Welcome! Here's a page filled with helpful information and materials for Alex Shapiro's electroacoustic band piece, PAPER CUT.
If you have purchased the piece and need the audio accompaniment tracks, please click here to email Laura Krider at the American Composers Forum BandQuest offices, and you will receive an email with the information.
Enjoy exploring this page, and email Alex to let her know if you perform the piece: she'll post your concert information on this website!
for wind band,
recycled printer paper,
and prerecorded electronics
composed by Alex Shapiro
2010; Duration 5:00
Commissioned by The American Composers Forum for its BandQuest series.
Published by American Composers Forum and distributed by Hal Leonard Corporation.
"PAPER CUT produces an aural and visual experience that is unmatched for music at this grade level and is easily one of the most original and interesting pieces written at any grade level in recent memory." Jeffrey Gershman, School Band & Orchestra, July 2013
PAPER CUT is distributed by the Hal Leonard Corporation.
Score and parts: HL04003021 $60
Conductor score: HL04003022 $10
Please click on the logo to easily place an online order for the score, audio tracks and parts set.
PAPER CUT ripped it up at the 2011 Midwest Clinic!
The VanderCook College of Music Symphonic Band, conducted by Charles Menghini, performed PAPER CUT on December 16, 2011 at the Midwest Band and Orchestra Clinic held at McCormick Place West in Chicago, Illinois.
Listen to an excerpt of PAPER CUT from
the live performance:
Conductor Charlie Menghini writes:
"Paper Cut is a must for any director wanting to expand the musical horizons of their ensembles. A crowd pleasing work, every young band needs to add this to their repertoire as soon as possible. Your crowds will LOVE it...and so will your students. Enjoy and BRAVO to Alex Shapiro for this great addition to the educational band repertoire."
PAPER CUT is among the pieces on VanderCook College's 2011 CD, The 65th Annual Midwest Clinic, on Mark Records. Click CD for more info.
Alex rehearsing with the students at Friday Harbor Middle School
on San Juan Island, Washington.
Program note for Paper Cut
What do teenagers like? Video games, TV, and movies. What do all these media have in common? Music!
I was thrilled to have a chance to add to the educational band music repertoire, thanks to the American Composers Forum's terrific BandQuest series. In my desire to compose something relevant to younger players, I decided to create a piece that sounds somewhat like a movie soundtrack, to which the musicians can imagine their own dramatic scene. I also thought it would be fun to make the kids themselves part of the action, and so "Paper Cut" has the band doing choreographed maneuvers that look as compelling as they sound. In fact, the band members don't even play their instruments until halfway into the piece.
Music isn't just melody; it's rhythm and texture as well. The unusual element of paper and the myriad sounds that can emerge from something so simple, offer a fresh view of what music-making can be and opens everyone's ears to the sonic possibilities found among everyday objects.
With a nod to environmentalism, "Paper Cut" might even remind people to avoid waste and recycle. Players can collect paper that would have otherwise ended up in the trash, and bring it to rehearsals. The piece might even be therapeutic, as students can take out their aggressions by ripping up bad grades and test scores!
Although "Paper Cut" was composed with middle schoolers in mind, it's also suited to more advanced musicians, since the paper techniques and the skill of playing against a prerecorded track are interesting for all ages. I'm delighted to introduce a new approach to concert wind band repertoire, and I hope that conductors and band members have as much fun with this piece as I had creating it.
Alex Shapiro, electronics and mix engineering. Jerry Luckhardt, session producer.
STREAMING MP3 file of the full recording of PAPER CUT.
DOWNLOAD MP3 file of the full recording of PAPER CUT (8MB).
The University of Minnesota Symphonic Band was recorded on October 29th, 2010 at Ted Mann Concert Hall, with Craig Kirchhoff, conducting.
Alex Shapiro, electronics and mix engineering. Jerry Luckhardt, session producer.
NOTES, TECH GUIDE, and CURRICULUM
In late 2013, Alex Shapiro decided to slightly adjust the tempo, and speed the track up from quarter note = 88, to quarter note = 96, to make the music even more exciting and fun to play.
Subsequent published editions of PAPER CUT include the markings for the new tempo and track timings; nothing in the music itself has been altered. The total performance time is now 5:00.
If you purchased the first edition of PAPER CUT, the pdf to the right includes a list of the changes that can be entered into your conductor score. Please email BandQuest’s Laura Krider at LKrider@composersforum.org with any questions.
Click on the icon at right for the Paper Cut instrumentation list, program notes, rehearsal suggestions, and a diagram of the audio setup. See what this piece is all about!
Please note that this is a REPLACEMENT for the notes published with the first edition of the score set, and we encourage you to download it. And, please substitute the references to "quarter = 88," with "quarter = 96".
