of investigation. This is another means by which composer Stephen Melillo is paving trends. Directors can learn about the ways in which he makes this tool a reality at stormworld.com (select TOOLS, then Video Conferencing). In-house technology assistants are local experts within schools who know which resources are accessible to teachers and students. Music teachers can discover the vast technological opportunities available when closely connected with these individuals.
The utilization of technological resources impacts curriculum, programming, and ensemble performance. Careful and thoughtful research, planning, and programming foster the growth of instrumental programs as innovative technology-driven opportunities for learning and performing are embraced. The approach to rehearsal and performance are critical in cultivating the development of student musicians, and the immersion of technology will dramatically influence ensemble classrooms. Part two of this article series will focus on infusing electronic media into symphonic ensembles.
Infusing Electronic Media into Symphonic Ensembles
The approach to rehearsal and performance are critical in cultivating the development of student musicians. Technology dramatically impacts the means by which students learn to play, practice, rehearse and perform. Using electronic media in an otherwise non-electronic format accentuates the overall sonority as a natural pedagogical extension of traditional ensembles. The development of ensemble sonority imbued by electronic media necessitates this immersion as a vital component of 21st century musical groups.
The Troy University Symphony Band is one such ensemble committed to technology. Rich sonorities inherent to the symphony orchestra are established in the concert band setting via the infusion of the PAD Bass, which is analogous to the natural acoustic tendencies of the string basses in the symphony orchestra (see set-up in Figure 2). At Troy, this philosophical perspective of ensemble sonority began in the 1970s with Director of Bands, Dr. John Long. He was a visionary in employing electronics to enhance the quality of the marching band’s sound. As a student at Troy, Ralph Ford recalls the use of electronics under Dr. Long who stated, “The electric bass provided an extra octave beneath the sousaphones, and had a percussive feature in its attack.” Appointed Director of Bands at Troy in 2001, Ford continued to use electronic instruments within his ensembles. But, discovering the true value of these resources unfolded in subsequent years.
Ford initially experienced one of Melillo’s compositions in 1993. The orchestration of this composition greatly affected him. “This is band music?” he said. In 2002, Ford searched for something unique to undertake with the Symphony Band. He sought to embark upon a project that would “not be another recording of the same band pieces, but a MUSIC CD that people not associated with bands or the ‘bandworld’ would seek out and enjoy.” Recalling the performance he attended in 1993 of STORMWORKS (the 3-movement work), Ford contacted Melillo. As a result, collaboration with Melillo on a recording project became a goal for the Troy University Symphony Band. For two years, making use of frequent phone calls and eventually iSITE (Mac to Mac conferencing), Ford worked with his ensemble to attain a more focused, transparent, in tune and accurately intoned sound. He states, “I read articles, bought state of the art tuners, insisted on students completing tendency sheets, tuned chords, sang and played from ‘Treasury of Scales’. With tried and ‘proven’ methods, ensemble pitch improved but was inconsistent.”
It wasn’t until utilizing Melillo’s Function Chorales™ that the group made a significant, audible improvement. Ford’s students discovered the interrelatedness in horizontal and vertical sonority via an intuitive illustration of number functions applicable to all keys. Combined with the use of PAD Bass, this opened up the architecture of ALL sonics above the fundamental. The vertical structure and tendencies of pitch within the ensemble dramatically improved. Ford witnessed a transformation in his student musicians, now completely involved in the inner geometry of making MUSIC.
As Karl Geroldinger, Conductor of the professional SBO Ried in Austria states, “...once I began using the Pad Bass, there was no question that its contribution to my ensemble was enormous...”
PAD Bass originated as a function of Stephen Melillo’s teaching experience, and later became an integral component of his compositions for band. He writes, “The PAD Bass provides a previously missing, hence new fundamental for the Band of the 3rd Millennium. Missing was the acoustic foundation, a fundamental which exists in the complete Orchestral palette. As this fundamental is reintroduced to Band, horns begin to sound like horns again, the low brass are more resolute and play with a greater sense of harmonic awareness, woodwinds enjoy a richer mix of overtones in their spectrum and the low reeds have a new fundamental with which to merge in deeper, more color-enriched ways. The instrument’s function is to supply a warm stereo-enveloping bass, a fundamental sounding two octaves below the Tuba. While accomplishing the task of releasing new overtones into the ‘sonicscape’ of Band, the PAD Bass also provides an inviolable fundamental and tuning reference. Intonation and Tuning are immediately improved. PAD Bass provides for and reinforces the correct path of listening from the wind players, which is towards the bass or fundamental. Correctly implemented, the simple addition of this new instrumental color provides for a whole new world of acoustic possibilities in the winds and percussion idiom.”
Dr. William Johnson, Director of Bands at the California Polytechnic State University describes PAD Bass in this way, “The use of PAD Bass, as intended by Stephen Melillo, increases the resonance of sounds in relation to other sounds. It extends the normal low frequency of the ensemble by at least one octave. This increase in low frequencies causes the natural harmonics to be reinforced, which strengthens the upper harmonics and brings out the beauty of sound of the ensemble. To the performer and listener, the overall sound becomes full, rich, and resonate. The traditional sounds of the wind band are transformed from the often strident sounds caused by conflicting upper harmonics to a warm, smooth sound more associated with a fine symphony orchestra.”
