An explanation

My musical training followed a very traditional European model with a concentration on harmony and counterpoint. Counterpoint, the study of how one line of music interacts with another, is taught using a series of period models: first trying to emulate the great Renaissance masters, and then moving on to the Baroque period.

My work in the past 10 years has centered around the question of various parts of music (pitch, rhythms, timbres, etc.) fit together to create a coherent experience in sound. I developed as a composer at a time when “good compositions” were required to contain a certain amount of complexity of craft. The music needed to be “clever” with intricate pitch and rhythmic schemes. Composers were supposed to communicate the exact material to be played with little opportunity for deviation. Timbre was rarely discussed in any detail. Why then, am I moved by so much music that would not easily apply to this description? I have very eclectic musical tastes. I introduce my students to techniques and styles that would not fit into this aesthetic. During my musical development, I first rebelled against the idea that music needed to be complex to be good by composing works with simple pitch, rhythm, and structural schemes while concentrating on producing timbrally vibrant works. I still love strong structures and good counterpoint, but my most recent compositions now focus on the use of timbre and a freer definition of counterpoint.

I have always been influenced by the topics I teach or discuss with my students. My preference for strong contrapuntal textures and clear structures is directly related to the energy I put into my counterpoint courses. One class, in particular, has pushed me to experiment and explore new techniques. I inherited a course entitled “Twentieth-Century Counterpoint” from a predecessor and have taught the class over the past 20 years. I had never heard of such a class, and therefore felt free to invent the content as I saw fit. My younger self interpreted the title to mean “how to compose with set theory and 12-tone.” I quickly learned that students wanted to learn about other trends and movements. I included sections on minimalism and aleatoric music. The latter topic intrigued me: why did I like so many pieces that used chance elements? And why did they work so well? Could I incorporate some of these techniques in my own music? My recent compositional output falls into three categories: creating timbrally vibrant works using pitch and rhythmic techniques I developed earlier in my career; simply stated, colorful works; and works that combine aleatoric elements in interesting contrapuntal textures.

Proper boring academic bio

Jody Rockmaker's emotionally powerful music is strongly influenced by his own life experiences. The music mixes various techniques such as serial methods, set theory, and aleatoric elements. His most recent music strives to find new coloristic possibilities using traditional classical instruments.

Many of Rockmaker’s works incorporate modes of expression from other traditions expressed through the composer's own voice. His writing has been influenced particularly by encounters with various types of folk and non-Western music: Africa, Asian, Indian, and Native American.

Jody Rockmaker is the recipient of numerous awards including a Fulbright grant, a Barlow Endowment Commission, two BMI awards for young composers, an ASCAP grant, the George Whitefield Chadwick Medal from New England Conservatory, and a National Orchestral Association Reading Fellowship.

Jody Rockmaker, Associate Professor at Arizona State University, received his Ph.D. in composition from Princeton University. A native of New York City, he has studied at the Manhattan School of Music, New England Conservatory, and the Hochschule für Musik und darstellende Kunst in Vienna. His teachers have included Erich Urbanner, Edward T. Cone, Milton Babbitt, Claudio Spies, Malcolm Peyton, and Miriam Gideon. He taught at Stanford University prior to accepting his position at Arizona State University in 1997.