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Symphony for Winds, Percussion, and Pre-recorded Soundscape.

Composed by Alex Shapiro.

Commissioned by Kappa Kappa Psi, National Band Fraternity, and Tau Beta Sigma, National Band Sorority, for the 2021 National Intercollegiate Band.

Premiered July 13, 2021 at the DeVos Performance Hall in Grand Rapids, Michigan, Dr. Cynthia Johnston Turner, conductor.

2021; Total Duration ca. 28:00.
Four movement work.
132 pages, 9" x 12".
Published by Activist Music LLC (ASCAP).

Grade 5 and beyond.


Each movement can also be
programmed separately. Click any title for specific information:



MASKED (5:00)

VIRAL (6:00)


score cover



SUSPENDED is currently available as a digital set of .pdf score and parts, plus audio downloads. Print sets will become available in the latter part of 2021.

Click here to order from Activist Music

Full set: $700.
Score only: $50.



SUSPENDED instrumentation






Photo by Alex Shapiro.







Click here to listen:

Choose either the .mp3 or .WAV (better!).





SUSPENDED (full symphony; ca. 26')

Track timings for the four movements:

AIRBORNE is the first movement, followed by
which begins at 5:05.

MASKED begins at 14:10,
and VIRAL begins at 19:15.

download, low res
download, hi-res



(email Alex for access code)

Not for performance or duplication.

.pdf file of the TRANSPOSED

9 x 12; 132 pages including cover and notes.

perusal score for SUSPENDED

Please note: the first movement, AIRBORNE, is purely acoustic, with no accompaniment track.


Photo by Alex Shapiro.




Each movement is designed to also be programmed separately:

Mov't 1: AIRBORNE (dur. ca. 5')

AIRBORNE: audio demo, low res
AIRBORNE: audio demo, hi res

perusal score for AIRBORNE

Mov't 2: DISTANCED (dur. ca. 9')

DISTANCED: audio demo, low res
DISTANCED: audio demo, hi res

perusal score for DISTANCED

Mov't 3: MASKED (dur. ca. 5')

MASKED: audio demo, low res
MASKED: audio demo, hi res

perusal score for MASKED

Mov't 4: VIRAL (dur. ca. 6')

VIRAL: audio demo, low res
VIRAL: audio demo, hi res

perusal score for VIRAL

Very listenable demo recording.

Coming soon: premiere recording by the National Intercollegiate Band, conducted by Dr. Cynthia Johnston Turner; live at the DeVos Performance Hall in Grand Rapids, WI. July 13, 2021.




Photo by Alex Shapiro.






SUSPENDED is an emotional journey, and the catharsis I felt throughout the eight months of writing it helped keep me sane amidst a world of dismal uncertainty. The piece is composed in the tradition of an 18th century Classical symphony: four contrasting movements which serve specific functions and reveal a story. The work begins in absolute rage and chaos, then alternates between moments of grief and bleakness. Grim reality shifts to a macabre, circus-like insanity, and by the end, flickers of genuine hope contrast a pervasive sense of dread, and finally arrive at more optimistic possibilities.

AIRBORNE is the sole movement that's purely acoustic, with no accompaniment audio soundscape. It launches the symphony upward with a tightly motivic Sonata form of short repeating passages, in an unrelenting, ever-swirling and disorienting wake-up call. Scream with me.

DISTANCED is an anthemic, pensive unravelling which begins in anguished melancholy and expands to a raw, poignant wail. Cry with me.

MASKED is composed in the exact shape of a Classical Minuet and Trio waltz, though the music—a whimsical if somewhat demented masked ball (or, balls, in this case)—bears little connection to that of Mozart or Haydn. Historically, third movement Minuets gave way to the joke-like Scherzo, and the Trio section tips its hat to some welcome levity. Laugh with me.

VIRAL ends the work with an energetic, percussively driven seven-part Rondo. Light is trying to break through the weight of the times in a frenzied and unresolved push to the final exuberant, insistent notes. Dance with me!

As for the title: our lives have been suspended in countless ways: suspension of daily patterns due to the global Coronavirus pandemic, suspension of social justice and human rights, suspension of the U.S. government as it was held hostage by a vile cult leader and treasonous insurrectionists, and the overall suspension of decency as social media amplifies the most base and ugly instincts among people.

Surely, we can do better.

A piece of music should stand on its own, regardless of any message its composer may attach to it. Audiences don't read about music, they listen to it. But as Victor Hugo wrote, "Music expresses that which cannot be put into words and that which cannot remain silent".

The arts have a powerful role in improving society by awakening consciousness through thought-provoking, emotional moments. If a piece of music can spark conversation among listeners, that is a meaningful impact, and a benefit in addition to that of the notes themselves.

Alex Shapiro
San Juan Island, WA
May, 2021




PROGRAM NOTES for download Program note


Program Notes

PROGRAM BIO for Alex Shapiro Photo and bio

Alex Shapiro bio and photos


Photo by Alex Shapiro.






In the first movement, AIRBORNE:

The percussionists have significant presence in the first and third movements, AIRBORNE, and MASKED. If possible, the timpani and mallet instruments should be located as close to the lip of the stage as possible to be best heard and seen, rather than remain buried in the back row.

