About my music

by David Temperley

I’ve been fortunate to have my pieces played by some terrific ensembles and musicians, such as the Quintet of the Americas, the Aspen Contemporary Ensemble, the American Wild Ensemble, pianist Ian Hobson, pianist Margaret Kampmeier, violist Rudolf Haken, cellist Scott Kluksdahl, cellist Mimi Hwang, and hornist Peter Kurau.

My music is very much grounded in the “common practice”—classical and Romantic music. At the same time, it’s nothing that an 18th- or 19th-century composer could have written. Popular music has been a huge influence—rock rhythms and chord progressions. And there are bits of West African rhythm, neo-classicism, and things that I think (I hope) you won’t have heard anywhere.

Just as my chamber music is influenced by popular music, my songs are classically-influenced pop: The two come together. Some people say my songs sound like musical theater; this wasn’t my intent, but I think there’s some truth to it.

People sometimes ask whether my composing is influenced by my music theory/cognition research, or vice versa. In my conscious thought, they’re very separate: my composing is very intuitive—really a kind of controlled improvising—not at all “theory-driven.” But I’m sure they do influence each other. Sometimes when I’m thinking about a musical idea—say, a harmonic progression or melodic pattern—in my research work, I find it turning up in my compositions. Or perhaps I’ll find it in something I composed many years earlier.

All music and lyrics are © David Temperley. Some scores and parts are posted here; others are available on request.

Violin Sonata No. 3

My Violin Sonata No. 3 was written in 2017. It was performed at Eastman’s Washington Square Concert Series in October of that year, featuring Soo Yeon Kim, a terrific Eastman DMA student, on violin, and me on piano.

The piece is in three movements. The first piece mixes major and minor—from the very first measures—giving it a sort of bittersweet quality. The second movement is a theme and variations, with rather a dark, somber mood. The third movement is more lively.

Score | Violin Part

  1. I. Allegro moderato 4:36
  2. II. Theme and Variations 5:35
  3. III. Allegro 3:31

Sonata for Piano Duet

by David Temperley

I started this piano duet sonata (one piano, two pianists) way back in the 1990s and completed it in 2017. I first played it (or parts of it) with my father, Nicholas Temperley, who passed away in 2020. More recently, I’ve been playing it with my dear wife, Maya Temperley. The recording here is of me (primo) and Maya (secondo). We performed the second movement in 2020 on WXXI as part of their Homestage series (see video). (Score: sonata-for-piano-duet)

  1. piano-duet-I
  2. piano-duet-II
  3. piano-duet-III


Cello Sonata No. 2

Cello Sonata No. 2

My second sonata for cello and piano was performed as part of Eastman’s Virtuosi Concert Series on April 6, 2019, featuring cellist Margery (Mimi) Hwang of the Eastman faculty. The piece has quite a lot of rock influence–even for me. The second movement is in the unusual time signature of 27/16 (3’s grouped in 3’s grouped in 3’s). Here is a video of the second movement.

Score | Cello Part

  1. Cello Sonata No. 2, I 6:07
  2. Cello Sonata No. 2, II 4:06
  3. Cello Sonata No. 2, III 6:43

Sonata for Viola and Piano

by David Temperley

My Sonata for Viola and Piano (2015) was premiered by me and Rudolf Haken at two concerts in October 2018, first at the University of Illinois and then at Eastman School of Music. Rudolf played it on a five-string viola, but it is written for a conventional four-string viola.

At one point in the first movement, the piano goes off by itself in what seems to be a completely unrelated direction. In the middle of this, the viola comes in with the main theme—and the piano has to find its way back into the piece.

The score and viola part can be downloaded here:  vapson-score  vapson-viola-part

A video of the Eastman performance: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dSMQqvqfRus

  1. I - Allegro Moderato 5:07
  2. II - Adagio 3:29
  3. III - Allegro 4:31

Woodwind Quintet No. 2

by David Temperley

My second woodwind quintet was performed at a Society for Chamber Music in Rochester concert in February 2022 by members of the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra and Eastman faculty: Hayley Grainger (flute), Erik Behr (oboe), Michael Wayne (clarinet), George Sakakeeny (bassoon), and W. Peter Kurau (horn). The piece is in three movements. A link to the score and parts is below.


  1. wq2-I-scmr
  2. wq2-II-scmr
  3. wq2-III-scmr

String Quartet No. 5

by David Temperley

My String Quartet No. 5 (2016) is performed here by the Ganache Quartet, four talented Eastman undergraduates: Holly Spangenberg (violin), Lydia Becker (violin), Rachel Barnett (viola), and Paul Bergeron (cello).


The first movement consists of five sections that are sort of unrelated but all have the same basic beat. I wanted to see if I could write such a piece that still hung together. The fifth section does return to the material of the first section, though.

The second movement starts out as a sonata form but becomes a kind of a passacaglia. In the middle it suddenly goes from 9/8 to 4/4, with the measure staying constant, and then back to 9/8 again; the players pulled this off beautifully.

Score | Parts (all in one PDF)

  1. First movement 7:06
  2. Second movement 5:03


Guitar Quintet

by David Temperley
Guitar Quintet

This piece is for violin, viola, cello, electric guitar and electric bass. It was first performed in New York City in 1997 in a concert organized by me and some friends called “Chamber Metal.” I revised it in 2015, and it was performed again in September 2016 at Eastman School of Music by some fantastic Eastman students: Shannon Steigerwald (violin), Angela Kratchmer (viola), Dan Ketter (cello), Sungmin Shin (guitar), and Eugene Bisdikian (bass). This recording of the piece features the Eastman group.

Score | Parts (all in one PDF)

  1. Guitar Quintet, I 6:12
  2. Guitar Quintet, II 4:38
  3. Guitar Quintet, III 5:20