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JAMES SYLER

C O M P O S E R

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Cantique 

Cantique is the French form of the Latin word canticle meaning a song or hymn. This work was written to accentuate long lyrical lines and attention to a legato style, yet remain playable by ensembles with limited range and technique. The work uses a modified arch form consisting of ABC-A-CBA. The introductory A section is repeated at the zenith before recapitulating in the reverse the B and C sections. The A section appears again at the end as a coda and brings the work to a quiet ending. Grade 3.

Duration: 6'  Published by FJH Music. To hear and see the score visit http://www.fjhmusic.com/band/b1528.htm

 

 

Country Bandstand

Three movements loosely based on American folk songs that suggest the sounds of the traditional town bandstand.  The first movement is a march based on the Southern folk song Batchelor's Hall. The second movement is a slow chorale setting of the folk hymn Vernon and the third movement transforms the folk tune Happy Land into a rousing barn dance. Completed in 2002 and published through FJH Music. Grade 3.5.

Duration: 7'  Published by FJH Music. To hear and see the score visit http://www.fjhmusic.com/band/b1446.htm

 

“… delightful collection of imaginatively scored melodies lies at the easier end of this grade level.”

“Highly Recommended” in New Music Reviews of The Instrumentalist Magazine, Jan. 2011, p.36

 

"The Bishop Ireton High School Wind Ensemble commission of Country Bandstand was a popular piece among my students. Although this piece was one of many commissions I recorded with the Washington Winds, the musicians ranked this piece as the most fun to play!" 

~ Garwood Whaley, Conductor Emeritus, Bishop Ireton High School, President Meredith Music Publications 

 


Congo Square for African Drums and Wind Ensemble  NEW!

Listen at: https://soundcloud.com/james-syler/congo-square


This work uses four hand drummers playing Bata, Djembe, and Boula drums (substitutes recommended in the score if not available) in front of the ensemble. The opening music quotes an authentic Konkoba war dance in 3/4. The polyrhythms of the drums 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 to suggest the new music that will eventually grow out of Congo Square. These three musics - African drums, a Creole song, and early jazz - overlap to produce the emotional zenith of the work as you hear the past, present, and future simultaneously. In the end, the African drums get the last word. Very playable by high schools and above. Grade 5. Commissioned by a consortium of 12 universities. Will be available for sale after May 1, 2016.

Duration: 12'   Score & Parts for Sale $170   Extra Score $50


“A marvelous composition that successfully combines history, a palpable sense of place and time, and musical evolution. The chance to incorporate authentic African drumming with very playable wind writing is novel and effective. Audiences were moved and enthusiastic after hearing this fine new work.”

 ~ William J. Hochkeppel, University of Louisiana 


Congo Square was a wonderful juxtaposition of percussion soloists and wind ensemble. The sonorities in the wind ensemble and rhythmic complexities of the solo parts were beautifully weaved together.”

~ David Martins, Boston University


Congo Square is a kaleidoscope of powerfully evocative musical elements. Syler has a unique talent for distilling the spirit of a place and time into sound, and overlaying and juxtaposing various eras to create a three-dimensional sonic portrait. The result is imaginative, compelling, and deeply moving.”

~ Carolyn Barber, University of Nebraska



Fantasia on Silent Night 

This fantasia is a re-interpretation of the classic Christmas carol Silent Night. All the basic elements of the music have been altered - elongation of the melody, changing the key to minor, re-harmonization of the chord progression, changing the meter to 6/8, a more polyphonic texture through canon and counterpoint, and a final reharmonized chorale. The result is music that is dreamy in character and attempts to extend the wonder and beautiful simplicity of the original carol. Completed in 2011 and commissioned by a consortium of 11 community bands. Something different for holiday concerts. Grade 3.

Duration: 5'30"   Score & Parts for Sale $80.   Extra Score 15.

 

“The performance of your Fantasia on Silent Night was excellent! I think your Fantasia is the type of composition that grows on you. Each time we rehearsed it I liked it even more. ,,, and we received a very positive response from the audience.”

~ George Zoske, Conductor, Sun City Concert Band, Arizona

 

“ It made an extremely nice addition to our holiday repertoire. Overall, I think it is a very nice work and hope that you will get many future performances out of it.”
~ Ted Vives, Conductor, Los Alamos Community Winds, NM 

 

"Fantasia was quite well received by both audience and ensemble. Thanks for another nice addition to the repertoire."

