Composer’s Statement, June 2016

Miller’s main COMPOSER PAGE is here, with soundfiles and descriptions of compositions.

NewMusicBox Review (July 2013):
Roger Clark Miller’s Vines for Music was an immediate stylistic contrast, and the musicians proved themselves totally ready for this pared down aesthetic. While Miller nods to Cage in the program notes because of the use of prepared piano, there is a more implicit resonance with Lucier and a piece like Still Lives in the use of shapes found around the house (in Miller’s case, vines attached to the garage door) as pitch contour. The transparent quality of the slow string glissandi and careful inside-the-piano work demanded a special kind of concentration from the players, which was beautifully met.

I:  I utilize two types of Order in my music: 

1.  Conceptual Music based on Natural phenomena.  When these are successfully interpreted, the shape of rocks, patterns of leaves, vines on walls, wind in trees, etc., create new organic structures for compositions.
2.  Physical/Emotional Music.  Human interests organize the composition: intuitional improvisation, feelings, story-telling.
3.  Often these two opposing structures interpenetrate.

    Note 1:  Many of my Nature-Based compositions resemble Games:  Parameters and Rules, initial conditions, are defined at the start.  One follows the Rules and the Game unfolds.
    Note 2:  Use of Dreams in Music:  My earliest attempt (Thomas Jefferson College, 1975) to get away from accepted formal organizational techniques, and to avoid “improvisation” as a compositional method, was to use dreams to organize music.  I was inspired by the second Surrealist Manifesto and yet was also happy to defy that very same manifesto: Andre Breton claimed music could not be surrealist, yet by basing music on dreams, I had accomplished this very act.  In 2020, a series of Dream Interpretations for Electric Guitar, loops and devices, will be part of my concert related to my art installation “Transmuting the Prosaic.”

II:  I utilize two types of Pitch/harmonic content in my music:

1.  Music based on the 12-tone system, often utilizing rows treated loosely.
2.  Music where there is no concert pitch, scales, or other specific pitch divisions.
3.  In some compositions, these two opposing ideas interpenetrate.

   Note 3:  Large rocks make deeper tones than small rocks, but there is no A 440/ concert pitch in nature: pitches fall anywhere. It is humans who have systematically organized pitches based on string lengths and air-channels in tubes.  This was required as humans battled to control nature to secure their existence in the world.  In the 21st Century, humans need to accept nature rather than dominate it, otherwise things may turn out disastrously for them.
    Note 4:  Use of The Harmonic Series:
ARBOR MUSIC will make use of the harmonic series, but without creating melodies or intentional harmony.  Beats/pulses based on simultaneous intervals are as important as the harmony created.

III:  I utilize two approaches regarding Rhythm and divisions of time in my music:

1.  In the most extreme forms of my Natural Phenomena music, there is no rhythm or agreed-upon pulse.  Events happen in time, not as eighth-notes or quarter-notes.
2.  In my Physical/emotional music, I utilize rhythms based on a recognizable, agreed upon pulse.
3.  At times these two opposing ideas interpenetrate.

    Note 5:  Rhythm is everywhere, in both Nature and humans.
Every animal walks in a certain cadence, or has a specific heart-beat pulse.  However, there is no over-all agreement as to rhythm in Nature.  In most orchestral or rock music, universal rhythm is agreed upon.  Hence my lack of agreed-upon rhythms in my Natural-Phenomena work, but maintaining rhythm in my Physical Music.
    Note 6:  John Cage’s Influence:  Simultaneous behavior, something Cage worked towards, resembles Nature:  events happen continuously but are not rigidly held together.  They are generally independent of each other, and self-full-filled that way.

Examples of my Music ranging from Natural Phenomena to Physical:

Half-Moon Pond (for string orchestra and filtered noise):
Music entirely organized by natural phenomena (trees, lake, mountains).  Concert pitch and the 12 tone system eliminated: glissandi in strings and filtered white/pink noise.  No agreed upon pulse.

Vines for Music (for 2 violins, 1 viola, 2 ‘cellos, and 3 prepared pianists):
Music entirely organized by natural phenomena (vines on garage wall).  Nearly 100% non-concert pitch:  prepared piano, continuous glissandi in strings.  No agreed upon pulse.
Premier:  June, 2013, at the New England Conservatory’s SICPP (Summer Institute for Contemporary Performance Practice) Iditarod concert.

Maple Leaf Crush (for 4 percussionists or String Quartet):
Music entirely organized by natural phenomena (slowed down crushing of a dried maple leaf).  No agreed upon pulse.  No concert pitch (strings are entirely prepared).

 The Davis Square Symphony – Music and Film (for full orchestra):
Music entirely organized by natural phenomena (traffic patterns in Davis Square, Somerville, MA), but utilizing modes and scales to evoke emotional responses: this is a deliberate populist work requiring no extreme abstract leaps in listening.  Agreed upon pulse (based on 1 second) required to sync to the film.

Clarinetti in Natura (for 2 clarinets, 1 prepared pianist, modified nature ambiences): 
Music organized by recordings of nature, arranged emotionally.  100% non-concert pitch:  Nature ambiences, prepared piano, 2 clarinets tuned 1/4-tone apart, extended techniques.  Some agreed upon pulse-time: foot-steps and crickets.
Premier:  March 31, 2014, at the “Outside the Box” festival at Southern Illinois University.

Rocks Music for Solo Cello:
Preparations (paper) initially remove concert pitch, then resolve into strong Physical/rock-based motifs.  Structured entirely by rocks in Guilford, Vermont, and pebbles being thrown against a garage wall in Somerville, Massachusetts.  Pitches organized by 12-tone rows.  Strong rhythms.
Premier:  Sept.27, 2018, at Tufts University.

Tromso Rocks Music (for Solo Electric Guitar):
Physical motifs related to rock music, but structured by the patterns of rocks on a hillside in Tromso, Norway.  Pitches organized by 12-tone rows.  Strong rhythms.

Scream, Gilgamesh, Scream (for soprano and baritone voice, piano, 2 percussion, string quartet, french horn, bass clarinet, alto sax, synth bass and electric guitar):
Purely Physical Music, based on the Epic of Gilgamesh.  Avant-Rock rhythms abound in a chamber-music environment.  Pitches chosen by intuition/improvisation.  Strong rhythms.
Premier: Feb.18, 2016 in Jordan Hall at the New England Conservatory.  Commissioned by The Callithumpian Consort.

    Note 7:  Scream, Gilgamesh, Scream is related to rock music.  Perhaps I am using rock music as Bartok used certain folk music: taking the material and composing it to another dimension.