Musician’s Forum with Dr Thomas Clark

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Graduate Jazz Piano Techniques class 2014

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with Jerry Espinoza, Sam Thrasher, Ben Triesch, Brian Christensen, Nicholas Tozzo, Bjorn Johnson and Miguel Angel Aguiar.

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The Role Of College Teaching In The Life of A Creative Musician

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Trainer/Clinician for the Army – School of Music & Air Force Band

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a week presenting and performing w professional Army and Air Force career musicians as a trainer/clinician, sponsored by the Dept. of Defense – DOD

My ex-student, Major Leonel Peña, Commander & Conductor of the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command Band and TxState alumnus, presents me with an award certificate.


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I’m in the Army now

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Well, for a week. I was guest clinician/trainer at Fort Eustis, Virginia with the US Army School of Music, & the US Air Force band attending. I worked with adult professional career musicians on:

Secrets of Success
Innovative Practice Techniques

Contemporary creativity
Maximizing individual potential
Global/Cross-cultural impact of music

I met 2 star general, Major General Mark MacCarley, Deputy Chief of Staff, and discussed plans to use the arts, especially music, as a bridge between cultures, and a way to spread freedom and creativity around the world, while spreading American goodwill. MacCarley is an advisor to the President’s Joint Chiefs of Staff, who directly advise the Secretary of Defense, the Homeland Security Council, the National Security Council and the President of the United States on military matters.

from L to R:
Sergeant Major Robert L. Burford Sr., me, Major General Mark J. MacCarley, and Major Leonel Peña, Commander & Conductor of the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command Band.
The certificate reads: “For your generous contributions to the United States Army Training and Doctrine Command Band at Ft. Eustis, VA. Your talents and commitment have helped the TRADOC Band maintain its reputation of professionalism, excellence, and distinction. Your dedication and patriotism are in keeping with the highest traditions of service and represents great credit upon you and Texas State University – San Marcos.”

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@JazzEdNet convention Jan 6, 2015 with the premiere tentet TimesTen from Austin WOW!

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New Jazz: Pushing its Boundaries with Harmonic, Metric, and Instrumental Devices

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This is an online paper I presented at the
Atiner Athens Greece 5th Annual International Conference
on Visual and Performing Arts

2-5 June 2014. It is excerpted here with examples and audio.


This paper will explore devices used by musicians/composers Bob Mintzer (Yellowjackets), Michael Brecker, Chick Corea, and Hank Hehmsoth to provide a brief snapshot of current jazz techniques in harmonization, rhythm, and fresh orchestration.


Harmony Meter Instrumentation Rhythm Jazz Hehmsoth


Contemporary Jazz in the twenty first century, is tumbling ahead and absorbing, introducing, and synthesizing elements. New techniques are being developed to broaden, and expand the vision of contemporary improvisation, composition, and arranging, to include precision in harmonic structure, organizing rhythm and phrasing, and unconventional instrumentation. Particular attention is given to music examples and detailed analyses of:

  • harmonic explorations
  • odd meter groupings
  • and unique choices in instrumentation.

The future of jazz is a broad topic, and subject to multiple interpretations. These examples are compositional techniques that I have incorporated in my own work.
Of course the proof is in the pudding, so to speak, and the best way to understand these concepts is to hear them, and if you read music, examples are contained in this paper.


2.1    In this example from Bob Mintzer, simple pentatonic “anthem”-like melodic shapes are harmonized in a unique colorful “pandiatonicized” (I use this term loosely, to refer to various complete use of chord/scale possibilities), non-tertial voicing structure, with simultaneous sus-4 and Maj3s, on Is and Vs; lots of cluster shapes, with 2nds providing a constant dissonance “sizzle” (my own term to when referring to the dissonance of mi 2nds and maj 2nds) to harmonization; also “omit”-type voicings that imply upper harmonic color structures while missing more fundamentals like Maj 3rds (another way of categorizing these types are as “slash chord combinations”) with intervallic content in chord structures yielding resonance and interest with complete harmonic information in fresh shapes and structures.

Figure 1. ex. Why Is It?


