in Scotland, March 2016

Composer/Music Faculty:

Lionel Hampton School of Music
Moscow ID
(208) 885-4086

Graduate Analysis
Intro to Composition
Choral and Instrumental Arranging


Composer and pianist Bill Whitley has been playing piano and composing since he was 15. After short stints at Eastern Washington University (jazz piano), and Berklee College of Music (Songwriting), he received a Bachelor of Arts in 1994 from Gonzaga University where he studied organ, piano, and composition. In 2000, he earned a Master of Music degree in composition at the University of Idaho, and in 2007, a PhD in composition at the University of Oregon.

Bill has studied composition with Robert Kyr, David Crumb, Robert Dickow, Dan Bukvich, and Fr. Kevin Waters; and has had master classes with Lou Harrison, George Crumb, John Adams, and John Corigliano.

Commissions have included chamber, choral, liturgical, orchestral, and band works. His music reflects an interest in sacred traditions of all cultures. Influences include Brian Eno, John Cage, Laurie Anderson, Meredith Monk, John Luther Adams, Giacinto Scelsi, Morton Feldman, Lou Harrison, Pauline Oliveros, Paul Dresher, and David Lang; Gregorian chant, raga music, and gamelan; as well as art-rock, and prog-rock. Bill’s music is rhythmically vigorous, and he prefers to work as efficiently as possible with his harmonic material. At the core of all of his works is a commitment to melodic content. Since 2003, most of his works reflect an interest in non-western composition procedures.

Most of his music is created specifically for live performance, though some works are commercially available: Selections of his sacred choral works are available through Oregon Catholic Press, and a recording of solo piano works is available through Teal Creek Music and North Pacific Music, and is available at iTunes, Amazon,, and on various streaming sites such as Rhapsody and Spotify.

Bill is a member of Society of Composers, College Music Society, and National Association of Composers-USA (NACUSA)


Bill teaches Composition, Analysis, Counterpoint, and Instrumental and Choral Arranging at the Lionel Hampton School of Music at the University of Idaho, in beautiful Moscow, Idaho.

At the core of Bill's teaching philosophy is a commitment to the pedagogy of musicianship. Bill's central focus is getting students to hear structure. His favorite pedagogy tools in each of these contexts is moveable 'do' solfegge, and phrase diagramming.

Bill believes that mastery of moveable 'do' solfegge is intrinsic to the mastery of harmony. Regarding phrase diagramming, Bill believes that the practice of creating visual demonstrations of musical structure--with or without the aid of a score--is essential to understanding the most elemental components of music.


Two pieces for two guitars for James Reid and JP Shields inspired by creation myths is scheduled to premiere on April 28, 2016. It's not yet titled. The first movement is called "Ocean and Her Cloud Daughters" and the second is called "Coyote draws Yakail-Wimakl".

Awake (2016) for flute, soprano sax, and piano was written for and premiered by the ensemble trIaD on February 9, 2016. Check out the score and recording of the premiere below.

The first movement of a new sacred choral work called All Those Who Wait (2015) for a capella TTBB chorus was written and premiered by the University of Idaho Men's chorus in the first week of Advent, 2015. The four-movement choral work features the texts and chants of the propers for the 1st Sunday of Advent.

Bonzai Down (2015-) for Symphony Orchestra is nearly completed.

A song recital featuring the singers Rebecca Fromherz, Janene Nelson, and Jessica Peterson; and pianists Jackie Morelli, Diane Baxter, and (Me) was held in the spring of 2014 as part of WOU's Faculty Artist Series. The show included all of my 'art songs' composed so far: my WILLIAM CARLOS WILLIAMS SONGS (1995), ROBERT CREELEY SONGS (2003) and a new set based on poems of Donna Henderson (2013).

String Trio (2003), Presented by Cascadia Composers, a chapter of the National Association of Composers, USA. Recorded live on October 20, 2012, at St. Anne's Chapel, Marylhurst University, Marylhurst, OR. Performed by Lucia Conrad (violin), Marissa Winship (viola), and Diane Chaplin (cello). Follow links to listen:
I. Recitatve & Trio
II. P'u "The Uncarved Block"
III. Dance

A Concert of my more recent compositions, as well as arrangements of a couple John Cage works, and premieres of a couple of pieces by my friend Francesco Zago, was held at WOU on April 18th, 2012.

Little White Salmon (2010), for two pianos and narrator was performed on Wednesday May 11th, 2012 by pianists Diane Baxter and Jackie Morelli, and poet/narrator Donna Henderson at Western Oregon University's Smith Recital Hall.

