Enjoy a virtual video performance of OFF THE EDGE that was premiered on March 20, 2021 by the musicians of the North Carolina South Central District Bandmasters Association Middle School All-District Band, and beautifully edited by Ryan J. Williams.
Additional thanks go to Joshua K. Potter, Lisa Ratchford, and Ruth Petersen, the former director of bands at Bailey Middle School in Cornelius, North Carolina-- one of the participating commissioning schools for James Mobely's N-BEAM project!
The edges of a harbor seal hang over the edges
of a shoreline rock in the San Juan Islands.
THE PROGRAM NOTE
What happens when a composer who loves the pop music of the '80s and '90s hangs out in dance clubs blasting Euro-disco house music in the 2010s? OFF THE EDGE offers a 140 bpm-thumping, EDM-jumping clue!
PROGRAM BIO for Alex Shapiro
The edges of a rainbow
meet the edges of San Juan Island.
ADDITIONAL NOTES & RESOURCES
The accompaniment track is produced like a house mix and should be played back LOUDLY! It also adds a complex set of syncopations to the piece, while the percussion players keep a steady beat (we hope).
The driving, metronomic kick drum in the track is crucial to the feel of the piece, so if the player on the kick drum part doesn't have an accurate beat, ask them to play only the downbeats (between m. 45 and m. 64, and m. 72 to m. 102).
Because the track is mixed to be loud throughout, don't hesitate to have everyone play louder than marked in their parts during the following sections:
mm.16-25: mark to start at MF and cresc. from there to F.
mm. 33-45: mark F.
mm. 45-53: mark to start at MF and cresc. from there to F.
mm. 61-65: start at F and cresc. to FF.
mm. 71-79: start at F and cresc. to FF.
The piece is at a snappy tempo (unrelenting quarter note = 140). Because the music is designed along the lines of a pop tune, it's very sectional and motive-driven. Included in the score is a page, as pictured below, that maps out the themes and motives and will assist with getting the students comfortable with the rhythms and fingerings a few bars at a time, starting at a slower rehearsal tempo.
I encourage the band directors to make the demo recording of the piece (found at the top of this page) available to all their students, so that they can listen and absorb the syncopated rhythms. In fact, a good way to start the first rehearsal is to blast the demo recording in the band room. I've also made the accompaniment track (with the click track) available to them so that they can practice at home and annoy their parents. Invite them to email me for the access code.
OFF THE EDGE is fun for players of any age, but for younger musicians it will be especially useful for introducing them to playing syncopated motives on the off beat.
One way to begin rehearsals is to set a metronome to any slower tempo, and count measures in 8ths: one AND two AND three AND four AND. Have the musicians sing or clap out their parts to better understand the pulse, the subdivision of 8th notes, and the off-beat nature of many of their entrances and phrases. One specific performance note: it's important for the clarinets and anyone else with the ostinato to pay attention to the accents and articulations, because that will make or break the groove feel.
A fun performance suggestion is to have some or all of the musicians pop up out of their seats and start dancing or moving (in place) with the music during the break, from mm. 79-87. Audiences love the unexpected (and it's a great way for the musicians to literally blow off some steam)!
I am truly grateful for the vision that James Mobley had in 2016, when he decided that the young musicians of the wind band world needed to have more electroacoustic works created for them, other than just PAPER CUT! My enormous thanks to the 35 adventurous band directors and their schools, who participated in the creation of this and the other two pieces of the N-BEAM Consortium, Benjamin Taylor's TECHNO BLADE, and Daniel Montoya Jr.'s AXE TO GRIND. And yes, when choosing a title, I decided to stick to the unplanned theme of, "sharp and dangerous things"!
Here's something VERY helpful: a complete guide to the software and hardware setup for your band room and performance venue.
A teaching sheet of motive analysis is found in the score.
The edges of the Olympics
meet the edges of the clouds.
N-BEAM organizer and head commissioner
Jim Mobley (far left)
is a generous and patient man,
as you'll see during this impromptu chat
amidst the din of the 2017 Midwest Clinic
with the three N-BEAM composers,
(L-R): Daniel Montoya Jr., Alex Shapiro,
and Benjamin Taylor.
Listen to them discuss (and laugh about!)
the process behind this project:
If you have never, ever listened to a podcast recorded while a carpet Zamboni is doing laps behind the guests in a massive convention center, well, this is your chance! As the 2019 Midwest Clinic wrapped up (and, cleaned up), Alex, Benjamin Taylor and James Mobley joined Daniel Montoya Jr. for an entertaining, if rather ear-straining, episode of his show, Sketchbook.
Zoom, Skype, Google Meet, etc. are wonderful tools for affordably bringing Alex into your rehearsal, without having to book a plane flight! She has a great time coaching students, and the difference between their musicianship at the beginning of the session and by the time it ends, is remarkable.
Alex can tell the ensemble about how the piece was created and engage them in conversation, and even show them how her digital project studio works! It's also easy to arrange to have her say hello to the audience during a concert, via a custom video. Webhearsals connect musicians to the real person-- and the stories-- behind the notes on the music stands. Get in touch with Alex-- her contact info is at the bottom of this page.
Alex was an early adopter of online "webhearsals"! Here's one from December 2012 with Alex in her studio
on Washington's San Juan Island, and band director
Mary Bauer and the Mt. Mansfield Union High School Band far across the continent in Vermont.
Here's a live 2023 performance of OFF THE EDGE
with the San Josť State Honor Band,
Craig McKenzie, conductor:
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 multimedia presentations she has given at The 2013 Midwest Clinic, the 2014 TMEA convention, and countless other seminars. It appears in the June and September 2014 issues of the magazine of the World Association for Symphonic Bands and Ensembles, WASBE World, and the .pdf is offered here with the very kind permission of the organization.
• Indio High School, Indio, CA.
John Freeman, Director.
• Liberty High School, Bedford, VA.
Will Satterwhite, Director.
• Miamisburg Middle School, Miamisburg, OH.
Ryan Wintersheimer, Director.
• Morris Community High School, Morris, IL.
Brock Feece, Director.
• Northbrook Junior High School, Northbrook, IL.
Greg Scapillato, Director.
• Patrick Henry Middle School, Woodhaven, MI.
Bradley Faryniarz, Director, Consortium Charter Member.
• Patrick Marsh Middle School, Sun Prairie, WI.
Chris Gleason, Director.
• Plymouth Christian Academy, Canton, MI.
Michael Hejka, Director.
• Plymouth Community Band, Plymouth, MI.
Carl Battishill, Director.
• Prairie Star Middle School, Leawood, KS.
Paul Aubrey, Director.
• Renton Junior High School, New Boston, MI.
Brenda Bressler, Director.
• San José State University, San José, CA.
David Vickerman, Director.
• Saudi Aramco Expatriate Schools, Dhahran, Saudi Arabia.
Brian White, Director.
• Shumate Middle School, Gibraltar, MI.
David Brockington, Director,
Consortium Charter Member.
• Southgate Anderson High School, Southgate, MI.
Brendan Walter, Director.
• St. Charles East High School, St. Charles, IL.
Jim Kull, Director.
• St. Claire High School, St. Claire, MI.
Micah Volz, Director.
• Stoney Creek High School, Rochester Hills, MI.
Lauren Staniszewski, Director.
• Traughber Junior High School, Oswego, IL.
Rachel Maxwell, Director.
• Troy Middle School, Plainfield, IL.
William Goetz and Jennifer Carlton, Directors.
• University of Cincinnati Bearcat Bands,
Christopher Nichter, Director.
• University of Memphis, Memphis, TN.
Armand Hall, Director.
• University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, WI.
Scott Teeple, Director.
• Van Wert High School, Van Wert, OH.
Robert Sloan, Director.
• West High School, Columbus, OH.
Jochen McEvoy, Director.
The New Band Electro-Acoustic Music (N-BEAM) consortium was created in 2016, with the mission of fostering the creation and performance of new EA concert band literature for younger musicians. A trio of established composers - Benjamin Taylor, Daniel Montoya, Jr., and Alex Shapiro - were selected to bring their unique musical talents to this project. The N-BEAM consortium thanks the Bowling Green State University College of Musical Arts, Dr. Kenneth Thompson, Director, for its sponsorship support.
Enjoy a virtual video performance of OFF THE EDGE, from the musicians of the Hendrix College Wind Ensemble, conducted Dr. Gretchen Renshaw James:
The edges of the Cascades
meet the edges of the San Juan Islands.
THE CONTACT INFO
VERY best way to reach Alex is
through email, by clicking here
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!