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JAMES SYLER

COMPOSER

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COMMENTS


"You really write exactly what you want to write and that is excellent. The pieces are full of energy and musicality ..."

~ Samuel Adler, The Juilliard School 

 

 

"His orchestral work entitled 'Gearbox' is a brilliant showpiece that surges with energy from beginning to end. Throughout the piece, his gift of lyricism within a dramatic framework is apparent to all who listen." 

~  San Antonio Symphony Program Notes

 

 

"He writes with heart and has the musical and technical abilities to realize his conceptions. He is one of the few young composers whose music has moved me."

~ Michael Colgrass, Composer

 

 

 

"One thing that is particularly effective about the work 'Minton's Playhouse' is that one feels it is a piece for jazz ensemble, 'framed' by the colors and textures of the full wind ensemble."

~ Fanfare Magazine

  


“James Syler’s ‘Symphony No. 1’ ... is a major addition to the wind ensemble repertoire. What immediately strikes the listener about this composition with a title ‘Blue’ is the depth of the text and music and the absence of all of the possible stereotypes ..." 

~ Leon Bly, World Association of Symphonic Bands and Ensembles 

  


 

VIDEO


FANTASIA ON SILENT NIGHT

 

A BLUE STREAK

 

IN FLANDERS FIELDS

 

 

GEARBOX 

 

 

DEAR SARAH

 



RECENT PERFORMANCES


Mar 25, 2014 Texas A&M University Commerce, The Temptation of Saint Anthony

Mar 08, 2014 Northeast CBDNA Conference, West Chester State University, Minton's Playhouse

Apr 24, 2014 University of North Carolina Greensboro, Sinfonietta

Apr 26, 2014 Trinity University, Symphony No. 1 "Blue"

Feb 14, 2015 Interlochen Band, Storyville

Feb 27, 2015 Univ. of Maryland, Congo Square premiere as part of "Three Places in Jazz: Congo Square, Storyville, Minton's Playhouse"

Feb 27, 2015 University of Louisiana at Lafayette, Congo Square

Apr 06, 2015 University of Nevada - Reno, Storyville

Apr 23, 2015 Northeastern State University (OK), Storyville




NEWS

Audio Tracks on SoundCloud

Visit SoundCloud.com to hear full audio of most titles. 

https://soundcloud.com/james-syler



New Work!

CONGO SQUARE for African Drum Quartet and Wind Ensemble


This latest work will have its first of 12 premieres at The University of Maryland on February 27, 2015 in a performance of the trilogy "Three Places in Jazz". The concert will feature Congo Square, along with its companion pieces Storyville and Minton's Playhouse. The work was commissioned by a consortium of 12 universities. Duration: 12'




New Orleans was founded by the French in 1718. Shortly thereafter, the first generation of enslaved arrived. By 1817 a city ordinance was passed confining Sunday slave celebrations to one location - a public space called Congo Square. Throughout its history Congo Square was also the site of public executions, a whipping post, and the buying and selling of slaves. It is a place of conflicting emotions and multi-layered meanings. Another often overlooked reality is the influence of mixed race Creole musicians in New Orleans and Congo Square. During the early 1800's music in New Orleans was often described as more Carribean than African. This unique mix of African, Creole, and Carribean is what I've tried to internalize as I wrote Congo Square. 


The African drum quartet represents the West African influence. It begins by quoting an authentic Konkoba war dance in 3/4. The polyrhythms of the quartet grow in intensity. The middle section quotes Salangadou, an old Creole song about a mother in search of her abducted child. Near the end of the work an early jazz style song emerges in a stomp style as the drummer plays a traditional New Orleans "Second Line" style groove, both of which suggest the new music that will eventually grow out of Congo Square. These three musics - the African drums, a Creole song, and early jazz styles - overlap and sound at the same time to produce the emotional zenith of the work. From the point-of-view of the past, we hear that past, its present, and future music simultaneously. My hope is that it will produce a reflective moment that gives the listener a deeper understanding of the multi-layered realities of Congo Square. The music was completed in November 2014.  


Congo Square was commissioned by:

University of Maryland Wind Orchestra, Michael Votta

Baylor University Wind Ensemble, Eric Wilson

Boston University Wind Ensemble, David J. Martins 

Bowling Green State University Wind Symphony, Bruce Moss

The Eastman Wind Ensemble, Mark Davis Scatterday                

Miami University Wind Ensemble, Gary A. Speck                      

University of Illinois at Chicago Wind Ensemble, José Riojas

University of Louisiana-Lafayette Wind Ensemble, William Hochkeppel

University of Nebraska Wind Ensemble, Carolyn Barber

University of North Carolina at Greensboro, John R. Locke & Kevin M. Geraldi

University of Washington Wind Ensemble, Tim Salzman

West Chester University Wind Ensemble, Andrew Yozviak



THE TEMPTATION OF SAINT ANTHONY

New Chorus & Winds Work



On March 25,  2014 the Texas A&M University Commerce premiered this new work for chorus and winds titled The Temptation of Saint Anthony at the beautiful Meyerson Symphony Hall in Dallas. The work was commissioned by the music department of Texas A&M University Commerce, Phillip Clements, Director of Bands and Randall Hooper, Director of Choral Activities.


Many thanks also to the 180 singers of the combined choruses of Texas A&M University Commerce Chorale & Singers, (Randall Hooper, Conductor), Kilgore College Chorale (Jim Taylor, Conductor), Richland College Chamber Singers (Michael Crawford, Conductor), and the Tarrant County College Northeast Chorale (Bobbie Douglas, Conductor) and the wind ensemble of Texas A&M University Commerce all led from the podium by Phillip Clements. Duration: 17'


Anthony of Egypt (251-356) was a 3rd century hermit, saint, and father of 

monasticism in the early church. His life and account of being tempted and tormented in the Egyptian desert were popularized through the first hand account of Athanasius (296-373) in his book The Life of Antony. Anthony’s dramatic and supernatural reports of temptation and torment have been a source of inspiration for visual artists and writers from the 10th century to the present. The six musical sections of this work are titled by phrases I found memorable from my reading of The Life of Antony (trans. Robert Gregg, Athanasius, Paulist Press). By avoiding a direct depiction of his experiences, I’ve approached the Temptation of St. Anthony as an analogy for the process of temptation - approach, doubt, temptation, torment, relief, and joy. Whatever our temptations may be they can be powerful and full of consequences. I found it interesting that Anthony’s resistance to his temptations caused so much torment, yet in the end his resistance resulted in joy, or as Athanasius wrote “he felt his body contained more might than before.” The music is filled with drama, sensuality, horror, and strangely enough, joy. 



FEATURED COMPOSER at Chicago College of Performing Arts


In April of 2013 I had the distinct honor of visiting, teaching and presenting my work at the Chicago College of Perfoming Arts at Roosevelt University. Under the direction of Stephen Squires, the wind ensemble performed Fields, The Hound of Heaven and the Illinois premiere of Sinfonietta.

 

 

SINFONIETTA 

Recent Work for Wind Ensemble



Completed  in 2012 this one movement,13' abstract work was commissioned by a consortium of 20 colleges and universities. Several premieres have already taken place and the work is now available on rental. The work is in one movement consisting of three sections. It begins with a motive in the timpani that contains the intervallic and rhythmic ideas to be developed - most notably the m3rd and m6th. A lyrical 12-tone theme in 12 measures follows that is developed by way of a fugue, but not a traditional tonic-dominant fugue. Each answer to the subject enters at the m7th, not the 5th. This spiral fugue begins in the clarinets and grows in volume, complexity, and weight to its culmination in the brass. The B section is slower and features oboe and bassoon solos that are developed from the original 12-tone theme. Static woodwinds and keyboard percussion provide background to simple melodic lines. The final C section is Allegro and begins with a traditional fugal treatment in 7/4 of the opening theme featuring the m6th. The music develops and restates the opening themes as it grows in intensity, power, and weight to the end.