Thursday, September 15, 2011

Heaven and Earth are not kind

* * * Best enjoyed with headphones, or really good speakers * * *

The inspiration for this piece came from Verse 5 of the Tao Te Ching, which states:

Heaven and Earth are not kind. They regard all things as offerings. The sapient is not kind. He regards the people as offerings.

Is not the space between Heaven and Earth like a bellows? It is empty, but lacks nothing. The more it moves, the more comes out of it.

A multitude of words is tiresome, unlike remaining centered.

from Tao Te Ching by Lao Tzu , Translated by Stefan Stenudd (original source)

The three separate and disparate parts of this verse are the source for the piece's formal structure. Additionally the imagery set by the text is reflected sonically, though not literally programmatic.

This verse describes the unbiased and unemotional actions of the universe and its inner workings. This powerful image calls for an overwhelming aural assault that reflects the way in which nature can wreck havoc locally in order to maintain balance as a whole.
In the second part the concept of Ma is invoked, which acknowledges the empty space between objects as always being full and representing the deeper relationship between the objects. Sonically the piece is full with gestures that exploit the depth of field (proximity) for the listener while simultaneously creating relationships between the individual sonic events.

In the final passage the mental state of being centered is conveyed with ambient textures and a recall of the opening chimes leading to the final closing of the work.

Heaven and Earth are not kind was composed in the historic EMS studios at the University of Illinois. It will be featured on an upcoming recording to be released by the University of Illinois in late 2011.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010


* * * Best enjoyed with headphones, or really good speakers * * *


Swarm is a piece based on the idea of clouds or swarms of sound. It was composed using the Kurzweil K2000 synthesizers in the historic EMS studio at the University of Illinois.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

The same water that ebbs...

<a href="">The same water that ebbs... by Leon Harrell</a>
"The same water that ebbs…" is a line from the poem "The Heart of the Buddha" by Hsu Yun.
No need to chase back and forth like the waves. The same water which ebbs is the same water that flows. No point turning back to get water When it's flowing around you in all directions The heart of the Buddha and the people of the world... Where is there any difference?
This piece is the first piece I have completed after a long creative drought. I wanted to create a piano piece that borrowed the technical agility found in Ravel’s Sonatine and also use a harmonic language that progressed beyond Impressionist harmonies yet retained the rich quality and warmth found in the piano works of that period. Although I found the poem after finishing the work I think it captures the process of the piece’s creation. For many weeks I worked not knowing what to do with this piece and wondering if I would ever feel the same way about composing after such a long period of not writing. But during the process I was reminded that often when you don’t know what to do you must allow yourself to just work. Like the water in the poem our creative spirit ebbs and flows, yet it is always around us. I just got my recording for my latest piece that was performed. To hear it click here. A special thank you goes to the pianist, and fellow composer, Juri Seo for doing an excellent job on this recording.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010


* * * Best enjoyed with headphones, or really good speakers * * * <a href="">Airborne by Leon Harrell</a>
Airborne As a composer of electroacoustic music I create pieces that take advantage of the stereo field and create a true sense of depth. Airborne is the second piece I have composed that is geared towards this idea. The main goal of the piece was to create a piece centered around flying sounds, sounds that not only move left and right but all around you as you listen. This study in 2-channel environment building sets up a large environment, hones in one a single moving sound source and midway through the piece bursts apart at the seams. Airborne was composed at the historic EMS studio at the University of Illinois.