Sean Shepherd

Notes from the Composer

Tuesday, June 15, 2010


Performed by the Scharoun Ensemble of Berlin; Conducted by Sean Shepherd.

I chose these excerpts from my Octet (completed in 2008) and my sextet Lumens (completed in 2006) in an attempt at broad contrast: fast vs. slow, soft vs. loud, lyrical vs. punctuated.  But when I listened to what I had selected, I was more struck by the similarities in the pieces than by the differences. Both are final sections of longer pieces for medium-sized chamber forces, both are for standard, time-tested ensembles, and both are, in the end, full of contrast in and of themselves. Each has plenty of soft, fast, and lyrical, and each has plenty more.


Performed by the Cornell Chamber Players; conducted by Sean Shepherd.

Where these excerpts truly differ is in character. The Octet selection comprises a whole movement, the fourth, entitled «The Perplexed Machine,» taken (as the other titles are) from the Wallace Stevens poem Sea surface full of clouds. Anyone might take some kind of dark, sarcastic pleasure in observing our nimble yet confused mechanical friend bumbling along—there certainly was pleasure on my part in guiding the bumbling. In Lumens, it’s quite the opposite. Arriving after a busy, joyous piece that teems with energy for long stretches, the excerpt begins just as apogee melts away, revealing a hushed and innocent final prayer, marked in the score: Benediction (blessing, in the most universal sense).


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Comments [12]

Aaron from NYC

I'll be listening for your name tomorrow night!

Oct. 13 2010 05:03 PM

Sean's music is a treat to the ear. It flows naturally with the world. Thanks and I look forward to finding your music in recordings.

Sep. 10 2010 09:23 AM
David Purcell from Hubbell, Michigan

Sean's music is exciting to the ear. He carries the listener along. Hope to hear more of your music.

Sep. 10 2010 09:07 AM
Christopher Stark from Monaners

Crazy talented.

Sep. 09 2010 04:59 PM
Emily W. from Chicago

Lumens is a really nice work!

Aug. 07 2010 12:35 PM
Kate Soper from NYC

Sean's music has a great, unique and humorous style and is always orchestrated so brilliantly--the surface of his music is so effortlessly ear-catching it's easy to overlook how deftly he changes colors and textures and how "right" all of the gestures are. Definitely gets my vote for an Orpheus commission.

Jul. 23 2010 11:54 AM
Orin O'Brien from New York

I like Sean Shepherd's music very much:
this octet is great. Original sounds, lots of Stravinsky influence I think! Rhythms pungent, each instrument has elegant lines: loads of counterpoint. I imagine his music is fun to play (this alone would recommend it to me!).

Jul. 07 2010 01:26 PM
Kathy from Amsterdam, Netherlands

this music has personality and skill. I would like to hear more. (I am no friend of the composer, seriously).

Jun. 25 2010 02:51 AM
Sam Solomon from Hull, MA

PS - the Octet reminds me of that awesome Orpheus Schoenberg Chamber Symphony recording. Just sayin

Jun. 25 2010 01:11 AM
Sam Solomon from Hull, MA

Wow, I haven't heard Sean's music since college -- great stuff! I love these excerpts. You make the octet sound like a much larger ensemble. Very exciting. Likewise in Lumens. Great ensemble shapes. Cartoon, no. But Carl Stalling did use a lot of bassoon and viola, i guess...

Hey Sean, don't you owe me a piece? ;)

Jun. 25 2010 12:27 AM
Jay Sandvos from Boston, MA

I never heard of Sean Shepherd before but I'm sorry that such moving and intelligent music is mislabelled as "cartoon music". Without disparaging any of the other uniquely personal music I've also enjoyed from Project 440, this music is indeed quite exceptional. Thanks.

Jun. 23 2010 01:53 PM

The selection from the "Octet" sounds a bit like superior cartoon music. I appreciate, though, the detail and the continual development. This is much better than a huge majority of the works I've heard in Project 440.

Jun. 21 2010 07:10 PM

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