A Musical Background of Doug Ball

I was born into a fairly musical family: my father was a jazz guitarist (and instructor), my maternal grandmother was a piano teacher, and numerous other relatives were semi-professional or amateur musicians. A few distant relatives were actually professional musicians.

I began the piano at age 7, taking lessons from my grandmother, and it wasn't long before I was improvising and composing at the piano. In middle school, I added the viola to my list of instruments, although my time with the viola turned out to be a less than stellar stint that ended with middle school. However, being in the string orchestra gave me a newfound appreciation for ensemble music and the importance of giving all instruments parts that were as interesting as musically possible. My middle school experience also introduced me to such 20th century classical works as The Planets and awakened an interest in film music. By the end of middle school, I had written my first large ensemble piece, for string orchestra.

In high school, I was recruited, based on my piano skills, to play keyboard percussion instruments in the pit percussion section in marching band. This led to me taking up percussion as a new "instrument". Consequently, I learned about the multi-faceted percussion section and, being in band, became more familiar with the woodwind and brass families, too. Marching band, somewhat oddly enough, introduced me to further classical greats like The Rite of Spring and Scheherazade. My on-going quest to listen to the works featuring percussion lead to further classical works (such as the works of Edgard Varèse and Steve Reich) and a new angle to appreciate film music. This orchestral obsession led to my first orchestra piece, just after 10th grade. Also during this time, I played in the high school jazz band and learned a fair amount about this genre as well, though its influence was less overt than my orchestral and percussion obsessions.

As an undergraduate, I had the opportunity to take classes at and from people associated with Eastman School of Music. The theory classes I took gave me a much stronger foundation in the underpinnings of western music of all periods (including instilling in me a newfound appreciation for baroque music). The composition and orchestration classes I took from Stefan Freund, Aaron Travers, and Kenneth Eberhard allowed me to completely redefine what I thought new music was, to gain a solid foundation in writing for different instruments, and to grow quite a bit in compositional skill. My experiences playing percussion in the wind ensemble and orchestra (especially getting to play some of the classics I loved) also enriched my musical experience. Strangely enough, due to my association with the University of Rochester Pep Band, this time period also saw me become more familiar with more popular genres (though in a way that befit my existing classical and jazz backgrounds). I finally became familiar with Frank Zappa and also gained an appreciation for British prog rock of the late 1960s and 1970s.

The years since my undergraduate days have seen a continuation of several trends. I have continued to explore worlds of rock and jazz, as well as seeking out new and interesting music in the classical tradition, both by "classical" composers and in film music. Following in trends starting from my undergraduate days, most of my compositional effort goes towards writing pieces for minimal chamber ensembles, rather than works for large ensembles or solo pieces. Furthermore, I have continued my interest in instruments that lie near or at the intersection of the string and percussion families, including the piano, harp, guitar, vibraphone, celesta, crotales, chimes, glockenspiel, marimba, xylophone, bass, synthesizer, and drumset. Many of chamber ensembles I have written for are comprised of some subset of these instruments. Also in recent years, I have become (even more) interested in instrumental timbres and developed an interest in transcription.