Derek Hurst

Associate Professor
617 747-8733
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"The majority of my composition courses often deal with the minutiae of how compositional elements define a style and common practice. Even though we're teaching most of our courses from an essentially historical context, composition is a living art, and the style of music we're studying is the kernel of a musical sensibility that ties into the lineage of Western music."

"I like to look at the 'how' and then the 'why,' and have students try to emulate. It places strictures on students instead of letting them rely solely on what is already known to them. It focuses learning towards a specific goal, which is ultimately liberating. Actually, what they perceive to be a set of rules aren't actually rules; they're just codified observations native to a common practice. Using them as guidelines actually improves students' hearing and their musicality—something that's often not easy to appreciate until later."

"In my electro-acoustic and computer music courses, I find ways to emulate historical techniques (which were quite crude in the beginning) and have students write short pieces using these techniques. Ideally this forces them to think about sound, since they have to design everything from the ground up and piece things together. Rather than having happy accidents, I would like them at least to make educated guesses. We like those accidents, but if you have to rely on them, you get very little done."

"The contemplation and appreciation of the behavior of voices and notes in a given context leads to understanding, and understanding leads to appreciation. Both (hopefully) lead to a love and appreciation of all great music, no matter what branch of music my students go into. Ideally I want them to love the music we teach, which is (and I'm biased here) truly art. I want them to understand why it is art. Is Bach 'great' just because people say so? An educated musician should be able to listen to and appreciate music in its context."

"My early experience as a self-taught rock guitarist undoubtedly influenced my work as a composer. I came to music through popular and rock avenues, and sidled into formal classical studies after seeing a performance of a Bach lute suite on guitar. I'd never seen a guitar do that, and my fate was sealed. Youthful enthusiasm, however, is no substitute for a lifetime of hard work and study, and in our discipline one must be prepared to study topics that range from Machaut through electronic music to the art music of today."

Career Highlights
  • M.F.A., Ph.D.; Brandeis University (music composition/theory)
  • Doctoral studies in composition and electro-acoustic music, University of Illinios
  • M.S.T., Portland State University (music)
  • B.A., Metropolitan State College of Denver (music performance and composition)
  • Original acoustic and electro-acoustic concert music performed internationally by Ian Pace, ECCE Ensemble, Xenia Pestova, Lydian String Quartet, and Left Coast Chamber Ensemble, among others
  • Works featured on regular season concerts of ensembles such as Interensemble, Boston Musica Viva, ECCE Ensemble, Brave New Works, and Left Coast Chamber Ensemble
  • Recipient of Fromm Music Foundation commission, Massachusetts Cultural Council artist fellowships, Aaron Copland Award, and Wayne Peterson Prize in composition
  • Recordings include "Bacchanalia Skiapodorum," for alto saxophone and electronics, on American Voices (with Brian Sacawa, saxophones) and "An Wem" for toy piano and electronics on Shadow Piano (with Xenia Pestova, pianist)
  • Publications include The Classical Tradition and Arnold Schoenberg's Concerto for Piano and Orchestra, Op. 42: Monothematic Sonata Form, Long-range Voice-leading and Chromatic Saturation
  • Curator for numerous concerts of recently composed electro-acoustic and acoustic music and judge for several distinctive awards and competitions