Scott Allen Miller, composer

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At that point (again)

Nebula Ensemble will perform my piece “At that point (again)” on their upcoming concert: VERSE//CHORUS//NOVA

“At that point (again)” is a quartet for the unusual instrumentation of tenor saxophone, trumpet, viola, and cello. Much of the material was drawn from “That’s What I Like” by Bruno Mars. Specific elements of the harmony, rhythm, and phrase structure were considered along with broader stylistic and idiosyncratic aspects. The most conspicuous of these is the recycling of the song’s bombastic opening: three repeated chords with a distinct harmony that announce the start of the music. “At that point (again)” takes this idea but does not allow the fanfare to relax into a groove so readily. The chords progress forward, each new sound heralding its own arrival. This is the first meaning of the work’s title: we continuously relive the opening even as the context and details change.

The harmony follows the song’s chord progression, but is manipulated to create complex sonorities based on overtones and microtonal inversions. These chords reflect the natural microtonal inflections in the melody as performed by Bruno Mars, which are taken to an extreme and produce a comparably expressive progression that shares the original’s characteristic momentum.

Eventually, the repetitive energy dissipates and the texture becomes as intricate as it is delicate. With the opening fanfare escaped, the music takes on a more melodic character, stretching and distorting a single line of the song, which taken out of context and restated continuously, takes on an unexpectedly gloomy significance: the desperate desire to escape something. As the fanfare reappears and dissipates again, a frustration emerges: we’ve had this argument, this fight, this protest before. The details, the characters, the circumstances have changed. But the cycle continues. I don’t understand why or how, but we are at that point, again.



pdf: At that point (again) 

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Moment(s): Varioius/Concerted (for the Omnibus Ensemble)

“Moment(s): Various/Concerted” (2016) is for 10 players and was written for the Omnibus Ensemble, especially for the “Omnibus Laboratorium: Peabody – Tashkent” and was premiered by Omnibus Ensemble in Tashkent, Uzbekistan on 12 March 2017.

Program Note:

Moment(s): Various/Concerted (2016) for ten players:
[nay (alto and soprano) – oboe – percussion (suspended cymbal, crotales) – chang (or santur), –tanbur – two violins – viola – cello – contrabass]

     The starting place for this work was a collaboration with the incredible Omnibus Ensemble, who combine Western instruments and style with the traditional music and instruments of Uzbekistan. Members of the ensemble guided me through an exploration of Shashmaqam, particularly the incredibly beautiful and precise ornaments indicative of the genre. The specificity to which these microtonal embellishments are executed inspired me to connect this music with the newer microtonal tradition of spectralism. By deriving the musical lines from Uzbek ornaments and the harmony from the overtone series, the pitch content ties together these two otherwise disparate musics while also establishing a historical relationship to the Uzbek instruments and to timbre more generally.
     After a sonorous introduction to the sound-world, the main body of Moment(s): Various/Concerted presents short phrases constructed with contrasting sounds within the ensemble, often repeated two or more times to establish them as consolidated moments or ‘sound-objects.’ Throughout the piece, these musical ideas are developed with a focus on texture and timbre, always increasing in length and complexity.

Peruse the score here:…variousconcerted_-_s

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and passes, leaving behind – for solo percussionist

My solo percussion piece, “and passes, leaving behind,” explores simple metallic sounds. It was written for Nate Gworek in the Fall of 2015 and we worked quite closely to find some very specific instrumentation that I was interested in. One item that came from our collaboration is what I’ve been calling a ‘prepared crotale tree,’ which Nate figured out how to rig with paperclips to add some buzz. I treat this like a deconstructed bell tree, because in the context of this piece, the timbre lives somewhere between the triangles and the bell tree. Another important sound in the piece – the very first thing you hear – I could only describe to Nate as ‘muted and metallic.’ After some more particular discussions about what I was after, Nate sent me a clip of the opening bars being played on a metal saucer (from a gravy boat, I believe). It’s perfect. The final quirk – and perhaps my favorite – is that the whole piece is performed with knitting needles as mallets. This was Nate’s idea, entirely, and provides an unexpected grace and sensitivity which permeates Nate’s performance overall. Here is the premiere performance:

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“Portrait” for two trumpets (with one melodica)

“Portrait” was composed in the spring of 2015 and received it’s premier at the beautiful Evergreen Museum and Library along with ten singular photographs by Stefan Reichenstein. I recently recorded this ‘demo’ of the first 3 minutes of the work in order to share it here. The instrumental set-up is a unique one so I’ve copied my notes to the performers below, which will explain the ‘preparations’ and  techniques being implemented to those interested. Cheers!

The first trumpet player performs the entire piece with the mouthpiece of a melodica inserted into the bell of the trumpet such that the air can only escape through the melodica. This is best achieved by using a handkerchief or similar cloth around the tube to block airflow through the bell. In this way, the melodica will sound whenever the player buzzes into the instrument. In the score, an X-notehead is used in the melodica part to indicate a note being depressed without sounding. This occurs (m. 7) at the beginning of a crescendo when the dynamic is too soft for the upper note to speak; the effect should be similar to slowly rolling a chord.