[1] Mintzer, Bob, 2011. Why Is It?. Timeline – Yellowjackets (audio CD Mar. 2011), Label: Mack Avenue ASIN: B004KBSQMYI

2.2    The melody itself is a D pentatonic scale, over a G in the bass, which generates an overall G maj7.

Figure 2. simple pentatonic “anthem”-like melodic shapes

2.3  The harmonization of this simple melody displays several unique and fresh chord voicings used in contemporary jazz

Figure 3. non-tertial voicing structure with “omit”-type voicings that imply upper structures with missing more fundamentals like Maj3. Notice also the predominant parallel motion.

2.4    Another good harmonic example comes from another recent YellowJackets tune. With a simple melody, a fresh harmonization using these typical structures provides an almost compendium of current voicing structures with omit type voicings, sus+3 colors, and quartal instead of tertial interval dominance. Since many have not seen these extended harmony structures, which have been codified in jazz over the last 30 – 40 years, it is also worthwhile to note that these newer fresh structures are seen in isolation since the 60’s Miles Davis era, but is now more and more frequently used since the 1990’s.

Figure 4. Sus13 and with omit type voicings, sus+3 colors mixed with tertial structures

[2] Ferrante, Russell, 2010. Spirit of the West. Club Nocturne –Yellowjackets (audio CD Mar. 2010) Label: Warner Bros. ASIN: B0046WOXHO

3. Odd Meter Groupings

3.1 Of course Jazz is all about rhythm, and more sophisticated uses of meter. Groupings and phrasings are under development all the time.

Figure 5. Odd Meter Groupings – Rhythmic Diminution – 3 Phrases in 4 bars

[3] Corea, Chick. The Chick Corea Elektrik Band Elektric City, Hal Leonard Pub. Corp., ©1987.

3.2 In this 1986 Chick Corea example, “melodic or motivic diminution” creates a rhythmic “phrase displacement” which groups three phrases in 4 measures. The first is 6 beats, the 2nd is 5 beats, and the 3rd is compressed and ends on beat 4 of measure 4, an odd meter grouping inside of 4 measures.

3.3 I used this same technique in my piece Freedom Stomp 2012 for a 10 piece ensemble, with my own variation:

Figure 6. 

[4] Hehmsoth, Hank. Freedom Stomp, Time Space Fabrics, ©2012.

3.4 The first 4 bars consist of three phrases, each using rhythmic/melodic/motivic diminution.

Figure 7. 

3.5 The first phrase is 6 beats, the 2nd is 5, and the 3rd is 5, 6+5+5=16 beats=4 bars of 4/4. Also each phrase beginning is truncated from the original. The 2nd phrase has only 5 eighth notes before the triplet turn, and the 3rd phrase has only 4 eighths.

3.6 There is a long 60+ year heritage of interesting metric phrasing in jazz. A great early master was Thelonious Monk:


Figure 8. Odd Meter Groupings – Cross – Rhythms

[5] Monk, Thelonious. Ba-lue Bolivar Ba-lues-Are (aka Bolivar Blues), 1956 (Riverside LP12-226), ©copyrighted by Thelonious Music Corp.

3.7 The form is a 12 bar blues, but the 9th bar is a real 3+3+2 =8 because the bass makes it apparent. The interesting “cross-rhythms”are an early example from the 1950’s. I always return to Monk’s work for creative across the barline phrasings.

4. Fresh Choices In Instrumentation

4.1 Here are examples of a jazz composer merging fresh choices in instrumentation, and the number of players.

Figure 9. Carlos ‘n Charlie’s  2011 – Hank Hehmsoth – a piece for steel drums


[6] Hehmsoth, Hank. Carlos ‘n Charlie’s, Drop6 Publications, ©2011.

4.2 In Michael Brecker’s “Wide Angles” released 2003, instrumentation and arranging techniques show many of contemporary jazz’s influences, including orchestral instruments, and free forms. (score not available)

[7] Brecker, Michael. Wide Angles, 2003 Audio CD Label: Verve ASIN: B0000AKQ96



[1]    Mintzer, Bob, 2011. Why Is It?. Timeline – Yellowjackets (audio CD Mar. 2011), Label: Mack Avenue ASIN: B004KBSQMYI

[2]   Ferrante, Russell, 2010. Spirit of the West. Club Nocturne –Yellowjackets (audio CD Mar. 2010) Label: Warner Bros. ASIN: B0046WOXHO

[3]   Corea, C. and Chick Corea Elektric Band. 1986. The Chick Corea Elektric Band. Third Earth Publishing/Not Bernie’s Publishing Co.

[4]   Hehmsoth, Hank. 2012. Freedom Stomp. Time Space Fabrics. 2012.

[5]   Monk, Thelonious. Ba-lue Bolivar Ba-lues-Are (aka Bolivar Blues), 1956 (Riverside LP12-226), ©copyrighted by Thelonious Music Corp.

[6]   Hehmsoth, Hank. Carlos ‘n Charlie’s, Drop6 Publications, ©2011.

[7]   Brecker, Michael. Wide Angles, 2003 Audio CD Label: Verve ASIN: B0000AKQ96



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Music Braille Code

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I joined a U.S. government-sponsored exchange program to distribute Braille Music Notation Guides (both printed and in Braille) among Latin American Universities and libraries.
The guides, music examples, exercises, and a double CD with recorded examples will expand the access to inclusive education for all musicians with visual impairments.
As a Fulbright Specialist, I am a member of The U.S. Department of State Alumni Engagement Innovation Fund (AEIF) which provides grants to to carry out public service projects, and supports initiatives that promote shared values and innovative solutions to global challenges. If you are interested please visit and like their new FB page:

Expanding the Access to Inclusive Education for Musicians with Visual Impairments in Latin American Universities, Conservatories and Public High Schools.
“Music Braille Code” is a project currently applying for an Alumni Engagement Innovation Fund (2014) provided by the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs from the United States of America.

It is estimated that the world population of people with disabilities is over 1 billion (nearly 15 per cent of the world’s population), over two thirds of whom live in developing countries. Developing countries offer many social scenarios where people with physical, sensory, or intellectual impairments face discrimination on a daily basis. As former students of Latin American universities, we can attest that music faculties in our countries lack the resources to provide an inclusive academic environment for students with disabilities. This project will allow faculty members, alumni, current and prospective students of Latin American Universities, Conservatories and Public High Schools with music departments to acquire the basic skills needed to read and write music in Braille Code.

The goal of this project is to distribute Braille Music Notation Guides to the main Latin American music libraries. The distribution of these guides will: enhance people with disabilities’ access to musical resources; promote equal opportunity in artistic education for people with disabilities; increase the participation of people with disabilities in the cultural environment of Latin America; empower artists with disabilities to express themselves through music composition and performance; allow composers to write and perform music in Braille Code; enhance the pedagogical resources of music libraries; enrich music libraries’ catalogues; foster awareness among able-bodied music students, faculty members and academic staff regarding the importance of inclusive education; reduce artistic and social exclusionary practices; and promote a model for equality in the music making of Universities, Music Conservatories, and Public High Schools with Music Departments of our countries.

The main beneficiaries of this project are students with visual impairments and music libraries. The guides to Braille Music Notation will be distributed in more than 30 academic institutions and libraries across Latin America. Secondary beneficiaries of this project include: current able-bodied students, alumni (as they would have access to the material through music libraries), and current faculty members of Universities, Conservatories and Public High Schools with Music Departments.

Long-term results include: increased number in the enrollment rate of students with visual impairments in music programs and increased number in the graduation rate of students with visual impairments in music programs. We expect the following short-term measurable results:
1. Music libraries will enlarge their collections.
2. Students with visual impairments will have access to music education.
3. Current students and faculty members will enhance their academic and pedagogical resources.
4. Composers will be able to learn an alternative system of music notation.
5. Current students will increase their understanding about disability and inclusion through media outreach and promotion of the project.

If you are a current or past participant of any U.S. government-sponsored exchange programs, please visit the website and join or “cheer” our project using the following link:


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Sir Noël Coward

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“Wit is like caviar – it should be served in small portions and not spread about like marmalade.”

