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.
Listen & see the score at: http://www.fjhmusic.com/band/b1528.htm
Three movements 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. Grade 3.5.
Duration: 7′ Published by FJH Music.
Listen & see the score at: http://www.fjhmusic.com/band/b1446.htm
“… delightful collection of imaginatively scored melodies lies at the easier end of this grade level.”
~ New Music Reviews from The Instrumentalist Magazine, Jan. 2011
“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
for African Drums and Wind Ensemble
Features four hand drummers playing Bata, Djembe, and Boula drums (substitutes recommended if unavailable). The opening music quotes an authentic Konkoba war dance in 3/4 and grows in intensity. The slower middle section quotes Salangadou, an old Creole song. 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. Very playable by high schools and above. Commissioned by a consortium of 12 universities. Grade 5.
Duration: 12′ Score & Parts for Sale $170 Extra Score $50
Watch & Listen at: https://youtu.be/7VeeA4GzMrY
“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.”
~ William J. Hochkeppel, University of Louisiana
“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
Congo Square score & parts
Congo Square extra score
FANTASIA ON SILENT NIGHT
A re-interpretation of the classic Christmas carol Silent Night. All the elements of the original music have been altered through elongation of the melody, changing the key to minor, changing the meter to 6/8, re-harmonization, and a more polyphonic texture. The result is a dreamy music that extends the wonder and beauty 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.
Watch & Listen at: https://youtu.be/CHf71eN2NUw
“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
Fantasia on Silent Night score & parts
Fantasia on Silent Night extra score
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. Grade 5.
Duration: 11′ Parts Rental $300. Score for Sale $25.
Listen at: https://soundcloud.com/james-syler/fields
“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
Fields parts rental
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. Commissioned and premiered by the San Antonio Symphony, San Antonio, TX 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.
Watch & Listen at: https://youtu.be/JR0YHNaw75c
“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
Gearbox for wind ensemble score & parts
Gearbox for wind ensemble extra score
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.
Duration: 4′ Published by FJH Music.
Listen & see the score at: 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
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. Grade 5.
“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
The Hound of Heaven score & parts
The Hound of Heaven extra score
LOVE AMONG THE RUINS
for Viola and Wind Ensemble
The subject of the work is love as a timeless force, a continuation beyond the grave, a presence amidst personal loss, difficulties, or the ruins of our lives. The title is from the poem Love Among the Ruins by Robert Browning. It features the viola for its color, expressivity and voice. 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 had 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. Grade 5.
Duration: 18′ Score & Parts for Sale $250. Extra Score 30.
Watch & Listen at: https://youtu.be/zWSpq52Uhf4
“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
Love Among the Ruins score & parts
Love Among the Ruins extra score
for Sax Quartet and Wind Ensemble
A modern one movement concerto grosso for sax quartet and wind ensemble 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. Grade 6.
Duration: 10′ Parts Rental $300. Score for Sale $25.
Listen at: https://soundcloud.com/james-syler/mintons-playhouse
“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 Emeritus, Stephen F. Austin State University
Mintons Playhouse parts rental
Mintons Playhouse score
O MAGNUM MYSTERIUM
for Soprano and Wind Ensemble
A transcription completed in 1996 for wind ensemble and solo soprano of the composer’s choral work. Based on the ancient Christmas day text, it attempts to transcend time by simultaneously juxtaposing the birth and death of Christ. Grade 5.
Duration: 12′ Parts Rental $250. Score for Sale $25.
(recording coming soon)
O Magnum Mysterium for soprano and wind ensemble parts rental
O Magnum Mysterium for soprano and wind ensemble score
SILENT SHADOWS TO THE LAST
Three Walt Whitman Poems for Soprano and Band
There are very few works for soprano and grade 3 band. Thanks to Dr. Brett Richardson at the University of the Incarnate Word for leading a consortium of colleges and ensembles to commission this work. The music is technically accessible, yet still artistically mature with a strong lyrical flow. What a joy it was to set these timeless Walt Whitman poems – “Look Down Fair Moon”, “A Clear Midnight”, and “A Prairie Sunset”.
