I love exploring sound with other people. This activity is an important part of my life as a composer.

I’ve participated in several educational residencies in the last few years, and I always come away from these experiences creatively refreshed. Helping people of all ages explore their unique musical sensibilities inevitably broadens and deepens my own.

In 2005 the Minnesota Orchestra asked me to write a short piece for their youth and family concerts. The resulting work, Drip Blip Sparkle Spin Glint Glide Glow Float Flop Chop Pop Shatter Splash, became the centerpiece of a residency with the Des Moines Symphony this past spring.

Below are some photos from that week’s activities.

Here I am with the 5th Graders of Hubbell Elementary. We listen to the first 15 seconds of Drip Blip Sparkle Spin Glint Glide Glow Float Flop Chop Pop Shatter Splash very carefully, trying to identify the orchestral sound that goes with each word in the title. Then we listen to how those sounds grow and interact as the piece continues.

We brainstorm our own list of action words.

Then we break into groups and come up with sounds (and in this case some cool choreography) for each of our chosen words.

We come together and listen to each group’s sound.

Then we organize these sounds into a piece and perform the final product.

Later in the week I lead group improvisations with some high school orchestras, including the Des Moines Youth Symphony (who are here using their instruments to “scratch” and “scribble”).

The East High School Orchestra explores the possibilities of “drip.”

The Des Moines Symphony Academy organized a master class and reading with three young Iowa composers who wrote some strikingly original music for string quartet. Here I am with Varun Ramaswamy and musicians from the DMS.

Photo credit: Christopher Maharry