“Extraordinary how potent cheap music is.”

“Work is much more fun than fun.”

“We have no reliable guarantee that the afterlife will be any less exasperating than this one, have we?”


“Nothing is Lost”
by Noel Coward

Deep in our sub-conscious, we are told
Lie all our memories, lie all the notes
Of all the music we have ever heard
And all the phrases those we loved have spoken,
Sorrows and losses time has since consoled,
Family jokes, out-moded anecdotes
Each sentimental souvenir and token
Everything seen, experienced, each word
Addressed to us in infancy, before
Before we could even know or understand
The implications of our wonderland.
There they all are, the legendary lies
The birthday treats, the sights, the sounds, the tears
Forgotten debris of forgotten years
Waiting to be recalled, waiting to rise
Before our world dissolves before our eyes
Waiting for some small, intimate reminder,
A word, a tune, a known familiar scent
An echo from the past when, innocent
We looked upon the present with delight
And doubted not the future would be kinder
And never knew the loneliness of night.


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MozartToday is the birthday of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, born in Salzburg, Austria (1756). By the age of five, he was proficient at the violin and piano and had begun composing. In his short lifetime, he composed more than 600 works in almost every genre of the day. Joseph Haydn is said to have told Mozart’s father,

“Before God and as an honest man I tell you that your son is the greatest composer known to me either in person or by name.”

He later wrote of Mozart that

“posterity will not see such a talent again in 100 years.”

Mozart’s premature death has been a matter of great interest over the years. He died suddenly at the age of 35, and people seem to want his death to be as remarkable as his life. His death certificate reads only “fever and rash,” which are not so much causes of death as they are symptoms. Because there’s so little data to go on, rumors have been rife: he was poisoned by a jealous rival; he accidentally poisoned himself with mercury, trying to treat a case of syphilis; he contracted parasites; he was murdered by Jews, or Catholics, or Freemasons. There was no evidence of foul play. He had been productive in his career and was in good health in the months leading up to his death, but two days after his last public performance, he came down quite suddenly with a high fever, headache, muscle pain, and vomiting. His body exuded a foul-smelling odor. Two weeks later, he suffered a seizure, fell into a coma, and died.

Mozart himself started the rumor that he was poisoned, because after he fell ill, he told his wife, “My end will not be long in coming; for sure, someone has poisoned me!” There’s a theory that Mozart was having an affair with a married woman whose husband found out and murdered him. In his play Mozart and Salieri (1830), Aleksandr Pushkin speculated that rival composer Antonio Salieri poisoned Mozart, but he would have had no reason to; although they were rivals, the two composers were friendly, and Salieri’s position and income were far superior to Mozart’s at that time.

A letter written by Mozart not long before he became ill refers to a hearty meal of pork cutlets, one of his favorite foods. It’s possible the pork was infested by Trichinella parasites, which cause trichinosis, the symptoms of which are fever, vomiting, swelling, and muscle and joint pain.

In 2009, a paper published in The Annals of Internal Medicine speculated that the great composer was brought down by a common streptococcal infection — like strep throat — that caused his kidneys to fail. Researchers studied death certificates in Vienna around that time, and there were many reports of deaths involving excessive swelling, which can be a sign of renal failure. In his last days, Mozart’s swelling was so severe that he was unable even to turn over in bed.

Regardless of the cause of death, the end result was the same, and Mozart died on December 5, 1791, at the age of 35. It’s a persistent myth that Mozart was buried in a pauper’s grave. While it’s true that he was buried in a communal plot, that was common practice in Vienna at the time. Only members of the aristocracy received individual burials as we think of them today; people of Mozart’s status and below were sewn, naked, into a linen sack, and placed into a pit with four or five other bodies. Quicklime was sprinkled over the corpses to speed their decomposition. After about seven years, the remains were exhumed and dispersed so that the grave could be reused. As a result, Mozart’s body is lost to us, and scientists have never been able to examine it using modern technology.

Any pianist will tell you of the joys of playing Mozart, for the sheer purity in its playing, but also of the difficulty in it because of its simple, clean exposure in execution. It’s really a unique sensation.

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