Duration: 9′ Score & Parts $125. Extra Score for Sale $15.
“James Syler has displayed his adept ability to compose a work for wind band and voice where the text is not hidden by the instrumental colors. The work has moments of incredible beauty and lush textures juxtaposed with transparency and clarity. A wonderful addition to the repertoire for band and voice.”
~ Brett Richardson, University of the Incarnate Word
“With his poignant text painting of the amazing poetry of Walt Whitman, James Syler has created a beautiful contribution to the canon of wind band repertoire for ensemble and voice. This composition is worthy of your time and deep exploration!”
~ Brent Allston, Florida International University
Silent Shadows to the Last score & parts
Silent Shadows to the Last extra score
This one movement abstract work is in three sections and begins with a timpani motive containing the intervallic and rhythmic ideas to be developed. A lyrical 12-tone theme follows and is developed by way of a fugue where each entrance is at the m7th 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 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 and power to the end. Completed in 2012 and commissioned by a consortium of 20 university wind ensembles. Grade 5.
Duration: 13′ Parts Rental $300. Score for Sale $30.
Watch & Listen at: https://youtu.be/–Jk8WwNNbM
“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.”
~ Isaiah Odajima, Baylor University
Sinfonietta parts rental
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. Grade 5.
Duration: 17′ Parts Rental $350. Score for Sale $40.
Listen at: https://soundcloud.com/james-syler/storyville-1
“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
Storyville parts rental
The College Band Directors National Association of Louisiana commissioned this new work for which was premiered in January 2019 by the Louisiana Intercollegiate Honor Band. SUITE LOUISIANE is a five movement setting of Louisiana folk songs. This is fun music filled with great tunes and was a joy to write (and research). Details coming soon!
Here’s the audio from the premiere https://youtu.be/gmywbh1fUt4
SYMPHONY NO. 1 “BLUE”
for Soprano, Chorus and Wind Ensemble
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. A minimum of 75 singers is recommended for balance concerns with the winds. The text is available upon request. Grade 5-6.
Duration: 35′ Parts Rental $500. Score for Sale $75
I. Impending Blue https://youtu.be/8kXdSLnH3_Y
II. Dark Blue https://youtu.be/7z7GhucnQIE
III. Fading Blue https://youtu.be/SSP8J76CgNI
IV. Still Point Blue https://youtu.be/sgFJ7FKrp-4
V. True Blue https://youtu.be/n5FXKA_K3rg
“… 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
Symphony No. 1 “Blue” parts rental
Symphony No. 1 “Blue” score
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. Grade 5.
Duration: 8′ Score & Parts for Sale $100. Extra Score 12.
Listen at: https://soundcloud.com/james-syler/tattoo
“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
Tattoo score & parts
Tattoo extra score
THE TEMPTATION OF SAINT ANTHONY
for Chorus and Wind Ensemble
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 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. 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. Grade 5.
Duration: 18′ Parts Rental $400. Score for Sale $60
Watch & Listen at: https://youtu.be/IoYDggCNKw8
“The vocabulary ranges from thorny tone clusters to soaring vocal lines to beautiful traditional harmonies. The effect of the combined choral and instrumental forces is sonically powerful and intensely emotional.”
~ John Silantien, Director of Choral Studies, The University of Texas at San Antonio
The Temptation of Saint Anthony parts rental
The Temptation of Saint Anthony score
Concertino for Two Percussion and Band
The Wu Xing (pronounced wu-hsing) are the traditional Chinese five phases – Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal, and Water. “Wu” refers to the number 5. These five phases also have traditional pitch associations in Western solfege that produce a pentatonic scale and these corresponding harmonies.
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 – 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. Commissioned by a consortium of 22 high schools and colleges. Grade 3-4.
Duration: 10′ Score & Parts for Sale $150. Extra Score $30
Watch & Listen at: https://youtu.be/UORcaK6i2e0
“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.”
~ 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