~ Charlie Conrad, Conductor, Indiana Wind Symphony


 

 

 

Fields

A dark abstract adagio that exploits the sonorities of the woodwind and brass choirs by separating them on stage. Further spatial sound is achieved through an off-stage right flugelhorn and off-stage left percussion. A dramatic quiet ending fuses together blocks of woodwind and brass chords. Uses asynchronous events and layers of sound to create an Ivesian numinous sound world. Completed in 1994 and commissioned by the Air Force Band of Flight, Dayton, Ohio. Also available for orchestra.  

Duration: 11'   Parts Rental $300.   Score for Sale $25. 


Fields remains one of the most prominent works for wind band on my Core Repertoire list. 

James Syler is a master at exploiting sonic resources to create musical images of depth and poignancy as well as joy and sanctity.” 

~ Richard L. Johnson, Coastal Carolina University 



 

Gearbox

An energetic, brassy and lyrical overture-like work that evokes repetitive mechanical sounds and the singing lines that emerge out of them. Develops a simple motive through canon, repetition, counterpoint and lyricism. This version for wind ensemble is a transcription from the original orchestral score. Originally commissioned and premiered by the San Antonio Symphony, San Antonio, Texas in 2009, James Judd, conducting. In memory of my father Robert Syler (1933-2007) - a lover of cars, driving and all things mechanical.

Duration: 8'   Score & Parts for Sale $125.   Extra Score 25.

 

"The world premiere of 'Gearbox' for orchestra was a pleasant surprise ... Syler's composition thrilled the audience with a brassy ride in a well-tuned machine."

~ David Hendricks, San Antonio Express News

 

"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." 

~ Craig Doolin, San Antonio Symphony Program Notes



Hocus Pocus (JW Pepper Editor's Choice)

Mischief and fun abound in this magical work that evokes images of young wizards. A mystical opening features flute and percussion before moving into a tarantella, a fast dance in 6/8 that almost has a delirious character to it. Themes collide, intensity rises, and pulse quickens as the music moves forward at a feverish rate. Grade 3.5-4.

Duration: 4'  Published by FJH Music. To hear and see the score visit http://www.fjhmusic.com/band/b1553.htm

 

 

The Hound of Heaven

~ Winner of the 1993 National Band Association Award

~ Winner of the 1993 Arnald Gabriel Award 

I. Movement

II. Movement

III. Movement

IV. Movement

V. Movement

VI. Movement

Winner of the 1993 National Band Association Award and the 1993 Arnald Gabriel Award sponsored by the United States Air Force Band. For many years only available in manuscript on rental. Now available for purchase with a newly engraved score and parts. A programmatic symphony in six movements based on the poem of the same name by poet Francis Thompson. Features a solo antiphonal trumpet and an eclectic mix of styles to emphasize the poem's drama. Minimalism, 12-tone writing, post-romanticism, tonality and atonality exist side by side and are held together by the work's melodic through-line.

Duration: 18'   Score & Parts for Sale $195.   Extra Score $60.

 

“I listened to your work ‘The Hound of Heaven’ and I like it!  I think it’s imaginative and evocative and hope it receives many performances.”

~ Morton Gould, Distinguished American Composer

 

“The Hound of Heaven” is a masterfully crafted work by the gifted young composer, James Syler. It is a challenging composition destined to enrich the contemporary repertoire with its imaginative and innovative effects.”

~ Arnald D. Gabriel, Conductor Emeritus, United States Air Force Band

 


Hymn for Emanuel

Listen at: https://soundcloud.com/james-syler/hymn-for-emanuel


In July 2015 I received a special call from conductor Dr. Richard Johnson at Coastal Carolina University in Conway, South Carolina to write a new work commemorating those who died in this past summer’s tragic shooting at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston. The work was premiered November 17 by the at Coastal Carolina University Band and is now for sale. The work builds to the end and nine student narrators read the names of the victims. All proceeds from the sale of the work will be donated to the Emanuel AME Church. Grade 3

Duration: 7'    Score & Parts for Sale $95     Extra Score $10



Love Among the Ruins for Viola and Wind Ensemble  NEW!
Listen at: https://soundcloud.com/james-syler/love-among-the-ruins-for-viola

