irst and foremost, I am a musician. I began playing percussion in the 6th grade when I got a snare drum for Christmas and joined the school band. Since that time, I have never stopped making music as both a performer and a composer. My Bachelor's degree is in Percussion Performance, my Master's is in Instrumental Conducting, and my Doctorate is in Composition. I have been playing professionally since the 1970s, and before coming to USC had been Principal Percussion with the Oklahoma City Philharmonic for 13 years.
All Compositions Copyright © Brian K. Shepard
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In addition to being a performer, I am a composer of acoustic and electronic art music, commercial music, and an orchestrator and arranger of symphonic "Pops" charts. My music has been performed by the Oklahoma City Philharmonic, the Charleston (SC) Symphony Orchestra, the Winston-Salem Symphony, the Portland (ME) Symphony Orchestra, Trio Contraste, the Margarita Baños-Milton dance ensemble, and by numerous faculty and student ensembles from colleges and universities across the country. As a result of collaborations with dancers, I began exploring the concept of interactive dance music in the late 1990s. One of my forays into this area, HyperLinx (pdf), uses infrared sensors placed around a stage to detect a dancer's movements. This information is then used by a computer running a program I wrote in Max to create a musical accompaniment to the dance. In addition to writing the computer program, I also designed and built most of the hardware used to create the interactive environment.
Use the media player at right to listen to recordings of my compositions. Titles with a "+" sign next to them open to reveal the individual elements for that selection. You will find descriptions of the individual Art Music Compositions and Jingles and Commercial Compositions below. Due to contractual obligations, only "highlight" recordings of the orchestral pieces are available. If you are an orchestral conductor interested in performing one of these works, please contact me to arrange for a complete recording. Score, parts, and/or electronics for any of the works below are available directly from me.
Art Music Compositions
Jingles and Commercial Compositions
- All the Pretty Colours of the Rainbow, Microtonal Piano • view the score (pdf) • download the Scala tuning file (zip)
All the Pretty Colours of the Rainbow was written on a commission from, and premiered by pianist Aron Kallay in Los Angeles. I have long been fascinated by the differences in the way humans perceive light frequencies and sound frequencies. While we are capable of hearing more than nine octaves of sound frequencies, we are only capable of seeing the equivalent of about one octave of light frequencies. Yet, even though that one octave of visible light has only six steps in it (red, orange, yellow, green, blue, violet), we see and recognize thousands of different hues within each of those steps. I wanted to give the listener a sense of the different “hues” that might be associated with steps in a musical scale. At its root, the pitch material is based on the five notes of a common pentatonic scale (D, E, G, A, B). However, the interval between each note is slightly wider than what we commonly hear in traditional tunings. In addition, there are four different versions of every note in the scale, each a tiny bit higher in frequency than the previous (think D, D+, D++, D+++, E, E+, etc.). The entire scale, then, requires twenty keys, or a perfect twelfth (octave + perfect fifth) on the piano keyboard to complete. And, since each repetition of the scale is slightly higher in frequency than a pure octave, an upward spiral of pitches is created to the top of the keyboard.
Acoustic pianos do not respond well to such a drastic retuning as required in this piece. Therefore, this composition should be performed on a digital piano instrument that supports custom tunings via Scala files, and uses physical modeling to produce its piano sound such as Pianoteq. Instruments that use samples to create their sound will suffer from a number of undesirable and unnatural artifacts in the piano sound as a result of retuning the samples, and should not be used.
Avant-Garde pianist Aron Kallay has just released All the Pretty Colours of the Rainbow on his new CD, Beyond 12. Look for it on iTunes and other popular music and CD resellers. Note: the version of All the Pretty Colours of the Rainbow in the player at right is not Aron's recording. It is a MIDI realization of the piece and doesn't hold a candle to Aron's wonderful performance!