Manic Depression/Posuerunt me, which mixes Jimi Hendrix and Gesualdo tunes for Jazz band and electric guitar solo, currently under way.

Sketches are beginning to appear for what will be my first, and long-coming PIANO CONCERTO, written for Diane Baxter.

Labyrinth Walk: Music for Piano (1987-1994) is now available at CD Baby at:
Bill Whitley: Labyrinth Walk: Music for Piano

Click here to hear the title track from the LABYRINTH WALK cd. This was written in memory of John Cage, shortly after his death in 1992. It is modeled after his IN A LANDSCAPE and various Cage-inspired techniques were employed, such as using dice to determine the structure.

Ecclesia (2001) is now available at Oregon Catholic Press. (Scroll down at the linked article, to see a review of the piece, and link for ordering.)


AWAKE (2015)

PDF score

In 2003 I had the opportunity to see an installation of Alexander Calder pieces in Washington DC. I had been interested in labyrinth walks, rosaries/akshamala, and mantras, Tibetan prayer wheels, P’u and other meditative focal points much earlier, and had been incorporating those experiences into my music—and Calder’s work seemed to have the same effect to me. I did not expect the experience to be so impactful. I just stood there and stared for what might have been an hour, wandering from one mobile to the next, completely entranced. I went to look at wall art at the museums across the street and eventually went back to the Calder pieces.

I am convinced that that’s how music works too: otherwise discreet objects, created to complement one another at any distance, animated by the sheer physics of an object suspended in time and space. I fell in love with the way this type of expression elicits silence, and can draw a person in. Of all of the types of expression that I’ve allied myself with, this concept has been the most consistent. The first pieces written after this Washington D.C. experience were A Study of Two Pears (2003) for two pianos, and Missa Semplice (2003) for voices, 2 marimbas, vibes and electric bass.

Lily of Force written six years later, with several pieces written in between, confirmed my suspicion that the ‘suspended object’ approach was more than just a passing idea for me. It has, in every piece I’ve written since 2003, become the syntax and vocabulary for my language. Lily is inspired by an Alexander Calder mobile of the same name (google “Lily of Force Alexander Calder), and is the first to appropriate one of Calder’s titles. This piece is my attempt to get inside of the experience of the Calder piece. (It was most recently sold at auction on May 8, 2012 for $18,562,500!)

Awake was written for trIaD (Sarah Chae, flute; Arthur Sagami, saxophone; and Nicholas Zollo, piano) in December 2015. In this piece I use a rondo/arch form to express a mandala experience.


PDF score

LILY OF FORCE is for Soprano Saxophone, Vibes, Upright Bass, and Piano. LILY OF FORCE, inspired by Alexander Calder's piece of the same name, is a great example of my most recent work. It is very similar in style and construction to my most recent composition LITTLE WHITE SALMON (2010). LILY was first performed in the spring of 2009. This recording is of a February 9th, 2016 performance at the Lionel Hampton School of Music.


PDF score

STUDY OF TWO PEARS is inspired by the mobiles of Alexander Calder, and is based on the poem STUDY OF TWO PEARS by Wallace Stevens. This is a 'mobile form' composition, one of several works I've written that utilizes indeterminacy as structural component. The performance notes say it best:

"Each section of music can be viewed as a suspended object--the 'objects' remain unchanged except in regard to their respective locations in time. Each section of the piece is likewise not fixed, but animated by the following method of performance.

The score for STUDY OF TWO PEARS is intended for two pianos, consists of six sections labeled 1-6 (correlating to the six sections of Stevens' poem), and is notated as if for one piano. Each player will perform from these identical scores, but neither of the two pianists can know the order in which the other is playing the sections. Each performer will play the six sections either in an order determined prior to the performance or in an improvised order. The sections must be played exactly as written without regard for the other's tempi or dynamic. Each section must also be played twice but preferably not in immediate succession. (e. g., the order [3,6,2,4,1,5...], would be preferable to [3,3,6,6,2,2...].)

"Sanctus" from MISSA SEMPLICE (2003)

PDF score

For over a year, unknown to herself as well as all of her friends, my good friend Lani Wright-Mirsch had been suffering from a brain tumor. As soon as I got off of the phone with her the day she gave me the news, I sat down at wrote MISSA SEMPLICE. It took me most of the morning, and all of the afternoon.

The MASS is written for two marimbas, vibraphone, and electric or upright bass. This recording is of a performance featuring chamber choir and piano.