Here's something VERY helpful: a complete guide to the software and hardware setup for your band room and performance venue.
Click the zip file icon at right to download the wonderful curriculum materials which BandQuest developed for PAPER CUT. These include rhythm practice and warm-ups, three lessons for creating music, interdisciplinary lessons and readings, and assessment strategies.
Rainbow paper in place, for the LGBAC performance at Symphony Space in New York City,
April 11, 2015! Photo by Brian Luke.
The addition of a drum set part is encouraged:
A drum set part was added to PAPER CUT in 2011. If your score and parts set does not include this part, you may download a pdf of the part below.
The drummer should feel free to add the equivalent of a rock-style drum set part beginning with an intro fill on toms starting at measure 52 that leads into a steady rock beat at measure 53 (when the instruments first enter). Additional fills can be played at phrase endings.
The part can be split between separate players on hihat, snare, and toms, but if you have a drum set handy and a solid player, that works best. Once the drummer is tied in well to the tempo and feel of the track, it helps keep the band together.
During the paper playing sections beginning at bars 20 and 28, musicians often have a tendency to rush (no kidding-- see video below-- everyone does!). Here's a helpful technique: after the group that first raises the paper above their heads to play the initial tapping figure lowers their hands to their laps before raising them again, have them subtly continue to tap the "answer" figure as the responding players do so over their own heads. This may help to keep players from rushing to the next entrance, and therefore keep everyone aligned with the track.
When the "crescendo rip" section arrives at bar 37, musicians should ham it up, and physically exaggerate the drama of tearing through the paper. Again, this is something that will look very cool to the audience, even if it seems a little odd for the players.
This is a visual piece! It's VERY important that each time the musicians play the paper, unless otherwise indicated they should hold the paper VERY HIGH above their heads, so that the audience can see the effect! This also ensures that the paper techniques can be heard, since if they're played low and into the music stands, they won't have nearly the same effect!
PAPER CUT includes some very high, sustained phrases for the woodwinds that are meant to challenge younger musicians-- but not be TOO uncomfortable. So please allow any player of piccolo, flute and clarinet to play an octave lower if they desire. Specifically, if preferable:
The piccolo and flutes can play down an octave in bars 72- 103.
The clarinets can play down an octave in bars 84-87, and in bar 95.
As a band director, please feel free to be as experimental and creative as you wish with this piece! It naturally lends itself to any lighting, choreography or other multimedia additions you can think of!
If desired, the musicians can use their mouths and voices to imitate and bolster the sound of the paper being ripped in measures 36-43.
Please avoid converting the performance track file to a lower quality MP3 file.
Suggestions for an even better performance:
The synchronization of the band with the accompaniment track is paramount, and too often, if the percussion section diverts from the tempo, the rest of the band will naturally follow them because it's likely that they're louder than what's being heard on the stage monitors. THUS: if at all possible, please either have your percussionists wear earbuds playing back the track with the click, just as the conductor hears, or, set up one or two stage monitors (playing back the track without the click) very close to the percussion section, in addition to those that face the rest of the band.
It's imperative that the volume of the track equals that of the band, to create a seamless melding of sound. However, the added "washiness" and textures of an accompaniment track can cause the live instrumentalists to become too covered up and not sound as "present. " It's recommended that the musicians should over-emphasize the dynamic and articulation markings in their parts, to ensure the most musical result.
The goal is for the track and the band to be at about the same volume level, so that the audience hears them as one instrument. However this balance will never be quite as apparent to the musicians! Playing to a track that is difficult to hear is a challenge, and it helps to encourage the students by reassuring them that, like movie actors who must perform on an empty stage in front of a green screen so that effects can later be added behind them, they are the musical equivalent of these actors!
Errata from the initial 2010 printing:
Electric bass, measure 88: raise Eb up an octave assuming that the player's instrument doesn't go that low.
Alto saxophone part at bar 35: everyone who previously (at bar 32) crumpled paper, needs a new flat sheet to rip at bar 36. So it should say "TO NEW FLAT SHEET" at bar 35, and then at bar 36 the box should read, "NEW FLAT SHEET: crescendo rip down length of paper". Delete the "TO NEW FLAT SHEET" indication at bar 38, and change the box indication at bar 39 from "NEW FLAT SHEET: crescendo rip" to "SAME FLAT SHEET: crescendo rip".
Tuba, measure 93: can be taken down an octave if preferred.
Vibes, measure 72: hard mallets will sound best.
Errata from the second 2013 edition:
Everyone playing paper in bar 79 should also play a quarter note downbeat of paper at m. 80.
Trumpet 1: m. 85-86, please add ties to the note.