- Eternal Stars, Brass Quintet • view the score (pdf)
I wrote Eternal Stars in memory of the three flight crews who gave their lives in America's pursuit of the exploration of outer space. From the beginning, I wanted this piece to be a celebration of their adventurous spirit and enthusiasm. To that end, Eternal Stars is built around ascending and "reaching" motives and melodies as well as energetic, driving rhythms. Although the piece is divided into three sections with meters corresponding to the number of the members of the three flight crews (7, 3, and 7), it is not my intent that any section represents a particular crew. Rather, the three sections taken as a whole symbolize all the astronauts. Eternal Stars was composed on a commission from the Oklahoma Music Teachers Association (OMTA) as part of their "Commissioned Composer" program. It was premiered on June 4, 2004 by the Oklahoma Brass Quintet.
- Elegy, Solo Violoncello • view the score (pdf)
el•e•gy (noun): a poem of serious reflection, typically a lament for the dead.
I wrote Elegy after transitioning through a particularly difficult period in my life. Although no one actually died, I did leave behind a large portion of my previous life. Thus, the serious reflection of this work is more about the consideration of things that had been, and things that will be. The piece is composed in a free, rhapsodic style where the rhythms are more suggestions of duration than an actual demarcation of pulse. It's an opportunity for the cellist to revel is his or her sound.
- Conversation, Flute, Oboe, Piano • view the score (pdf)
As its movement titles suggest, Conversation examines the various stages of a deep conversation among good friends—in this case, the three performers. The first movement, Exposition, lays out the basic thoughts of the conversation that increasingly interact and intertwine with each other. Introspection peers into the minds of the conversants a bit as they grapple with their own thoughts and ideas related to the conversation. The Interruption comes in the form of a distracting event that pulls our participants temporarily away from the conversation at hand, before returning to their ideas, thoughts, and discourse in the Peroration.
- Late Night Dinner Alone, Coloratura Soprano, Electric Piano • view the score (pdf)
Banquet Extra Helping Salisbury Steak Dinner
Caffeine Free Diet Coke
Braum's Premium French Vanilla Ice Cream
This set of three songs takes a light-hearted look at the ingredients in our modern "food." Have you ever read what's actually in this stuff? The lyrics for each song are the actual ingredients list from the particular packaged food product of the song's title. The use of the electric piano as a substitute for the acoustic piano may be seen as further commentary on the artificiality of these products. Splashed throughout these songs are quotes from such disparate sources as late-night television theme songs and well-known classical compositions.
- Variations on an Old English Folksong, Violin, Clarinet, Piano • view the score (pdf)
Variations on an Old English Folksong was commissioned by Trio Contraste as a concert encore. The piece is a set of variations on the old song Waly, Waly (better known as The Water is Wide), that allows each of the trio's performers one more time to "shine" as well as featuring the ensemble as a group.
- Where, v. 1.04b, Video
Where v. 1.04b is the first of a proposed five-piece set entitled The Five Ws. Many of you may recall studying the basic concept in information gathering known as the Five Ws (and one H) involving a series of interrogatory questions that each begin with a "W" word: Who? What? When? Where? Why? (How?). This set, when completed, will consist of five videos with electronic soundtracks. Each of the videos will consist of a series of thought-provoking and sometimes whimsical questions that all begin with the particular "W" word for that video. It might also be worth noting that the project was begun at a time when the letter "W" had a larger significance in our national discourse.
- HyperLinx, Dancer, Interactive Electronics Environment • view sample screen images (pdf)
HyperLinx is an interactive environment for dancer and computer/synthesizer generated sounds. As the dancer moves about the stage, numerous infrared sensors detect his or her motions. A computer uses this information to calculate such things as the dancer's position, type of motion, speed of movement, direction of motion, etc., so that musical events are created as an accompaniment to that motion. The dancer is instructed to improvise gestures and motions based on the sounds created, which leads to new sounds, and new gestures, and so on. The effect is like standing between two opposing mirrors where one's image seems to repeat indefinitely, but with each repetition appearing farther removed from the original. This piece, and its title, was inspired by the often circular and convoluted connections one encounters on the Internet.