At the high school level, Tom Davis, Director of Bands at Canandaigua City High School in New York states, “The PAD Bass allows students to tune without being burdened with verbal direction. They simply have a TARGET they aim for, thus passing by their own mental discussion about HOW to tune. Students move directly to experiencing and knowing.”
Melillo and Johnson explain that there resides a practical use for ‘tuners’ as ‘calibrators’. In calibrating an instrument, less work is necessary when TUNING begins, a phenomenon not at all suited for ‘tuners’ but rather Music-making. For Beth Sokolowski, a middle school band director in the North Penn School District, “The use of PAD Bass in tuning, intoning and performing engages students in the thoughtful and cognitive process of making music. The PAD Bass provides these growing musicians with a foundation; a consistent fundamental from which the ensemble can learn, own and understand to tune horizontally and intone vertically. As students move from the application of recognizing fingering patterns in regard to notes on a piece of paper to the synthesis of producing sonorous beat-less sound in relation to the ensemble, the transformation and evolution of these student musicians is inspiring. Students immersed in ensembles employing PAD Bass are now performing some of the most beautiful, exciting and rewarding music of their instrumental journey.”
As a music education major at The Catholic University of America, Walter Avellaneda discusses his first experience in performing in an ensemble utilizing PAD Bass. “As a bass trombone player by blood, I have always leaned to the tubas to line up and intone chords as any bass trombone player would. But, in one giant sweep, in this one ensemble, the musicians were freed. The tuba player no longer played pseudo-string bass parts and was actually playing a part that utilized the skills he attained and honed in his private lessons; there were no more whole notes. Below him was the PAD bass, at the true fundamental octave. Having that stability, by the end of the concert we were tuning overtones... And a bass trombone player was unleashed!”
With the utilization of Function Chorales, PAD Bass, and new seating positions established as essential components of the Troy University Symphony Band, the collaboration to record with Melillo began. The first recording project so impacted the ensemble that the students requested making a STORMWORKS CD part of the curriculum at Troy. In the spring of 2007 Melillo returned to record STORMWORKS Chapter 13: Whispers on the Wind. Numerous adjustments and improvements were made as a result of the first recording session. Further enhanced changes in physical seating space (see Fig. 3), a carefully researched miking configuration with a Tri-Decca System typically utilized in the days of Stereophonic High Fidelity (see Fig. 4), enhancement of natural reverberation by the use of 2 additional rear-hall mikes, employment of direct box lines for each synthesizer, and the use of a new Roland synthesizer deriving one voice as a choir were some of the adaptations made. These factors, in conjunction with Melillo’s orchestration and the musical advancement of the Troy ensemble, converged to produce what Melillo envisions as “Music rendered by a Symphonic Band of the 3rd millennium.”
Technology for technology’s sake? Hardly. Consider this excerpt from the score notes to LAST WORLD STANDING, recently premiered by Karl Geroldinger in Austria’s Brucknerhaus. “Thirty years in the making, thirty years in the composing and thirty years in the refinement of instrumental placing by means of recording experimentation in union with advances in technology have led to this culminating work entitled LAST WORLD STANDING. No longer are restraints a consideration in the Musical outpouring. A True Romanticism has been achieved by means of Science.”
For Ralph Ford, the impact of his experiences rehearsing and recording Melillo's Music, with the composer's almost obsessive call for proper instrument spacing and the logistics-simple infusion of electronic media into the symphonic band setting, have so transformed his methods of teaching and composing, that as an exclusive writer for the Belwin Division of Alfred Publications, he has now adopted that model into his own writing. “As the traditional wind band evolves, incorporation of electronic media is being recognized by editors who are able to see this hybrid future, for it is now the present.”
Ford’s editor, George Megaw, supports the use of electronics to enhance the timbral palette for orchestration purposes. Ford’s latest four-movement work for Symphonic Band, Suite: SEA TO SKY, is scored for synth-harp, synth-choir, and PAD Bass. (The standard STORMWORKS synthesized additions.) Employing new instruments into ensembles has been met with resistance throughout history, but as technology advances, innovative tools that support traditional ensembles will be seen as fundamental components of the total ensemble, enhancing the spectrum of color available to composers, ultimately benefiting teachers and student musicians.
If our focus as music educators is to provide our students with the opportunity to grow as learners and musicians, then it is incumbent upon us to search for innovation, new technologies that support our curricular and educational goals. We live in a technology-driven time with an abundance of resources available. It is our duty to bring to classrooms, ensembles, and students the true meaning of making beautiful music. This vision can become a reality in the 21st Century by utilizing third millennium applications for timeless Music.
Elizebeth Sokolowski is the learning Coordinator for K-12 Music and Art Programs of Penn School District (Lansdale, PA). email@example.com
Ralph Ford is Director of Bands and Coordinator of Winds and Percussion at Troy University (Troy, AL). firstname.lastname@example.org
Walter Avellaneda graduated from The Catholic University of America in May 2007 and has accepted a position as Director of Instrumental Music at John F. Kennedy High School (Bellmore, NY) email@example.com
Tom Davis is K-12 Curriculum Area Lead Teacher for the Canandaigua City School District (Canandaigua, NY) www.tomdavismusic.com
Dr. William V. Johnson is Director of Bands at The California Polytechnic State University (San Luis Obispo, CA) firstname.lastname@example.org and www.windorchestra.calpoly.edu
Stephen Melillo www.stormworld.com
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