Ramon Castillo

Assistant Professor
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In Their Own Words

"I like to think of the core courses I teach as developing control at the micro level, eventually moving into thinking about overall form. I try to find common ground with what students already know, to help them make the transition from the jazz or pop realms into the classical style. I think most of us in the department strive to find those commonalities."

"The easiest thing to do is to find an example of a pop tune that conforms to some of the conventions we talk about in class. The textbook we use has some examples of that, like Lionel Ritchie's 'Hello.' It's a classic example of a circle of fifths chord progression; it bridges the gap a bit. And since I have a background in jazz, often I'll look for a lead sheet with the specific chord progression that we're talking about."

"These courses are really all about learning how to account for everything you write. I think it's important for students to take the strict rules we give them and refine their music in that way during class, so that when they approach the music they want to write outside of class, they're going to have just as much control over it. When I compose music, I don't think about all the rules I was taught in my classes, but with every single note I have some awareness of why I chose that particular pitch and that particular rhythm."

"In my experience I've grown the most musically by taking bits and pieces from almost every single musical experience—or every single experience, really—that I've had. I've written pieces based on cooking techniques and visual arts and things like that. My wife and I have a passion for food; we cook quite often. The jumping-off ground for my Ph.D. dissertation was a composition I wrote for gamelan and electronics called Agak Agak. That's a Southeast Asian cooking method. The family gets together—there's one pot to cook the food—and people keep throwing in different ingredients and herbs until they all decide it's ready to eat."