- My Father's Stories, Dancer, Pre-Recorded CD
My Father's Stories was composed for choreographer and dancer Margarita Baños-Milton. The score is entirely electronic and thus, there is not a written score. The piece combines a recorded oral history of Margarita's father describing his childhood in revolutionary Mexico with elements of two songs he used to sing to Margarita when she was a little girl: La Feria de las Flores (a Mariachi song by Chucho Monge) and Roses of Picardy (a WWI era ballad by Hayden Wood). Because the tape recording of Margarita's father had so much hiss and noise, I used a number of sonic elements that also had a breathy or "hissy" quality to them. The harmonic language uses a 14-tone microtonal scale. The songs are almost never heard in a recognizable form except at the end where there is a complete statement of Roses. Instead, the songs are used as source material and are highly fragmented.
- How the Loon Lost Her Voice, Dancers, Narrator, Pre-Recorded CD
How the Loon Lost Her Voice was composed on another commission from choreographer and dancer Margarita Baños-Milton. Like the work above, the score is entirely electronic and thus, there is not a written score. Based on the famous northwest coast Native American myth as told by Anne Cameron, this story recounts the heroic tale of how Loon, Raven, and all the animals rallied to rescue the daylight from behind a wall of ice after it was stolen by evil spirits. Many of the musical elements in this piece are derived from loon calls, including the basic melodic motives which are the loon's classic warble slowed down by an extreme amount.
- Symphony, Percussion Ensemble • view the score (pdf)
Symphony is a work in progress for a large percussion ensemble of twelve players. The first movement "Source" provides much of the musical material that is developed in the three other movements, (II. Echoes, III. Dance, IV. Finale). The sketches of the remaining movements are completed, but only the first movement is finished and recorded.
- Toccata and Fugue, Snare Drum Ensemble • view the score (pdf)
The first classical recording I ever purchased was of the great organ works of J. S. Bach performed by the late E. Power Biggs. In particular, the Toccatas and Fugues fascinated me with their contrast between the free improvisatory Toccata and the incredibly structured Fugue. This work for eleven snare drums follows that same principle. The opening Toccata (from the Italian word toccare, "to touch") begins with the performers playing the drums with their hands. Eventually, they change to sticks as the piece features a number of sounds available from the snare drum. The Fugue follows the traditional Baroque model with subject, countersubject, and numerous episodes.
- Ritual, Percussion Ensemble and Pre-Recorded CD • view the score (pdf)
Ritual is an unlikely amalgamation of such elements as African poly-rhythmic drumming, Drum Corp percussion, and East Asian chant with a dash of electronic synthesis thrown in for good measure. The hypnotic opening section consists of one long crescendo that gradually envelops the audience in a 3-dimensional wall of sound (the performers are positioned around the audience). Eventually, a quirky middle section featuring interchanges between the percussion instruments and the synthesizer sounds interrupts the crescendo. Finally, the opening material returns, but in a decrescendo that gradually dies away to the silence from which it began. Unlike many of my other works, this piece makes no statements about society, politics, the world, etc. It merely exists for its sonic qualities. In other words, it ain't brain surgery, it's just kinda cool!
- The Lone Ranger Rides Again, Young Percussion Ensemble • view the score (pdf)
As a young percussionist, I often found the kinds of "tick-tock" percussion ensemble literature available for that age boring and pedantic. I wrote The Lone Ranger Rides Again to introduce young percussionists to the joy and fun of playing in a percussion ensemble. Based on the well-known William Tell Overture by Gioacchino Rossini, the piece includes a number of humorous musical and visual elements. The Lone Ranger Rides Again is designed to be both enjoyable and stimulating for the players, as well as providing that all-important audience feedback that helps hook young students on performing. All parts are written for percussionists who have been playing for only 2 to 3 years or less. Rhythms and melodic patterns are kept relatively simple, employing natural sticking patterns and frequent repeats for reinforcement.
- The Explorers, Symphony Orchestra • view the score (pdf)
The Explorers was inspired by the many ocean-going expeditions that crossed the globe during the age of exploration. The piece celebrates the adventurous spirit of all men and women whose exploits challenge us to better ourselves, and the world in which we live. Beginning with a fanfare and contrapuntal march, the expedition receives a royal send-off. As the sailors put out to sea, the fanfare fades into the distance and is replaced by the monotonous sounds of the ocean. Soon, a lone singer, represented by the solo horn, begins a song of hope, albeit a hope tinged with fear and anxiety. As the ship moves further into the unknown, those fears and anxieties grow even stronger. To raise spirits, there is an attempt at merrymaking. After a few false starts, the previous horn melody is transformed into a lively sailor’s dance, which growing more and more raucous, keeps the sailors from noticing the brewing storm until it has already engulfed them. Just as the storm appears to be reaching its height, land is sighted. Trumpets sound the call, and soon all join in the shouting. With the storm abated, and smooth sailing ahead, the crew, using a countermelody from the opening march, offers a hymn of thanksgiving. As they begin to realize the importance of their feat, the sailor’s hymn becomes jubilant and triumphant as the explorers celebrate their victorious passage through the unknown.
