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EIU Department of Music

Composers' Forum: Spring 2021

Featuring original compositions by EIU Student Composers:


Members of the Spring 2021 EIU Composition Studio 

Rhys-Maxwell P. Barnes-Yu

Eliot Crispin

Jonathan Fong

Addie Gladu

Aspen-Johanna Murgas

Jacob Ramage

Bart V. Rettberg

Preston Rice

Camden Webb


Rhys-Maxwell P. Barnes-Yu

EIU Music Composition · "Paris Par La Seine" by Rhys-Maxwell P. Barnes-Yu

"Paris Par La Seine" forChamber Orchestra (Rhys-Maxwell P. Barnes-Yu)

View Rhys' Score

Program Notes:

Paris par la Seine was written to emulate three aspects of riverside Paris. All three of these aspects play into the larger theme of transportation. The first aspect is the Seine itself, the second is the metro system, and the third is the winding city streets.

The “water” section spans from mm. 1-47 and seeks to portray rolling currents. The mode used (024579) is symmetrical, and I hoped that it would have similar vibe to the Gymnopedies or Pas sur la Neige. In the minimal percussion section, the pianissimo rolled bass drums provides a darker undercurrent while the suspended cymbal showers us in delicate waves.

The “train” section, mm. 47-77, takes on a much more mechanical feeling, incorporating much more percussion as well as a different set of pitch classes (01348) which are frequently transposed using ordered transposition. In addition, the overlapping rhythms create a vibe of perpetual motion before screeching to a halt at mm. 66 before taking off once more.

The “road” section, mm. 77-93, utilises the now common prime (027) - quartal/quintal chords reduced to a trichord. The steady walk of the bass voices provides a contrast to the more flitting upper voices.

Finally, to end the piece, there is a return to the “water” content.


Eliot Crispin

"Growing Anxiety" for Vibraphone and Piano (Eliot Crispin)

EIU Music Composition · "Growing Anxiety" by Eliot Crispin

View Eliot's Score for "Growing Anxiety"

"Subconscious" for Vibraphone and Piano (Eliot Crispin)

EIU Music Composition · "Subconsious" by Eliot Crispin


View Eliot's Score for "Subconscious"


Jonathan Fong

Kingdom & Country

Jonathan Fong (b. 1994)

  1. Royal Hall

  2. Mystic Forest

  3. Imperial

  4. Meadows

  5. Festival

Approx. Dur. [14:00]


Kingdom & Country is a work of five movements for string orchestra. The piece is programmatic, depicting a medieval fantasy realm.

‘Royal Hall’ uses parallel fifths to imitate the ‘hollow’ sound of a castle’s great hall. Its broad sound gives the movement an almost ethereal, sacred tone.

‘Mystic Forest’ uses extended string playing techniques, such as harmonic glissandi, col legno, and sul ponticello to create strange sounds.

‘Imperial’ has a bold marching sound enforced by the triplet rhythm.

‘Meadows’ has many lush chords and sustained notes to evoke the picturesque countryside. Beautiful solo lines from violin and cello help create a peaceful tone.

‘Festival’ has the sensation of cheerful celebration in a town or city square. Playful rhythms and technique help give the final movement bright energy and a climactic finale.


(Mystic Forest’ is absent from the recording due to the amount of extended technique in it, which is too difficult to reproduce in a computer-generated format.)


Addie Gladu

EIU Music Composition · "Caverne De Mer" by Addie Gladu

"Caverne de Mer Scintillante (Glittering Sea Cave)" for Piano (Addie Gladu)


Program Notes: "This is a composition for solo piano in E major. I invite listeners to imagine themselves on a journey into a glittering sea cave to experience the mystery, the curiosity, the excitement, and the hidden treasures within belonging to a prince from the days of old. This composition features various modes of the E major scale, including A lydian, F# dorian, D# locrian, and more. The right hand plays shimmering chords and suspended passages, as the left hand plays low chords reflecting the depth and darkness of the watery grotto; these work together to create captivating imagery."