Trombone 2, Cymbals, Snare, and Bass drum: m. 87, please add two 16th note paper-playing pick ups into m. 88., to match Bass clarinet and Baritone sax.
Electric bass and Vibraphone: m. 96, please add a tie into 96 to a half note, to match the rest of the band.
Rehearsal track playback:
Band rehearsal rooms tend to emphasize the bass frequencies in the accompaniment track. If the playback system you use has a way to boost the treble response and somewhat lessen the bass response, please do so if desired.
A version of the accompaniment track with a click for rehearsal and for the conductor can be obtained here
Bring Alex right into your band room:
Alex Shapiro loves to use Skype video sessions to interact with bands! These "Skypehearsals" allow her to talk with the students about the origins and creation of this unusual piece, answer any questions the musicians might have, and offer them a genuine connection with a living composer. The fee for one or more Skypehearsals is very reasonable-- email Alex if you would like to schedule one for your band. Read more about Skypehearsals and see some examples, including the view Alex loves to share, here.
In an adorable video from Saudi Arabia, made by band director Brian White's students in March 2014
at the Saudi Aramco Schools, the students promise Alex that they won't rush the paper playing at bars 20 and 28!
Alex addressing the audience at the Friday Harbor, WA premiere, 5/25/10.
Click to enlarge these pages from the conductor score for PAPER CUT.
In a recent interview Alex gave to the organization Composers & Schools in Concert, she expressed her enthusiasm about professional musicians working with young students, and enhancing the repertoire for high school bands. Read what Alex had to say about the initial inspiration behind PAPER CUT
Enjoy a conversation between Alex and conductor Kelly Watkins, prior to the Lesbian & Gay Big Apple Corps performance of PAPER CUT at Symphony Space in New York City
Alex has written an extensive two-part article about electroacoustic band music and the uses of multimedia in the concert world. The essay, titled The e-Frontier: Music, Multimedia, Education, and Audiences in the Digital World echoes the presentations she gave at The 2013 Midwest Clinic and the 2014 TMEA convention, and appears in the June and September 2014 issues of the magazine of the World Association for Symphonic Bands and Ensembles, WASBE World. The pdf is offered here with the very kind permission of the organization.
Email Laura Krider for the password necessary to download the free accompaniment track for Paper Cut. You will receive two versions: one for performance, and another that has a click track mixed in with it, to use in rehearsal, and for the conductor's earbuds.
For players: now you can practice the piece at home!
Each file is large, and will take a few moments to download. PLEASE WAIT until the ENTIRE file has downloaded into your browser before attempting to download it to your computer. And remember: the password and access code are case-sensitive. Thank you!
.aif file of the PERFORMANCE accompaniment track recording for PAPER CUT (NO CLICK; 52 MB).
Alex Shapiro, electronics.
.aif file of the CONDUCTOR accompaniment track recording for PAPER CUT, with click track (WITH CLICK; 52 MB).
Alex Shapiro, electronics.
It's greatly preferred that the tracks above be used in performance, but if you don't have access to an audio interface, a multichannel file is available. Please email Alex for the access code.
MULTICHANNEL .aif file with the CLICK and the PERFORMANCE accompaniment tracks for PAPER CUT (Quadraphonic; 104 MB; please refer to info in tech setup guide pdf above).
Alex Shapiro, electronics.
Paper Cut conductor Craig Kirchhoff and Alex, crumpled ball of paper in hand,
at the University of Minnesota recording session, October 2010.
For press information and general questions, please contact:
Manager of Education and Community Engagement
American Composers Forum
Skypehearsals and Residencies:
Skype is a wonderful tool for affordably bringing Alex into your rehearsal of PAPER CUT, without having to book a plane flight! She has a great time coaching students on becoming expert paper players, and the difference between their musicianship at the beginning of the rehearsal and that by the end less than an hour later, is remarkable. Best of all, Skypehearsals connect musicians to the real person-- and the funny stories-- behind the notes (and shreds) on the music stands.
Alex is also available for in-person residencies to work with school bands.
A December 2012 Skypehearsal with Alex in her studio on San Juan Island, and band director Mary Bauer and Mt. Mansfield Union High School in Vermont, rehearsing PAPER CUT.
Alex flanked by University of Minnesota conductor and Paper Cut recording producer
Jerry Luckhardt, left, and Owatonna High School band director Peter Guenther, right.
At the December 2017 Midwest Clinic in Chicago, Alex spoke with Sean Smith, the Assistant Director of Athletic Bands at the University of Illinois and the producer of its One More Time podcast series. The show focuses on women in the band world and features Alex describing how she came up with the idea for PAPER CUT (and proving that women are just as equally capable as men at suffering from writer's block!)
The link to the full show, beginning with interviews with Carol Berthold, Dr. Courtney Snyder, Dr. Andrea Brown, Prof. Paula Crider, and Dr. Emily Threinen, is HERE.
You can listen to Alex's segment about PAPER CUT, HERE.
"It means a lot to me to not only teach music, but to also teach values that I think are important. Your piece, PAPER CUT, has honestly been one of my favorites in my four years of teaching.
Not only did we create the music, but your piece opened the door for so much more. We had the age old, "What is music?" conversation. Is paper music? We created action plans about the school paper usage and recycling after bringing in a waste management professional to speak to the band. The conversation about reducing our ecological footprint is more critical than ever!
We also live in an area of Wisconsin where paper mills are everywhere. I took the students on a tour to learn about the jobs, learn how paper was made, and made our own recycled paper for the concert. The more I got into the piece, the more I wanted to teach. I could not think of another piece that can do so much, and I can't wait to teach it again very soon."
Band director, Kaukauna High School
See the creative black-light treatment that band director Peter Guenther came up with when his students in the Owatonna 9th Grade Band performed "Paper Cut" at the Minnesota Music Educators Association Mid-Winter Clinic, at the Minneapolis Convention Center on February 18th, 2011 (the first edition of the piece had a tempo of quarter = 88, heard here, and was later changed to quarter = 96):
Peter Guenther started a trend! Here's another choreographed, black-lite performance of "Paper Cut" all the way from Singapore, with the Singapore American School Tiger Band conducted by Brian White, in May 2011 (the first edition of the piece had a tempo of quarter = 88, heard here, and was later changed to quarter = 96):
And one more visually compelling performance, at the current quarter = 96 tempo, from the West Aurora High School Symphonic Band, conducted by John Sierakowski in October 2015:
Want some advice for setting up your own black light performance? Here is a helpful guide from Peter Guenther:
In case you're wondering what this piece looks like in the light, the video below is band director Jonathan Rehmert with the Jackson Middle School Symphonic Winds, performing on February 5, 2018, at OMEA (the Ohio Music Education Association)
conference at Capital University:
Here's an adult band, the LGBAC, conducted by Kelly Watkins, performing at Symphony Space in New York City, April 2015:
Want to learn the paper playing techniques? See Alex explain how to be a paper virtuoso (clip length: 4:48):
Alex demystifies the electronic element of PAPER CUT (clip length: 1:22):
Alex describes the process of working with a prerecorded track (clip length: 1:27):
Alex describes the process of conducting to a prerecorded track (clip length: 2:09):
Alex discusses the inspiration behind PAPER CUT (clip length: 00:34):
Alex talks about what students can learn from PAPER CUT (clip length: 1:31):
Guess what Alex would like to do next with PAPER CUT? (clip length: 1:41):
And finally, to complete the exploration of All Things Paper (and give you someone to laugh with), here's something that Eugene Migliaro Corporon shared with Alex after he conducted PAPER CUT in June 2014 for its inclusion in "Teaching Music Through Performance in Band, Vol. 10" (clip length: 1:44):
THE REHEARSAL and PREMIERE
Watch Alex work with the 7th graders at the Friday Harbor Middle school:
Watch Alex talk to the audience and introduce PAPER CUT at its Friday Harbor, WA premiere, May 25, 2010:
We've been collecting videos of PAPER CUT and adding them to a favorites list on Alex's YouTube channel. You can see and hear what other bands have done with the piece by clicking here.
Do YOU have an uploaded video of PAPER CUT to share? Let us know by emailing Alex: click here.
PAPER CUT was given its world premiere on May 25th, 2010 by the Friday Harbor Middle School Band, and was rewarded with a standing ovation from a packed house of over 300 people at the San Juan Island Community Theater (hey, that's a significant percentage of the tiny island's residents!). Thanks to all the students, and most of all to band director Janet Olsen!
Special thanks to Carey Nadeau, Suzanna Altman, Craig Carnahan and John Nuechterlein of the American Composers Forum for making this project possible, to Craig Kirchhoff and Jerry Luckhardt for making the recording a success, and to Thomas Duffy for his continuing vision for the BandQuest series.
Janet Olsen rehearsing with the students at Friday Harbor Middle School,
San Juan Island, Washington.
When Alex drove up to the entrance of Washington State's Kingston High School in June 2012 for her residency for their performance of Paper Cut, she was given a warm welcome by band director Adam Campagna and the students' efforts, both pictured above, thus making her a rock star-- at least for a few really fun days.
There's a lot more Shapiro band music to hear!
Head on over to THIS PAGE for an overview of Alex's wind band pieces. You can listen to each one, read all about it via a link, and if desired, request a free pdf perusal score. Have fun!