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Legos Emit Gnarly Overtones

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Benjamin D. Taylor

Benjamin Dean Taylor

General Info

Year: 2020
Duration: c. 3:55
Difficulty: II (see Ratings for explanation)
Publisher: Benjamin Dean Taylor Music
Cost: Score and Parts (digital) - $95.00

Instrumentation (Flexible)

Full Score
Part 1

  • Flute
  • Oboe
  • B-flat Soprano Clarinet
  • E-flat Alto Saxophone
  • B-flat Trumpet
  • Violin

Part 2

  • B-flat Soprano Clarinet
  • E-flat Alto Saxophone
  • B-flat Trumpet
  • Horn in F
  • Violin
  • Viola

Part 3

  • Bassoon
  • B-flat Tenor Saxophone
  • Trombone
  • Euphonium
  • Cello

Part 4

  • Bassoon
  • B-flat Bass Clarinet
  • E-flat Baritone Saxophone
  • Trombone
  • Euphonium
  • Tuba
  • String Bass



None discovered thus far.

Program Notes

Legos Emit Gnarly Overtones, written with a retro 8-bit video game soundtrack groove, is intended specifically for virtual ensembles, with rehearsal and performance to take place entirely online. The work encourages students to make creative choices for some visual and musical elements.

- Program Note from publisher

I absolutely love Legos and the creative play they inspire. Trapped at home during the first months of the COVID-19 pandemic, my five young boys and I played even more Legos than usual. That made me think, “What if I made a piece of music that was like building with little Lego blocks, where little melodic ideas snapped together in interesting and playful ways?” I choose to build all of the melodic themes from a C-minor pentatonic scale since pentatonic scales are literally a foundational building block for many aspects of music theory. I envisioned that the electronic track would be like the building surface where I could then place individual blocks of one-measure melodies on top. The sounds in the track consist of sounds from Legos as well as other 8-bit-style retro video game sound effects (created using a free online program called “beepbox” which is setup in a grid, again similar to Legos).

An important aspect of this piece is that the performers get to build their own melodies with the C-minor pentatonic scale during moments of improvised solos, with even everyone simultaneously soloing at one point. In addition to playing their traditional instruments, the performers improvise with Legos in sonic and visual ways to enhance the composition and create a performance unique to their personalities and tastes. The word Lego comes from the Danish phrase leg godt meaning “play well.”

A virtual ensemble - Why?

When the pandemic first started and everything shut down, I was beyond deflated because all of my upcoming concerts and premieres were canceled. My artistic output totally ground to a halt. I couldn’t write music. After weeks of stagnation, I finally decided that I was sick of feeling like I was in “pause” mode. I decided that I would change the paradigm: if I couldn’t make music in person, I would explore creative ways that I could make music virtually. This is one of the works that was a result of that paradigm shift. And I’m calling it that because up until recently, I had always thought of virtual music performances as significantly subpar to in-person concerts. I think we can all agree that while Eric Whitacre’s virtual choir videos are cool, they are still not as cool as hearing a choir in person sing that same piece.

Needless to say, there are definite huge advantages to making music in person rather than virtually. But what about the flip side? What advantages are there to making music virtually that we can’t do in person? What can I do in a virtual performance space that I can’t do in a normal concert hall? I quickly realized that to fully take advantage of the virtual performance space, the performance video had to be much more than watching a bunch of people play their clarinet recorded in their bedroom. Rather, a virtual performance has to incorporate visuals, props, acting, lighting, choreography, etc. to be all it can be, and to make it a distinct performance category. This piece as it currently exists can’t be successfully performed in a concert hall. It wouldn’t work. Sure, the music could be performed, but it wouldn’t be nearly as compelling and interesting without the extra-musical aspects. Ultimately, I choose to see possibilities where others saw only limitations. As Stravinsky famously said, “The more constraints one imposes, the more one frees one's self to the chains that shackle the spirit.”

- Program Note by composer

Written for and dedicated to the students of the Music Creators Academy 2020.

- Program Note from score

Performance Notes

  • Play-along audio track
  • Written specifically for virtual ensemble (for rehearsal and performance to take place entirely online)
  • Solo opportunities
  • Improvisation opportunities
  • Incorporates visuals, theatricality, minimal costumes/props
  • Students make creative choices for some visual and musical elements

No percussion is required for a successful performance of this work. Percussionists can choose from the pitched parts above and play them on mallet instruments such as marimba, xylophone, or vibraphone (or even a piano). Alternatively, percussionists may choose to play unpitched instruments, but in this case they would need to invent or improvise their own part in order to contribute tastefully to the groove in the audio track.

Further performance notes are found in the score. Perusal score is found here.


State Ratings

None discovered thus far.


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