- We're America's Fast Lane was created for a chain of automotive service centers in central Oklahoma. The company wanted to evoke an image of that "All-American" team servicing your vehicle from top to bottom that was so popular in the service station commercials of the 1960s.
- Movie Quick was part of the "Movie Quick" video rental campaign by the 7-Eleven stores in the Oklahoma City area. They wanted a 50's "Sha-Na-Na" type of sound.
- Welcome To Oklahoma, written for the Oklahoma Department of Commerce, has been one of my most interesting commercial compositions to date. The text is an approximation of the phrase "Welcome to Oklahoma" (or as close as our translators could get) in five Native American tongues. Written as underscoring to a dramatic narration, the music was composed for a large chorus and orchestra that begins very softly and builds to a large climax.
- Don't Lay That Trash On Oklahoma was written for the Oklahoma Department of Transportation's award-winning anti-litter campaign, "Don't Lay That Trash on Oklahoma." This version of the jingle was done in a "Beach Boys" style, and ran extensively during summer months.
- It's A Snap was another piece I wrote for the Oklahoma Department of Transportation, this time, advocating the use of seat belts while driving. The video this music accompanied featured a spooky graveyard scene with our "accident victim" as the lead singer. Some ghoulish characters drawn from late-night horror flicks provide the back-up vocals.
- KFH Station I.D. Package was a complete station I.D. package created for the launch of KFH AM Stereo in Wichita, Kansas. They wanted to emphasize the fact that they were a Stereo AM station, and specifically asked for a lot of stereophonic effects in the music. The complete package actually contains over thirty short jingles for various uses by the station. The three cuts here are: Legal I.D., A Cappella I.D., and Weather Bed (instrumental underscoring for an announcer to read the day's weather forecast).
- Make It Cain's was composed for the Cain's Coffee Company of Oklahoma City, a manufacturer and distributor of coffees, teas and spices, and it required me to blend two completely different styles of music. The ad agency people wanted a nice, jazzy sound that's often associated with drinking coffee, while the folks at Cain's wanted something reminiscent of Eddie Rabbitt's "I Love A Rainy Night." I tried to give both parties their wish.
- The OC Feeling was written as part of a radio campaign by Oklahoma Christian University of Science and Arts aimed at recruiting new students. I tried to showcase the warm, family atmosphere of the campus while still showing the school as an exciting and dynamic place to be.
- OverFlight was composed for the opening sequence of a recruiting video produced by the University of Oklahoma School of Music. The music comes at the beginning of the video during a helicopter aerial shot of the OU campus and the School of Music buildings. The entire score is electronic and should have a familiar ring to "Sooner" fans.
- Parents As Partners In Education is an instrumental theme composed for the opening and closing credits of an educational-television series for parents and their young children, produced by Eagle Ridge Institute. The music evokes the fun and whimsy of children at play. I also wanted to give a little tip-of-the-hat to that great, wonderful clown, the late Red Skelton.
- Opening Night Theme was written for the Oklahoma Arts Council's big New Year's Eve bash held each year in downtown Oklahoma City. This instrumental number was used in the advertising for the celebration as well as during the big fireworks show that began at midnight.
- Agony Or Peace was written to accompany a series of commercials for the Edmond Recovery Center in Edmond, Oklahoma. Each of the spots consisted of two parts. The first half showed a person "out-of-control" as a result of substance abuse and was filmed in a black-and-white, grainy, "Hitchcock" style. The second half of the commercial showed that same person on their way to recovery, and was done in full color to show the difference in their life. The music also accentuates that contrast.