This setup will transpose the instrument up (approximately) one whole step. Therefore, read the C score as if it was in B-flat (i.e. written C is open). Since intonation tends to be low, alternate fingerings are occasionally provided in parentheses. From mm. 7-15 the low A-flat should be the natural tuning. It is meant to be tuned to the 7th partial of B-flat and is approximately 1/6-tone lower than A-flat.

The second trumpet player performs the entire piece with a cup mute. The multiphonics notated on the bottom staff are to be sung into the instrument.

Demo/sample recording (both parts performed and recorded by the composer):

First Trumpet’s performance score in C:

ScottAMillerII -Portrait- PerfScore1TrumpetC -15April2015

Please contact me at if you would like to play or program this or any of my other compositions. Cheers!

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“…washed out to sea” on Artworks

I’m very proud to have an excerpt from my piece for solo double bass, “…washed out to sea” appear on Maryland Public Television’s series Artworks. A short clip of the full work runs over the end credits of episode 336, which you can watch for free here or at this link!

Below is some additional information on the program that I grabbed from their website. Please check it out!  

Maryland Public Television is excited to launch the third season of Artworks, MPT’s weekly arts series. The lively series is hosted by Rhea Feikin, a cultural icon in her own right. The show features intriguing profiles of established and emerging artists from across the country working in all creative categories: musicians, performers, visual artists, writers, designers, artisans – and experimental others who defy definition. Each program gives viewers insider access to outstanding artists they would never see otherwise, including many from our own area.

What’s new this season for Artworks? There are innovations ensuring that every episode includes works by creative talent from across the Greater Baltimore- Washington, DC area and Maryland. These include “Pop-Up Exhibits” showcasing compelling visual and performing artists. And viewers might recognize a favorite band or musician playing under the closing credits – an inventive way to showcase regional musicians by exploiting existing video “real estate” each week.

Artworks is made possible in part by the People of Baltimore County, and by the generous contributions of MPT Members.

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“…washed out to sea” – for solo double bass

This work was inspired by an erasure poem I created collaboratively for a class project in April. After thinking about what I wanted to do musically for about a week, I picked up the bass and essentially just improvised. I recorded in one take (well, okay there was a false start that I’m not counting!) and then cut out and discarded large chunks, crafting the final piece. There are no added effects or processing except just a little sprinkling of reverb. This process of recording myself improvising or working out material is entirely new to me. It worked for this piece and it just might be sneaking its way into my process. For now, please enjoy the recording … I need to go and write this down somehow…

“…washed out to sea” was composed, performed, and recorded by Scott A Miller II

Special thanks to Stefan Reichtenstein, an insightful collaborator, gifted photographer, and all-around cool guy for working with me to create the inspiration for this piece. Cheers!

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“Pillars, erased” – for orchestra

“Pillars, erased” is a ten-minute work for orchestra. From the start, monolithic chords are presented simultaneously with scattered, manic flourishes. Out of the chaos, comes virtual stillness. These juxtapositions continue throughout the work as the texture oscillates between clarity and amorphousness. A single descending melody gradually emerges from the gestural landscape, at times blending in, at other times revealing itself explicitly.

Many thanks to the Peabody Symphony Orchestra and Maestro Teri Murai for a wonderful reading of a very demanding work.

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Nocturne – for solo piano

This work is my first significant composition for solo piano. Completed late in 2013, it was premiered by the incredible Choo Choo Hu at the Peabody Conservatory on 5 February 2014. This is the live recording from that premier in Griswold Hall. I am so grateful to Choo Choo for the time she spent on this virtuosic piece! Thank you!

Program note:

“Nocturne” began as a short compositional étude but it grew quickly into something far more substantial. Over the course of about 10 minutes, this virtuosic work assembles and explores melodic and harmonic motives in hopes of creating an expansive musical space.

Scott A Miller II – Nocturne for piano -Score

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Organum – for two alto saxophones

Extended program note:

Organum is a composition that borrows its name from the style of medieval sacred music characterized by drones and perfect intervals. However, it is important to note that this piece is not intended to be historical and no stylistic choices were made to align it with the practices of authentic organum. The music is constructed out of two main ideas: a ‘pendulum’ consisting of a chromatic scale fragment swinging down from concert E-flat to concert B-natural and back up, eventually coming to rest in the middle, on a concert D-flat; and a five-note tone row (E-flat – A – B-flat – D-flat) which provides most of the melodic material through a rotational process borrowed from Stravinsky (i.e. “Stravinsky Verticals”). Two similarities are immediately apparent: both musical ideas begin on E-flat and end (eventually) on D-flat, and both contain five different pitches. The second of these becomes the root for the form of the entire piece, the number five playing a significant role in every aspect of the musical development. There is a section of music for each note of the pendulum figure as it unfolds on the macro level. Rhythmic grouping of different numbers (1 through 5) conflict at each transition until 5 has ‘defeated’ 1-4. The pendulum figure only occurs explicitly in the beginning (while the tone row is being presented in retrograde), in the middle (over a D-flat drone, the eventual destination), and at the end (when the destination is finally reached).

An important theme in this piece is the natural versus the artificial. This is embodied respectively in the ‘organic’ pendulum figure versus serial composition techniques as well as the free, meterless flow of the piece versus the exactitude of certain rhythms. 


Performed here by the incredible Jacob Swanson and Sarah Marchitelli: