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Biographies
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Short Bio

John Seymour, who goes by the nickname "Chow," is currently a candidate for a doctoral degree in music composition at the University of Hawai'i, where he also teaches various music theory courses. He grew up in Michigan and went on to receive a Bachelor of Music in Composition and Theory from the Blair School of Music at Vanderbilt University (with a minor in Japanese Language and Culture) in Nashville, TN, where he studied with Dr. Michael Kurek and Dr. Michael Rose. He then completed his Master of Music degree in Composition from the University of North Texas College of Music, where he studied principally with Dr. Cindy McTee and also with Dr. Joseph Klein and Dr. Damián Keller. His composition Chamber Concerto in Sinawi-jo was selected as one winner of the 2010 National Gugak Center composition competition, sponsored by the South Korean Government. Seymour also studies and performs on several Asian flutes, mainly the Chinese Dizi and Japanese Shinobue.

Long Bio

John Seymour is currently a candidate for a doctoral degree in music composition at the University of Hawai'i at Manoa.  After growing up in Michigan, he went on to receive a Bachelor of Music in Composition and Theory from the Blair School of Music at Vanderbilt University (with a minor in Japanese Language and Culture), in Nashville, TN, where he studied with Dr. Michael Kurek and Dr. Michael Rose.  In 2007 he received a Master's of Music in Composition from the University of North Texas College of Music, where he studied principally with Dr. Cindy McTee and also with Dr. Joseph Klein and Dr. Damián Keller.

Seymour, known by his nickname "Chow" among musicians, has a wide variety of compositional interests and works in many compositional idioms; as is not uncommon in the early 21st century. Strongest among these is an interest in music from other cultures, especially as an inspiration for composition, but also as a field for research.

"There is work being done in Linguistics that compares languages from all over the world in order to learn about humankind's innate capacity for language. Humans have an innate capacity for music as well, and I would like to see more cross-cultural comparative work done in music with the intent of identifying aesthetic trends that seem to be innate and those that seem to be culture-specific."

To this end Seymour's MM Thesis was a chamber composition for western instruments that employed certain organizational techniques found in similar repertories from all over Southeast Asia. The idea was that the organizational tendencies in Southeast Asian music might point to innate aesthetic preferences and if so, could be used successfully in a very different, in this case Western, context.

Looking to continue both research and composition in this vein, Seymour chose to pursue his doctoral degree at the University of Hawai'i. Here, he began to specialize in research on Japanese Gagaku music, and has been an active member of the Hawai'i Gagaku Society (ハワイ雅楽会) since 2008. He also studies the Japanese Shakuhachi (flute) with Shihan (master) Robert Herr. Besides Japanese studies, he performs regularly with Gamelan Segara Madu, the Balinese gamelan at the University of Hawai'i, and was a member of the University of Hawaii Korean Ensemble for two years.

Although his emphasis has been Japanese music, Seymour has had successes composing for Korean traditional instruments, especially in his compositions for Gayageum player Baek Seung-Hee, who has premiered several of his works in Seoul. Additionally, his Chamber Concerto in Sinawi-jo was selected as one winner of the 2010 National Gugak Center composition competition, sponsored by the South Korean Government. Seymour is the first person of not of Korean ethnicity to win this award.

Seymour also experiments in musical form in ways unrelated to the music of other cultures. "The 20th century saw a lot of new schemes for organizing sounds into music, but I think many audiences struggled to appreciate these new structures because they were not self-evident. I love a lot of this music and I don't mean to dismiss it or deny its value, but in my own music I have been striving for easily-heard forms that are nontheless novel and remain rich with internal relationships." Pieces in this vein include Square Pegs, which presents four realizations of the same two-part form, and the Discourse for Solo Trombone, which presents a form based on changing intervals that are introduced in a fanfare at the beginning of each line.

Another interest is alternate tuning. His current project in this area is the computer-assisted composition of tonal music in alternative equal tunings, some of which can be heard here, on his "New Media" site.

"We often define tonality by the system of intervals found in our standard tunings. It's remarkable to hear that music that lacks these intervals can be heard tonally at all. Exploring this could shed important light on our musical cognition." Still, Seymour hopes the pieces are entertaining in a less theoretical way as well, as alternately-tuned parodies of known tonal styles like the standard Military March.

Throughout these projects there is the recurring theme of composition as a vehicle for research into our musical cognition and aesthetic preferences. "Composers are in the unique position within the academy to try new things and study these things' success not necessarily from an objective standpoint but always from an aesthetic one."

"Still, while we all like to try new things, I like to think there is a higher calling, a committment to writing music that is compelling and engaging, and not merely new and different. I strive to make music that is for listening."