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205. A Northwest American Sound in Classical Music

Allen Skirvin, Dr. Eric S. Alexander, Dr. Linda Kline

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“Composers are like the flora of cultures, creating landscapes suited for their climates.”

Photo collage - walking on beach, ax throwing, climbing a power pole, misty mountains, log rolling

“My music is imperfect but embodies the northwest.”


The music you’ll hear in this presentation is inspired by my upbringing in the woods of the Pacific Northwest.

Techniques to Listen for

  1. The music rarely has a sense of meter. Music of this type is called “ametric” and is meant to embody the spontaneity of nature.
  2. The string part sounds very fiddley, with lots of double stops and slides?
  3. Listen for the stark contrast in style between the piano and viola
  4. There is a section halfway through the composition where the viola is loosely imitating country yodeling, can you hear it?
  5. Does the music at times sound conversational to you?

The Compositional Process of This Piece

  • My music tends to be based in heavy improvisation with no preconceived direction.
  • Rather than an organized outline of scales, chords, and rhythms, musical ideas passively drift into my conscious through stories of my past, and the pastoral imagery that complements it.
  • I tend to think conversationally when writing music. I approach musical phrases with the mindset of, “how would I say this?” versus, “how would I play this?”
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But don’t take my word for it!

Listen to the composition in the video below. Let me know what you think!

Faculty Mentors

Dr. Eric Scott Alexander, Dr. Linda Kline

Additional Information

For questions or comments about this research, contact Allen Skirvin at