Aspen-Johanna Murgas

EIU Music Composition · 1. It Was A Lordings Daughter

"It was a Lording's Daughter" by Aspen-Johanna Murgas

View Aspen-Johanna's Score for "It was a Lording's Daughter"

EIU Music Composition · 5. Live With Me And Be My Love

"Live With Me and Be My Love" by Aspen-Johanna Murgas

View Aspen-Johanna's Score for "LIve With Me and Be My Love"

Jacob Ramage

Battle of Birds
For Flute, Oboe, Bb Clarinet, Bass Clarinet, and Bassoon

Jacob Ramage

My bedroom window offers a front row seat to the bird feeders in my backyard. When I wake up in the morning, I often sit and listen to the birds chirping. They sing pleasant and lyrical songs—the soft crooning of mourning doves and the restless chitter-chatter of finches instill a sense of tranquility within me. However, when I pull up the blinds to finally see the birds, the illusion of peace is dropped instantly. In its place is a macabre scene of conflict. The birds fight viciously for the seeds from the feeders freshly filled the night before. They fight for perches upon the feeder, knocking each other off and spilling seeds in the process. Other birds brawl on the ground, violently pecking each other with their beaks.

This piece aims to portray the carnage of this feeding frenzy. The instrumentation, a woodwind quintet, captures the agile and acrobatic nature of birds in flight. Powerful chords give way to open, aleatoric soundscapes to represent the calm before the storm. These dissonant harmonies soon lead to frantic runs in the flute, oboe, and clarinet while the bass clarinet and bassoon provide jaunty yet purposeful basslines. This all culminates into a climactic frenzy of notes that emphasizes the chaos of this great battle.

EIU Music Composition · "Battle Of Birds" by Jacob Ramage


View Jacob's Score for "Battle of Birds"

Bart V. Rettberg

String Quartet (2020-2021)
I. With Agitation
II. Slow & Moody
III. Tempo Giusto

Using material from a previous sketch, the String Quartet came to fuller fruition during the pandemic lock-downs.  A majority of the first and second movements are derived from the first five notes of the opening (A-flat, G, A, B, & B-flat), which opens up a variety of interval play (half/whole-steps, minor/major thirds, perfect fourths/fifths, plus whole-tone and octatonic scale patterns).  After the first statement of the five-note set (both in sixteenth & triplet formats), the motive goes through a variety of permutations, as the players mimic each other and pass material back and forth.  The second movement is a study in color and mixed techniques (pizz. glissando, tremolo, etc.).  The final movement, completed this Spring, comes completely from the opening measure.  As each player plays a four measure rhythmic ostinato throughout, adding pizz. and sudden dynamic changes, which help to highlight the full colors and timbre readily available to strings, as the melodic fragments are passed between the players in duos, trios, and tutti, eventually ending with one final ‘sigh’ of the five note opening motive.


Bart V. Rettberg (1964 - ) bio …

Now in his 27th year as an Eastern Illinois University staff member, Rettberg is a non-traditional graduate student in the process of earning a master’s degree in music composition.  He previously earned two full Bachelor of Music degrees from Eastern -- the first in Piano Performance, and another in Music Theory & Composition, earning multiple Dean's List, Outstanding Performance and Honors Recital kudos. 

He currently oversees office support and management of the Department of Educational Leadership in Buzzard Hall after previously working 20 years in the EIU Panther athletic department.  A long-time Charleston resident, Rettberg has annually performed with the EIU Oratorio Society, Camerata Singers and Concert Choir as a baritone and/or pianist/accompanist.  As a highly sought-after pianist/accompanist/organist, he enjoys sharing his love of music with a variety of audiences, including playing for church groups, soloists, ensembles, and area musical theatre productions.

EIU Music Composition · "String Quartet" by Bart Rettberg


View Bart's Score for "String Quartet (2020)"

Preston Rice

"Iterations" for Piano (Preston Rice)

View Preston's score for "Iterations"

Iterations is a piece for solo piano based on a harmonic algorithm. The algorithm provided the pitch content for each of the sections of the piece. I derived the algorithm from the whole tone scale in combination with the circle of fifths to create various chords with alternate bass notes. Each section uses one to three of these chords as the basis for its harmonic language and the passing notes were derived from assigning one or more scales that fit the chords of each section.