The subject in this work is love as a timeless force. Its continuation in our lives beyond the grave, throughout time and space, and amidst the personal loss, difficulties, or ruins of our lives. The title is from the poem Love Among the Ruins by Robert Browning. This is not a concerto in the traditional sense, but rather a work that features the viola for its color, expressivity, and voice within a narrative. That narrative is left to the listener. I use a transformational technique where music that appears in the beginning is gradually transformed into new ideas which are then transformed into even newer ideas. It is always evolving as a metaphor for love as a transforming force. It also borrows from a previous work titled Fields that I've always felt there was more to say before and after it. The phrase by the Roman poet Virgil seems to have become appropriate for this work - "Amor Vincit Omnia" (Love Conquers All)

The music was commissioned by a consortium of 14 colleges led by Dr. Matthew Schlomer, Director of Bands at the Interlochen Arts Academy, Interlochen, MI. Duration: 18'   Score & Parts for Sale $250.   Extra Score 30.

Love Among the Ruins seems to achieve the impossible with a perfect orchestration for viola soloist and wind ensemble. This wonderfully patient work takes the audience to an intimate sense of introspection that is incredibly rare in our repertoire. Our audience was talking about it for weeks after the premiere.”

~ Matthew Schlomer, Interlochen Center for the Arts


“… a richly textured work that probes the wonderful sonic possibilities of the winds/solo viola combination. This music is personal, heartfelt, and full of sustained lines, and, above all, beautifully melodic."

~ Paul Bhasin, Emory University


... a moving and poignant work full of beautiful colors and evocative melodies. Distinctive in its scoring and musical content, the piece is a most welcome addition to the repertoire and will fit very nicely into virtually any concert program.”

~ Scott Weiss, University of South Carolina



Minton's Playhouse for Sax Quartet and Wind Ensemble

A modern one movement concerto grosso for sax quartet and orchestra that explores the connection between the Baroque and bebop jazz. Inspired by the famous 1940's New York jazz club in a "third stream" type setting. No improvisation required. Also available for orchestra. Completed in 1994 and commissioned by the United States Air Force Band, Washington, DC.

Duration: 10'   Parts Rental $300.   Score for Sale $25.

 

"What a romp! Any serious conductor who's also a true lover of bebop should know about this work. It's eclectic, but great fun - artistically conceived and skillfully orchestrated."
~ Stephen Squires, Conductor, Chicago College of Performing Arts 

 

"The audience thoroughly enjoyed the fresh sounds of this piece. Syler has achieved a pleasing marriage of the bebop idiom and the sonic possibilities of the wind band. His use of simultaneous musics is extremely effective."

~ Fred Allen, Director of Bands, Stephen F. Austin State University

 

  

O Magnum Mysterium  for Soprano and Wind Ensemble

A transcription completed in 1996 for wind ensemble and solo soprano of the composers choral work. Based on the ancient Christmas day text, it attempts to transcend time and space by juxtaposing the birth and death of Christ within a one movement form.

Duration: 12'   Parts Rental $250.   Score for Sale $25.

 

 

Sinfonietta 

This one movement abstract work is in three sections and begins with a timpani motive containing the intervallic and rhythmic ideas to be developed - most notably the m3rd and m6th. A lyrical 12-tone theme follows and is developed by way of a fugue where each entrance is at the m7th, not the P5th, creating a perpetual spiral fugue. It grows in volume, complexity, and weight to its culmination in the brass. The B section is slower and features oboe and bassoon solos 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. The music develops and restates the opening as it grows in intensity, power, and weight to the end. Completed in 2012 and commissioned by a consortium of 20 university wind ensembles.

Duration: 13'   Parts Rental $300.    Score for Sale $30.


“I was impressed with how performers enjoyed the process and exploration of the fugue during our rehearsals. The themes presented reveal outstanding construction and provide beautiful opportunities for expression. The middle section stretched the ensemble with its demand for sensitivity, a quality I find important for the medium. This Sinfonietta holds a unique place in the oeuvre of wind band literature. I look forward to programming this work again in the future!”

~ Isaiah Odajima, Baylor University


 

Storyville

A one movement "third stream" type symphonic poem. Early jazz styles and contemporary devices are used in a modern setting to intensify the realities of Storyville - the infamous New Orleans prostitution district. No improvisation required. The work is dramatic with a sense of sadness and spaciousness. Completed in 1996 and commissioned by a consortium of 9 universities.  

Duration: 17'   Parts Rental $350.   Score for Sale $40.

 

"Through a brilliant use of the wind ensemble colors, Syler has captured the expression of Storyville and its people. He is a truly gifted and creative composer whose contributions to wind band literature are to be cherished. ‘Storyville’ is a particularly moving and emotional experience."

~ Bobby Francis, Conductor, Texas Christian University, Fort Worth



Symphony No. 1 "Blue"  for Soprano, Chorus and Wind Ensemble

(Performance by the University of Miami Wind Ensemble and Chorus, Gary Green, conductor, Maryann Kyle, Soprano)

I. Movement

II. Movement

III. Movement

IV. Movement

V. Movement

A five movement choral symphony for solo soprano, SATB chorus and wind ensemble based on a text by the composer. The narrative text, "Blue", is rooted in the notion of the loss of hope and the process of reconnecting with it. The music is carefully orchestrated to avoid inherent balance problems between winds and voices. Oratorio-like and dramatic in nature. Completed in 1999 and commissioned by a consortium of 42 university wind ensembles. With one per-part winds, a minimum of 75 singers is recommended. Click here to view the entire text: Blue PDF 

Duration: 35'    Parts Rental $500.   Score for Sale $75

 

“... 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 that could be associated with such a title.”

~ Leon Bly, World Association of Symphonic Bands and Ensembles Newsletter, Vol. XV Number 1

 

Listen to an interview from Mississippi Public Radio

(University of Southern Mississippi, Tom Fraschillo, conductor. Broadcast 11/05/2003)

 


 

 

Tattoo

Built on the techniques of minimalism, this work separates the timbre and color of the woodwind and brass choirs. The woodwinds begin by playing repeated fragments that create a shifting contrapuntal texture along a steady pulse. The brass are divided into stage-right and stage-left choirs and play out-of time with the woodwinds. As the music develops and the energy builds they come together to drive the music to its climax. Optional 2 conductors. Completed in 2005 and commissioned by a consortium of 20 university wind ensembles.

Duration: 8'    Score & Parts for Sale $100.   Extra Score 12.

 

"James Syler has written an ingenious and fascinating minimalist work... This is a great work to introduce your players to the aleatoric world of Steve Reich and his colleagues. Highly recommended."

~ Tim Reynish, Conductor Emeritus, Royal Northern College of Music, England


 

The Temptation of Saint Anthony  for Chorus and Wind Ensemble

Listen at: https://soundcloud.com/james-syler/the-temptation-of-saint-anthony-for-chorus-and-winds


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, 1980). 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. The music is filled with drama, sensuality, horror, and strangely enough, joy.

Duration: 18'    Parts Rental $400.   Score for Sale $60



Wu Xing Concertino for Two Percussion and Band  NEW!

(Recording coming soon)


The Wu Xing (pronounced wu-hsing) are the traditional Chinese five phases - Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal, and Water. “Wu” refers to the number 5 and “Xing”. These five phases also have traditional pitch associations in Western solfege that produce a pentatonic scale and these corresponding harmonies. 

          Metal - Water - Wood - Fire - Earth   

             re          la        mi       sol      do

              ii           vi         iii        V         I 

in Bb:  Cm        Gm      Dm       F        Bb

        

The resulting chord progression of Cm Gm Dm F Bb briefly appears at the beginning of the "Wood" section and is repeated in the last "Earth" section as the culmination of the Wu Xing concept. The number 5 is referred to throughout the idea of Wu Xing and I have used it here in a variety of musical ways - 5-measure phrases, 5-note harmonies, a 5-note melody, 5-note rhythms, etc. The work features two solo percussionists playing a variety of sounds organized by instruments made of, or representing, metal, water, wood, fire, and earth. The final "Earth" section uses two bass drums playing a 5-note rhythm, in five phrases, of five rhythms each, that grows in power to the end. Very playable by high schools and above. Grade 3/4. Commissioned by a consortium of 22 high schools and colleges. 

Duration: 10'   Score & Parts for Sale $150.   Extra Score $30


"Wu Xing is a versatile, colorful work that fills a much-needed spot in the wind band repertoire. Musically enriching and technically accessible, our ensemble has had a wonderful time collaborating on the piece. Through its thoughtfully constructed sections and inherent energy, Syler has created yet another composition of real value."   

~ Dr. John Zarco, The University of Texas at San Antonio


Wu Xing has it all! The energy and colors that Syler includes appeal to the performer and audience member alike. This work is highly accessible to a wide range of groups, yet offers a collaborative experience that musicians of all ages can’t help but to grow from. Wu Xing is a truly worthy addition

~ Dan Harbaugh, Mt. Vernon High School, Mt. Vernon, Missouri