Videos from MIE Pi Day!

Download the MIE Pi Day 3-14-2013 Poster and put it on your wall!

For those of you who were unable to attend our 2nd annual Music-in-Education Department Concert (this year held on Pi Day — March 14, 2013), please enjoy the following videos!

This year’s inquiry question:

How do numbers empower musical understanding? Celebrating the Role of Mathematics and Music in Education

And our Program Notes (PDF): MIE Pi Day Concert 3-14-13 Program Notes
Larry’s piece, ‘Phone Number Myelination Music’:
Devin’s piece, ‘Oobleck Serial’:
Nick Kitchen’s piece ’36, 45, 378 and 64: Bach’s St. Anne Fugue and the Ciaconna for Solo Violin’:
Henrique’s piece, ‘Madruga’:
Katarina’s piece, ‘Sierpinski Triangle in 43 steps’:
Rob’s piece, ‘Wondrous Numbers’:
Warren’s piece, ‘Thought Experiment’:

Time Pressure: The Challenges of Composing

Greetings MIE community! Much progressed has occurred since my first blog post. One month ago, the Music-In-Education department hosted our first ever concert, which featured my composition, Lucena Position for Six Musicians and Two Chess Players. The name is a bit of a misnomer, actually—we only had one chess player, playing both sides of the board for this performance. Still, the piece was a tremendous success!

Everyone who participated in it ended up learning about the Lucena Position, an important type of rook-and-pawn endgame that every great chess player needs to know about. By crafting the piece around this “textbook endgame study,” anyone who learned the piece had to first absorb the key concepts of the Lucena position: how to build a bridge with the rook to block a barrage of enemy checks and allow an otherwise blocked pawn to promote. Then, after the rooks are traded off, the pawn promotes to a queen and the remainder of the game is a classic king-and-queen checkmating pattern.

Moreover, the audience got a new experience with the game, and hopefully learned something too! By adding a sonic element, audience members who might not know the rules of chess got a better picture of when something interesting happened—e.g. a check, a piece being threatened, or a queen promoting. Still, my “artist persona” was only partially satisfied: the music still seems a bit heavy-handed, perhaps programmatic. This came to light more prominently when, just a few days ago, I was informed that I would not be asked to perform a second version of the piece on Jordan Hall stage for the “Beckett Play” concert.

Part of that was my bad planning (I didn’t get a rehearsal together so the curator of the show could see the idea in time), but there’s a more deeply rooted issue: Sam Beckett would not agree with the core musical structure! As a playwright, Beckett spent much of his career attempting to destroy narrative, to systematically remove conventional plot devices from his works and achieve a new aesthetic. My current system is inherently programmatic and narrative, which makes it a poor fit for the Beckett concert.

Consequently, my attention now turns to preparing for my recital. I have effectively “doubled down” with this project: not only does it require success as a teacher and chess player in order to pull off each concert, but additionally it requires that I compose a great piece of music! As I write this I have just three weeks to put the last piece together for my recital. I will have to drastically reduce the scale of my compositional ambitions in order to accommodate the realities of my timeline: I want a piece on my recital that sounds good, in addition to the educational content and lesson plans that go into making the piece happen.

One technique I intend to explore further as I extend this interdisciplinary teaching concept after graduation (not sure how or where yet, but I’ll find a way) is the idea of group composition through guided inquiry. By asking students (in this case, members of the NEC Chess Club) to explore core concepts in chess, I can make use of the bi-literacy and start asking questions. For example: “what is the effect of capturing a piece during a game? How might that be represented musically?” This format of question can be reused for each and every lesson plan: piece movement, the squares of the board, pawn promotion, check, checkmate, castling, elementary checkmates (Q+R vs. K, K + Q vs. K, K + R vs. K, etc.), opening theory, elementary tactics (forks, pins, skewers, discovered attacks, etc.), endgame studies like the Lucena Position, and so on.

The real challenge for me as an artist is sufficiently limiting the scope of each composition! Chess is nearly as rich and imaginative of an art form as music, so any attempt to map concepts from its domain into the world of sound will have inherent limitations. As a composer and fellow student helpfully suggested, “be careful not to put too much heart into each piece… remember you can always write another. Cut excess like a samurai.”

MIE Concert: Program Order

Editor’s Note:  This is the 5th post in a long series with an inside view of the planning and production for our department’s first-ever intra-departmental MIE Concert!

Dear Performers/Directors/Composers,

Included below is the schedule for Wednesday’s program as we have it for now. We tried our best to accommodate any special requests that we received. Does the timing of this work out for everyone? Please let us know if there is anything that needs to be reconsidered.

Most of the performances are estimated at 10 minutes and I accounted for 2 minutes between pieces for transitions/the unexpected.

Order of Pieces

8-8:10 “The Rainstorm”
Valerie Thompson

8:12-8:22 “Barbara Allen”
1 American Version
2 Indian Raga
Warren Senders

8:24-8:34 “Harmonic Time: The Language of Rhythm and Music”
Jerry Leake

8:36-8:46 “Exploring Meta-Mapping Systems for Music: A Demonstration of CA-cophony”
Paul Burdick

8:48-8:52 “Barbara Allen” (arr. Robert Beaser)
Rob Flax and Devin Ulibarri

8:54-9:04 “The Faraway Nearby”
Nell Shaw-Cohen

9:06-9:16 “Renaissance Suite” (Order/Names of pieces)
Kirie based on “Mad” by Ne-Yo – Lyle Davidson
Domina Gaga – Devin Ulibarri (b. 1984)
Je suis déshéritée – Pierre Cardéac (fl. c.1530-1556)
Kirie from Missa Sine Nomine – Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina (c. 1525-1594)

9:18-9:25 “Barbara Allen”
Darrel Whidden and Concert Choir

9:27-9:40 “Inverse Pachelbel”
I. Prelude
II. Inverse
III. Cups
IV. Bop
Larry Scripp and You!