Performer: Addie Gladu


"Monologue" for Percussion Soloist and Computer (Preston Rice)

View Preston's score for "Monologue"

The first half of Monologue was inspired by the feelings of confusion and panic leading up to the stay-at-home order our government enacted. It makes use of synthesized sounds and unnatural noise to represent the surreality I felt throughout that period. The second half was made entirely using processed sounds I had at my disposal in my room. This section of the piece reflects the limbo following shortly after the order began from the perspective of someone who already struggled with finding a routine in the business of normal life but is now struggling with the absolute absence of any structure. It also references my reliance on virtual communication throughout this time as a means of staying attached to reality.

Performer: Preston Rice


Camden Webb

"Self Inflicted Isolation" for Percussion Trio (Camden Webb)

View Camden's Score for "Self Inflicted Isolation"

This piece was written within the span of a few hours in an emotionally charged night. From a reminiscence about the past, to a frustrated (but complex) feeling about the present, to a contemplative and sorrowful look to the future--this piece encaptures many of the emotions I was feeling. Originally written for a piano (admittedly without regard to the minor limitation of how many fingers a single performer may have), I arranged it for a mallet trio of a vibraphone, xylophone, and marimba. The title of this piece, “Self-Inflicted Isolation,” calls back to that contemplative and reminiscent period between the hours of one and four in the morning.

Performed by:

  • Andrew “Flam” Powell - Vibraphone
  • Preston C. L. Rice – Xylophone
  • Garrison “Gary” Reed – Marimba

"A Tale For Wondered Eyes" for Flute and Guitar (Camden Webb)

View Camden's Score for "A Tale for Wondered Eyes""

This piece is a ballad, telling a wonderous tale from lands far, far away: one of action, kinship, battle, love, and victory: the kind of story that all the younger members of a large family reunion would eagerly gather around to listen to. This is also the kind of story that all the wiser family members would chuckle or roll their eyes to, for they know just how overly dramatized and exaggerated the story really is.

I kept both of these things in mind when writing this piece; I knew that I wanted highly contrasting sections but a consistent feel of wonder and adventure throughout the piece. Ballade form is written in an AB form, with the smaller sections written as (ab-ab)(bc-bC). The ‘a’ sections are almost march-like, scenes of action and battle in the story. The ‘b’ sections are more lyrical and emotional; tales of the friends made along the way. Finally, the ‘c’ sections are stories of victory and triumph (for every great tale needs a happy ending). As the story reaches its ending (represented as the coda, here), the narrator becomes even more exaggerated and dramatic, flying off the rails in order to make the story seem just a little bit more magical for those little ones watching intently with wondered eyes.

Performed by:

  • Isaac Navarro – Flute
  • Jacob Ramage – Guitar

"Theme of an Unlikely Hero" for Electronic Sounds (Camden Webb)

View Camden's Score for "Theme of an Unlikely Hero"

One of the biggest inspirations for me so far in my composition journey has been video game music. The usage of themes and motives paired with the need to cleanly loop and still drive the music and mood forward—these things, and others, keep drawing me to various video game soundtracks, be them electronic, for orchestra, concert band, solo piano, etc. This piece is the result of me sitting down at my computer and saying, “I’m going to compose something that sounds like it fits in a video game soundtrack.”

This piece uses electronic sounds mixed with a pick bass and piano and is in ABC form. The “A” section shows off the first theme in 15/16 time, introducing the main contrapuntal figures. After a brief transition, the “B” section changes to a more mellow tone, showing off the second theme and solo piano (again, admittedly without regard to the minor limitation of human hands). The “C” section picks the pace up again, showing off both themes and all of the contrapuntal figures together in the climax of the piece. The entire song then loops as necessary—a key characteristic of video game music.

In video games and stories, I’m not the biggest fan of the cliché main hero. I prefer the protagonist that isn’t expected, the one with many flaws and multiple dimensions. This piece shows this preference, where, instead of the ‘fanfare’ type of character, I wrote for a smaller, more unlikely and relatable hero.


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