Roger Clark Miller studied composition at Thomas Jefferson College in Michigan and California Institute of the Arts, but opted out in favor of rock music: in 1979 he co-formed Mission of Burma which began his musical career. He found himself returning to music composition in 2008. He is a roving member of the Callithumpian Consort, and has performed Stockhausen, Christian Wolff, and his composition “Scream, Gilgamesh, Scream” with that ensemble.
Scores are available upon request:
Miller’s COMPOSER’S STATEMENT can be viewed HERE.
VINES FOR MUSIC (2012), for three pianists at one prepared piano, 2 cellos, 1 viola, and 2 violins. It premiered at the New England Conservatory’s SICPP (Summer Institute for Contemporary Performance Practice) in June 2013.
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.
Score Map for VINES FOR MUSIC.
From the N.E.C. Program Notes:
“Vines for Music” comes from my interest in organic functions as organizing principles for music/sound. The score is based on a photograph of old vine residuals on my garage door. The photograph was gridded off into 7 segments, each equaling one minute. The vines themselves were translated into gradual glissandi in the strings, and the suction-marks where the vines attached to the garage door were translated into individual notes for the prepared piano. While I must (happily) tip my hat to John Cage, this is not aleatoric music – the specific process of living things steers this music.
VINES FOR MUSIC: Last half of composition.
SCREAM, GILGAMESH, SCREAM (Punk Rock Piano Concerto) (2015), for piano, soprano voice, baritone voice, two percussionists, electric guitar, alto sax, bass clarinet, french horn, string quartet and synthesizer. It premiered at The New England Conservatory on Feb.18, 2016. Miller played the guitar part.
This is a setting of the Babylonian “Epic of Gilgamesh”. Many different versions were read by the composer, and the libretto he created was a synthesis of these. Miller’s take on the story is more about what happened to Enkidu, rather than Gilgamesh. The music is quite barbaric (given that the Epic was composed 2,500-3,000 years B.C., and that “punk rock” is a subtitle, this may not be surprising). Scream, Gilgamesh, Scream is approximately 20 minutes in duration. It was commissioned by the Callithumpian Consort. Nina Guo, Soprano. Brian Chase, Baritone.
SCREAM, GILGAMESH, SCREAM: First Movement. Jordan Hall, Feb.18, 2016
IN NATURA (2011), for soprano clarinet, E flat sopranino clarinet or viola, prepared piano and pre-recorded sounds. It premiered on March 31, 2014, at the “Outside the Box” festival at Southern Illinois University.
In Natura continues Miller’s interest in concrete sounds, this time entirely from nature: wind, water, insects, storms. The 9’30” collage of natural ambiences is in 3 continuous movements and directs the entire composition. The two clarinet parts (the E flat clarinet part has also been arranged for viola) are based on Miller’s bird-whistling improvisations, incorporating numerous extended techniques, and the sound of very slowed down crickets. The prepared piano serves as commentary. As in Vines for Music, Miller has eliminated “concert pitch”, creating a score which mimics nature’s tuning: sounds co-mingled but do not form “chords” or have an over-arching tonal center.
CLARINETTI IN NATURA, March 31, 2014.
THE DAVIS SQUARE SYMPHONY (2016) for film and orchestral score.
The DAVIS SQUARE SYMPHONY is both a movie and an orchestral score. Composer Roger Clark Miller filmed Davis Square from 5 different locations, in the 4 different seasons. This footage was edited down to 22 minutes and forms the structure for the composition. Each season has a different harmony – spring is the most consonant, winter the most dissonant. The score was created by applying grids with the appropriate seasonal harmony to the footage. Vehicles are strings, pedestrians are woodwinds and brass, bicycles are snare drums, etc. Miller sometimes refers to this piece as being “a Populist John Cage” approach to music. Once various decisions were made concerning harmony, instrumentation and dynamics, the piece played itself based on what showed up on-screen. People will see their every-day life transformed into music.
The DAVIS SQUARE SYMPHONY was initially conceived of as a performance for full orchestra with film. At present, this is impractical. Instead, Miller will create a high quality MIDI orchestral score (assisted by Berklee Professor Michael Bierylo) for the video. In this manner, it can be shown as a film or an installation. Perhaps in the future it will get the full concert treatment.
The Davis Square Symphony has been funded by the Somerville Arts Council.
The score on this video is a rough demo. A far better score will be completed in 2017.
HALF-MOON POND (2015), for string orchestra and filtered white noise.
While camping at Half-Moon Pond in Vermont in 2013, Miller took the below photograph, enjoying the structural content. Realizing it was perfectly set up to be transformed into music, he pondered the problems involved and by early 2014 realized how it could best be adapted for string orchestra. No actual notes are written, but specific gestures and pitch-ranges are defined. The notes/gestures are improvised by the performers based on the score. Time is clock-based, needing a conductor only for major changes. And there will be no A440: as in Vines for Music, Nature does not quantize pitch so neither should this score. A filtered white/pink noise track is integral to the composition, and plays in sync with the clock. In July 2016, Half-Moon Pond received a run-through by the Cambridge Philharmonic.
SNAKES DREAM SKY (2008), for viola, piano, drums and pre-recorded sounds. It premiered on Nov.15, 2010, at the New England Conservatory.
Shortly after Mission of Burma had completed their 2004 album “The Obliterati”, Miller was certain they’d made the album they should have made, but that no one was going to listen and the band would soon fold. He began to ponder what he’d do with his creative energy after that occurred (but it didn’t). Snakes Dream Sky was the result, and this type of “serious music composing” has continued ever since. The 2nd and 3rd movements utilize Rock Music through-out as an organizing feature, utilizing a loose interpretation of 12-tone rows. The third movement is a Dream Interpretation, and the fourth movement is based on an isolated guitar feedback track. Snakes Dream Sky is approximately 18 minutes in duration.
SNAKES DREAM SKY: End of Diamondback into first half of Dream Interpretation.
MAPLE LEAF CRUSH (2013), for four percussionists.
Maple Leaf Crush is based on a recording of a dried Maple leaf being crushed, created while Miller was in Seattle. The audio file was blown up visually, every second extended to a minute in length. Analysis was made of peaks and valleys, applying this to a set of 20 different types of percussion instruments. Duration 6’40”. The original leaf recording was 60 times quicker, lasting approximately 6.5 seconds.
Initial audio for MAPLE LEAF CRUSH
ROCKS MUSIC for two soloists (2013, 2014): Electric Guitar and Cello.
These two compositions are all structurally organized by photographs of rocks. For electric guitar, a hillside outside of Tromso Norway; for cello, rocks in southern Vermont. The Cello composition was written for ex-Callithumpian Consort member (and cellist on Mission of Burma’s “The Obliterati” album) Benjamin Schwartz.
TROMSO HILLSIDE ROCKS for Solo Electric Guitar. Performed by the composer.
P-10 (2010), for three percussionists, two string trios and electric organ.
Like Snakes Dream Sky, P-10 utilizes Rock Music as its primary inspiration. It is a mode Miller understands well (see Mission of Burma, etc.). The middle movement, again, is a Dream Interpretation. P-10 is in three movements, and is approximately 11’30” in duration.
24:24, composed at CalArts and performed by Miller, Spring 1976. It premiered at CALARTS Yokoncerts, April 1976 with the composer at the piano.