Thank you,
Devin U.

Performance and volunteer opportunities available for the MIE concert

Editor’s Note:  This is the 3nd post in a long series with an inside view of the planning and production for our department’s first-ever intra-departmental MIE Concert!


Tomorrow, March 5th from 6-8 we will be rehearsing in SB 300 for the MIE concert. Specifically, we will be looking at Larry’s piece based on the power-song, Pachelbel’s Canon. Please bring your instruments and your voices. We need singers and different instrumentalists, prepared for fun and the unexpected. Please reply and let me know if you are able to make it. Feel free to invite other voices to class as well.

Also, we need ushers! We have a really cool seating plan, but we need two volunteers to do this. Please let me know if this is something that you would like to do. You may be both a performer and an usher at the concert – That is totally okay! We just need someone to stand up and take this important responsibility in order to assure its success.


Making the Right Move: NEC Gets a Chess Club

Over the past two years, I have worked in numerous ways and settings to help bridge the NEC communities, sometimes unintentionally and sometimes deliberately. For this internship, I found a unique way to serve the NEC student population: start a chess club!

What makes this different from other clubs? My chess club has ulterior motives. I’m interested in interdisciplinary connections, drawing inspiration for musical events from other structures. Specifically, I’m setting out to compose music inspired by and informed by the game of chess. As a composer, I want musicians to understand the game, in order to enrich their experience playing the music.

Moreover, having an “army of chess-playing musicians” gives me the ability to write new music that draws its compositional structure directly out of the game: I can use the board as a kind of improvised graphic score! Thus, by teaching musicians the game of chess, I am simultaneously preparing them to play my music.

Over the semester, I hope to put on three performances. The first will be on the Music-In-Education Department Concert (which I am curating), to take place on March 7th. This will be a “small piece,” examining just a small microcosm of the chess universe. The second performance will (hopefully, curator permitting) be on Jordan Hall stage on April 9th, as part of the “Beckett Play” concert (put on by the Contemporary Improvisation Dept.). That piece would be a little bit bigger, and also relate to the writing of Samuel Beckett (especially “Endgame”). Finally, I hope to stage the largest version of the piece—the full-blown game of chess—on my recital: April 28th, in Brown Hall. This would require thirty-two musicians, all of whom play chess relatively well, so I hope people show up to the club!

Right now the club is in “stage one”: building critical mass. So far there’s been a steady crowd of musicians each week, and the cast usually has a mixture of rotating players and steady regulars. On our first day, there were thirteen people! The challenge each week is to find ways to teach each person on an individual basis, while simultaneously introducing concepts that will be relevant in my compositions.

Starting in the next couple weeks or so, I plan to introduce my first piece in the club, teaching about that.

The MIE Concert: From ‘Power Song’ to ‘Power Program”

Editor’s Note:  This is the 2nd post in a long series with an inside view of the planning and production for our department’s first-ever intra-departmental MIE Concert!

Planning for the MIE Concert continues. Devin Ulibarri, our MIE Graduate Assistant and also faculty at NEC MusicLaunch, shares the following:


To showcase MIE teaching artists in the context of MIE philosophies. Allows MIE
students to connect with an audience in the context of their rationale for MIE- one
can experiment in creating a concert that communicates music to an audience in a
unique way.

I also understand the need for MIE concentration students and the department as a
whole to express themselves through performance. I also hope that the department
can gain more exposure through performances, however it is imperative that this is
within the context of the MIE concepts and values.


  • MIE concentration students could collaborate – solo, chamber within their
    discipline, or chamber cross-disciplinary (CI+classical –personally, I think this
    is great, because MIE is the one place where all different backgrounds can come
    together and learn from one another so the process of collaboration itself would be
    a learning process)
  • MIE projects performed – A kick-ass version of a cups exercise, Pachelbel’s canon
  • MIE students perform (with or without teachers) – Students display what they
    have learned from internship
  • Between pieces and within the program, MIE students can detail their philosophies
    and their rationale for MIE
  • Experiments in audience contributions
  • MIE concentration composers may write pieces for event that reflect their
    rationale for MIE

MIE Concert

The MIE Department has been kicking around an idea to produce a MIE “concert” this Spring. One of our grad students, violinist Rob Flax, sent us the following (AMAZING!) pitch:

This concert centers around two concepts central to the Music In Education’s core: “Music + Music Integration” and “Artist-Teacher-Scholar.” Music + Music Integration is the belief that education in any subject becomes enriched when injected with music and, conversely, that music is a powerful tool that can be used to create interdisciplinary connections. An Artist-Teacher-Scholar is a complete musician, who uses skills from each arena to enrich the others, e.g. the artistry of teaching, the scholarship of artistry, etc.

Each piece performed is developed with/around MIE concepts: perhaps the music serves as a teaching tool for learning another subject (e.g. Rob Flax’s “Chess Piece” explores the sounds of chess, and “Autumn Leaves” can be used as a ‘Power Song’ for a unit on harmony), or perhaps the concept for the piece arose from a teaching concept (e.g. the “Cups Piece”).

Basically, [we] want pieces that (a) can be used to teach other things, (b) are examples of teaching influencing artistry, and/or (c) demonstrations of pure artistic prowess by folks otherwise labeled as “teachers.”

We will let you know as this idea develops!