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, pianist Ian Hobson, pianist Margaret Kampmeier, violist Rudolf Haken, cellist Scott Kluksdahl, and the Ganache Quartet.

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. Scores, parts, and lead sheets are available on request.

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 quartet pulled this off beautifully.



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).

First movement

Second movement

Third movement