Composer/Pianist/Music Faculty:

Western Oregon University
Monmouth, Oregon 97361
(503) 838-8275


Freshman Theory
1st, 2nd, and 3rd-Year Aural Skills
Form and Analysis
Composition
Composers Seminar
World Music

email me

BIO:

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.

Bill teaches Composition, Aural Skills, and World Music at Western Oregon University, in the heart of beautiful Willamette Valley. 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, cdbaby.com, 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)

TEACHING INFO:

Bill teaches Freshman Theory; 1st, 2nd, and 3rd-year Aural Skills; World Music; Form and Analysis, and private Composition Instruction.

At the core of Bill's teaching philosophy is a commitment to the pedagogy of musicianship. Whether teaching theory and aural skills, composition, form and analysis, or world music to non-music majors, 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.

CURRENT PROJECTS:


Little White Salmon (2009) for two pianos and narrator to be recorded May 13, 2013. Diane Baxter and Jackie Morelli, pianos and Donna Henderson, narrator.

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.

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).

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.

I'm hard at work on a 12-15 minute orchestral work commissioned by the Willamette Valley Symphony for their 2015-2016 concert season. Plans are to use the Santiam River as conceptual focus. I'm not sure what that means yet. I'm researching the social and geological history of the Santiam River for clues.

RECENT RECORDINGS:
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.

RECENT PUBLICATIONS:
Ecclesia (2001) is now available at Oregon Catholic Press.

Compositions

"Nothing Is Light, Nothing Is Dark" from THE TOWER OF BABEL (2007)


PDF score

From the conclusion of Part III of THE TOWER OF BABEL. THE TOWER is a seventeen-number, 60-minute liturgical drama based on Thomas Merton's play, "The Tower of Babel". I prepared the play into a libretto from 2004-2007. The audio is of a reading by Western Oregon University's Chamber singers in May of 2007.


LILY OF FORCE (2009)


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 the April 18, 2012 performance at WOU.


STUDY OF TWO PEARS (2003)


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 unchange 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

MISSA SEMPLICE was written in the Spring of 2003, and dedicated to my close friend Lani Wright-Mirsch. This is my first setting of the mass, and the style is inspired by South African choral traditions. The accompaniment here, realized on the piano, was originally conceived for two marimbas and upright bass.