Little Matrix Music, A

From Wind Repertory Project
Brian Balmages

Brian Balmages

Subtitle: An acoustic and digital composing toolkit

General Info

Year: 2020
Difficulty: Various (see Ratings for explanation)
Publisher: Brian Balmages
Cost: Virtual Session - $250.00; (digital) - $75.00

Instrumentation (Flexible)

Full Score
C Treble Clef Instruments
B-flat Instruments
E-flat Instruments
F Instruments
Bass Clef Instruments
Alto Clef



None discovered thus far.

Program Notes

For visionary and friend Alex Shapiro.

- Program Note from score

Performance Notes

The inspiration for this project piece came from Alex Shapiro and her incredible new curriculum Putting the E- in E-nsemble. This course, designed in response to the outbreak and overall concern of COVID-19, was pioneered by the University of Washington. The course (and this piece) are designed to work entirely in an online learning modality, though they can easily be incorporated into an in-person learning modality as well. While Shapiro’s course was originally designed for college students, A Little Matrix Music, written with Alex’s encouragement, makes this entire world accessible to younger students (band and orchestra, from elementary through high school).

To quote Shapiro’s curriculum, “Students will experience collectively composing pieces of music via online collaboration and file transfer. Through this process, they will not only continue to play their instruments, but will more clearly understand the many elements that go into creating a piece of music. By the end of this unit, each student will have progressed from [playing a short passage] to producing a two-minute or longer piece of music using their own material combined with that of their fellow students.”

I highly recommend visiting Alex Shapiro’s website to obtain a free copy of her curriculum, which directly impacted the structure of this piece.

These adapted versions are specifically geared toward middle and high schools and include direct ties to the National Standards and more. The combination of these resources and this piece will provide a lasting, musical, and effective opportunity to further the musicianship of your students in a brand-new way.

This piece uses a drone as a foundation for everything. The supplied drones were intentionally created in Garage Band using free software samples only. Upon learning this, students will hopefully be motivated to use a free online DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) to create their own drones and explore their creativity further. Note that, upon contacting Alex Shapiro, directors have the option of purchasing customized drones (much hipper than mine).

The music progressively works through various elements of music -- from rhythmic cells to short motifs, melodies (developed from those motifs), countermelodies, some opportunities to add color / dissonance, and the opportunity to compose or improvise any of these elements.

Students record their own sections and then upload to a central location. They are then able to download recordings by other students and begin to assemble them in interesting and creative ways (no two projects will ever be the same). At the very end of this project, every student will have their own complete, unique, recording featuring themselves and their classmates.

Of course, in order for this to be successful, there are many “rules” implemented at various stages of the project in order to avoid overwhelming students. Learn more, and hear some sound samples from The University of Washington here.


(Needed - please join the WRP if you can help.)

State Ratings

None discovered thus far.


To submit a performance please join The Wind Repertory Project

Works for Winds by This Composer

Adaptable Music

All Wind Works