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Alex Shapiro, composer email



a geo-electroacoustic piece
or concert wind band and prerecorded track.
And... rocks.

Composed by Alex Shapiro.
2016; Duration 4:15. Published by Activist Music (ASCAP).

Commissioned by Patrick Marsh Middle School 7th Grade Band in Sun Prairie, Wisconsin as part of its ComMission Possible series; Chris Gleason, fearless and inspired band director.

Grade 2.5 and beyond.
Way, way beyond!

score cover

This piece is ADAPTABLE, and will work for
ensembles of any size and personnel!



Click here to listen! listen to ROCK MUSIC


The mix of the May 2016 live premiere by the Patrick Marsh Middle School 7th Grade Band, conducted by Chris Gleason.


ROCK MUSIC is available as a physical, bound set of score and parts plus audio download, or as a digital set of .pdf score and parts, plus audio download.
Full set: $80. Score only: $15.


Click here to order the PDF set from Activist Music ORDER ROCK MUSIC

Click the icon to order the print set from Hal Leonard ORDER ROCK MUSIC

Hal Leonard






ROCK MUSIC performance
Parker Bixby conducting ROCK MUSIC at University of Montana, Nov. 2016.


ROCK MUSIC instrumentation





Music doesn't have to be experienced as an element separate from the rest of our daily lives. It's as much part of our world as the ground on which we walk. Composing ROCK MUSIC was the perfect opportunity to make this point about the geology of our planet, and the changes in climate that are permanently altering our landscape.

In my ongoing desire to encourage people to step away from their screens and go outdoors, I asked the students of Patrick Marsh Middle School in Sun Prairie, WI to venture out into their neighborhoods, lower their gaze to the substrate on which they walk, find a pair of rocks, discover sounds that can be coaxed from them, and record the results. My inbox was soon filled with nearly 100 mp3s sporting a stunning variety of geological sonic creativity. Many of those sounds, some with distinct pitches and rhythms, are the basis of the accompaniment audio track over which ROCK MUSIC is composed.

In parallel to this holistic vision, band director Chris Gleason invited a scientist from the Wisconsin Geological and Natural History Survey to give a talk to the band students. Brandishing a 3D map that displayed the state's varying terrain, she spoke of the glaciers that transformed the students' locales— and mine, on San Juan Island, WA— 15,000 years ago. The students then made video reports that paired their newfound knowledge of local geology with their individual recipes for eliciting sounds from rocks. They also created a video to accompany their performance of the piece, that includes images of polluting factories and transportation. It culminates with sobering footage of an enormous glacier calving, just as the music reaches its loudest, most powerful point. As massive chunks of ice collapse into the water, the audience is reminded of the fragile balance between nature and the actions of humans.

Throughout this geo-electroacoustic piece, the music slowly crawls, melts, and scrapes over a sonic landscape in random, irregular ways: much as the glaciers carved the world we know. And as with our world, the piece's ending slowly melts away to a haunting silence.

Alex Shapiro
San Juan Island, WA
March 2016




PROGRAM NOTE for download Program note


Program Note

PROGRAM BIO for Alex Shapiro Photo and bio

Alex Shapiro bio and photos




Click below to watch the video of the Patrick Marsh Middle School 7th Grade Band in Sun Prairie, Wisconsin conducted by Chris Gleason, performing the May 10, 2016 premiere of ROCK MUSIC:



Click below to hear what Georgia State University band director
Chester Phillips has to say about ROCK MUSIC:


The San Juan Islands
The San Juan Islands archipelago, carved from glaciers 15,000 years ago, with the glacial volcano Mt. Baker looming 60 miles east



Alex works as fox naps
A red fox naps as the composer finishes ROCK MUSIC in front of their shared rocks



rocky cove
A rocky San Juan Island cove


sea star
A purple sea star splayed on exposed tidepool rocks


river otters
A family of river otters lives in this rocky cove in front of the composer's home



(email Alex for access code )

PERUSAL ONLY; not for performance or duplication.


9 x 12; 24 pages including cover and notes.

perusal score, 9 x 12




Harbor seal
A harbor seal appears comically grounded atop a rock in the Haro Strait


A male quail uses a rock as his lookout


Two foxes
Two island foxes prowl the rocks in front of the composer's home each evening


A view out the composer's window of four Orca whales lolling by the rocks that border the Salish Sea


Two Canadian Black-tailed deer enjoy the rocky crags of the ribbon chert that surrounds the composer's home


Turkey vultures
A pair of turkey vultures amidst the rocks of San Juan Island





ROCK MUSIC is possibly the very first geo-electroacoustic minimalist band piece: it's largely devoid of melody, and of rhythm. It's conceptual and atmospheric, using textures of instruments, voices, and rocks to weave a wind band into a piece of sonic fabric stretched across linear time.

Every player has merely a few detached instrumental notes in their part, each of which contributes to the overall texture of the score. Musicians are tasked with fully concentrating on the quality of those few notes and how they interact with the sounds around them: a sonic environmental awareness. Vocal effect-enhanced humming, pitch bending, improvised and notated percussion textures with two rocks, and subtle floor rumbling ensure that the musicians have something to contribute even when not playing traditionally.

It's an experiment, really: how can we encourage people to HEAR, to CARE about hearing, and to FOCUS on something that's rather still and nearly uneventful, lacking grooves and an obvious melody? It took the planet's glaciers thousands of years to form the landscape we know. This piece only takes four minutes.


Ask each musician to go outside, and find two rocks of any kind. The rocks should be bigger than pebbles, but no larger than four inches or so in diameter, to comfortably fit in the hands.

Random rock playing is notated by a varied pattern of dots within a box, followed by a solid line indicating event duration. Ask the musicians to initially refrain from being very active with the improvisational rock playing at the beginning of the piece. More activity can start to build at measure 28.

Sparseness— hitting the rocks against each other slowly and occasionally rather than quickly and constantly— is much preferred, as opposed to a constant clicking or a discernible pulse, except where a specific rhythm is indicated with crosshead notes.

At bar 115, the band drops their rocks to the floor in a cascading pattern. The drop should be from no higher than a chair seat bottom. It is assumed that the rehearsal and performance spaces have hard floors, but if on carpet, have each player place something flat and hard on the floor next to them that will be similarly resonant to a hard floor when the rocks are dropped: a hard cover book, a small wooden board, etc.


Attention to dynamics— notably, the need to play quietly and subtly— will result in the most musical performance.

All humming is notated in the same transposition as the instrument the hummer plays.

ROCK MUSIC is a piece that can span virtually all capability levels, and work musically for ensembles of any age, whether musicians are at a Grade 2, or Grade 6 playing ability. Educationally, this has the potential to be a superb opportunity for the musicians to:

• Listen to and improve their intonation: by being given permission to bend notes and play "out of tune" against other musicians, students gain a greater awareness of what playing "in tune" actually feels like; 

• Develop their breath control;

• Hone the ability to play quietly while controlling pitch and volume;

• Heighten listening skills and focus;

• Heighten awareness of alternative sounds;

• Develop patience, in a world of hyper-everything!

ROCK MUSIC offers a different view as to what music— especially band music— can be, through a piece without an apparent melody or pulse. Possibly the very first geo-electroacoustic minimalist wind band work, it merges the realms of performance and environmental art.


If desired, emotionally stimulating photos or video of rocks, glacial ice, calving or flow could be projected in the background. Alex Shapiro has many appropriate photographs that she is pleased to make available, some of which can be seen on this page.

Ensembles are encouraged to use this piece as a platform for explorations into the geology of their area, and to expand those observations to global climate changes and the effects that the melting glaciers are having across the planet. Playing music using rocks found on the ground at their feet may lead to being a more conscious citizen of the Earth!




Here's something VERY helpful: a complete guide to the software and hardware setup for your band room and performance venue.



pdf of tech guide




A black fox sleeps atop a rock on San Juan Island


wild mink
A mink scrambles along the rocky shoreline in front of the composer's home





Hear from students of the Patrick Marsh Middle School 7th Grade Band about their geological findings, and how they created their original rock sounds that Ms. Shapiro then used in the accompaniment track:


Rock thanks

rock music message
A geological thank you message to Alex, from the band at Patrick Marsh Middle School!

The San Juan Islands
A view of the San Juan Islands, created by glacial movement





Zoom, Skype, 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 rehearsal and by the time it ends, is often remarkable.

Alex can tell the ensemble about how the piece they're playing 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.

The best way to reach Alex Shapiro is through email,
by clicking here 
email Alex

You can also leave a voice message (or even a fax, if anyone faxes anymore) at:
(270) 916-0093.

To see some examples of webhearsals, and the view Alex loves to share from her desk, click here.

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 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, the 2014 TMEA convention, and countless other seminars, 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.

Click here for the full .pdf file readThe e-Frontier



Sucia rock formation
A rock wall formation on Sucia Island appears as a face




The VERY best way to reach Alex is through email, by clicking here Email Alex!

Email Alex!

You can also leave a voice message or a fax at:
(270) 916-0093, and she'll return your call.

Call Alex!

You can visit the Composers and Schools website by clicking here:

Visit CSIC!



NHBDA rocks
Honor band students in New Hampshire showed their appreciation
to band director Mark Stickney!


Alex Shapiro at the Hal Leonard Booth at the Midwest Clinic in Chicago, December 2014.


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!




Bald eagles
A Bald eagle lands on a San Juan Island rock the mating pair sits atop each day




The photos throughout this page reflect the rocks and their inhabitants in the San Juan Islands where Alex Shapiro lives. You can see more of what's on the other side of her lens, by clicking over to Alex's blog, Notes from the Kelp, here Alex's blog




Alex the photographer
The composer at the rocky shoreline that is her front yard

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©2000-2021 by Alex Shapiro. All nature photos by Alex Shapiro (like 'em?). All rights reserved to design and content.