Tempo is crucial, intended for a dizzying speed of quarter note = 160 or more. Please do not slow to anything less than quarter note = 155.


In the second movement, DISTANCED:

It is essential that the accompaniment track volume is set to be as loud as the ensemble.

Note for all wind players: Should a musician become short of breath on a long tone, they should fade out the note rather than re-attack. This will help maintain a smooth, unified block chord sound. Many notes are doubled in the track and/or with other instruments, so fading out will probably not adversely effect the harmony.

Flutists get to have some fun creating a new sound that Alex came up with when she composed her 2004 flute quartet, BIOPLASM, and subsequently used in her 2014 wind ensemble work LIQUID COMPASS: the "oo-wah" effect! Where noted in the score, the "oo-wah" technique involves an eerie combination of blowing a note across the top of the embouchure and randomly altering fingerings for the note, while vocalizing. Any other musician not playing during these measures is encouraged to vocalize the "oo-wah" as well.

Rather than blow fully across the embouchure, tilt the flute slightly more toward the lips and quietly SING the notated pitch, at any comfortable octave, INTO the hole while creating a breathy flute pitch, and exaggeratedly moving the lips and saying, "oo-wah," at a slow-to-moderate random tempo. 

The idea is to hear the fingered pitches as the note is being sung, thus producing a double-timbre that is further distorted by the "oo-wah" intonation. At the same time, randomly alter the fingering of the pitch with closed and open holes, to add further effect to the waves of undulating sound. Be sure to open and close the mouth widely when doing the "ooh wah," and keep the rhythm irregular.


In the third movement, MASKED:

Audiences should be able to see the visual element of the use of the ping pong balls. It's entertaining! And after the emotional intensity of the preceding two movements, a little levity will be welcome. Using brightly, or neon-colored ping pong balls would be a great choice.

For the percussionists: Experimentation is good: begin with three different inverted cymbals atop the three timpani: a large China cymbal, a medium-large ride cymbal, and a medium-small splash cymbal, to offer contrasting timbres.

Here are some TRIO section (mm. 65-113) ping pong ball technique notes:

When playing the timpani with an inverted cymbal, players should drop the ball into the cymbal from just a few inches up to ensure it will not bounce out.

During the mallet percussion Trio section, percussionists should keep the ball close to the bar and use fingers as a "cage" to prevent the ball from straying or falling off the note.

Allow the ball to bounce as long as possible before capturing it for the next note.

Player will need to carry two mallets in one hand and play with ping pong ball in the other. If during the TRIO section there is any difficulty maneuvering two mallets, players may opt for one mallet, and play the highest note in an octave.

It is highly recommended that each ping pong ball virtuoso keep several back-up ping pong balls atop a felt covered table or music stand immediately in reach, to avoid the hilarity that will ensue should a ball go rogue and the player has to chase after it during the performance!


In the fourth movement, VIRAL:

Pointillistic and "zappy," the essence of VIRAL mirrors droplets of a virus being randomly spread--except with a hopeful, rather than lethal, ending. The Washington State Ferry and its syncopated engines provides the basis for the non-stop percussive trip.

Short bursts of double tonguing are tossed around the ensemble, creating a feathered and flitting texture for a trailing effect. This staggered effect is forgiving: if anyone starts on the wrong 16th beat it shouldn't matter too much, as long as they remain metronomically glued to the tempo, and blend dynamically with the track to be part of the fabric of the harmonic shifts.

The success of VIRAL hinges on a seamless balance between the track, which should be played loudly, and the ensemble, which serves as an additional set of colors and textures. The instruments should avoid sticking out from the ambience of the track until the A theme becomes major at measure 137, after which from there until the end, the band will have a fuller presence.

Close attention to articulations and dynamics is essential for the music to make sense. Every gesture of repeated notes that includes a dynamic swell or diminuendo must be interpreted as written, and even over-emphasized. In most cases, the sharp nature of a quick "zap" is desired, very much like a sound effect.

It's vital for the ensemble to remain in extremely tight sync with the track, and stay on top of the tempo. For the majority of the piece, musicians should think absolutely metronomically, and throughout, they must watch the conductor like a hawk. If at all possible, it is highly recommended that the percussionists be outfitted with earbuds that play the click, because the live ensemble will hear these instruments louder than they will be able to hear the accompaniment track through the stage monitors.

Conductor note: don't be misled by the many syncopations in the track, some of which are so heavy they might be felt as downbeats. It's tricky! The TRACK stave of the score indicates the audible downbeats, and the click track will be a reliable guide, with accented downbeats on every measure. Additionally, there is an optional vox guide track that can play along with the click, in which the rehearsal measures are enunciated to indicate score position, to avoid becoming momentarily disoriented.




Photo by Alex Shapiro.





in an April 2021 interview with conductor and composer Michael Shapiro (no relation), Alex discusses the new piece.







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, 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



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!




Photo by Alex Shapiro.






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!


Alex at the helm



Photo by Alex Shapiro.

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