Academic Music

This page is my online portfolio created to apply to the MEME PhD program at Brown University.

Alan OW Barnes – Personal Statement

Why I want to attend the MEME program at Brown University.

Research Interests/My Plans for What I Hope to Acomplish at Brown:

My current interests are centered around the following goals:

– develop ways to enhance live performance involving large ensembles through computer music/technology beyond simple pre-production of parts and sync with video/lights.

– use the computer to replace the conductor so that the “director” is free to contribute sonically, instead of being forced into the role of “arm waving”.

– use the computer to enable musicians to execute more complex musical materials quickly, as opposed to the computer actually generating the sound, can we use it to enhance human musicianship in live performance?

– tell sonic story accompanied by illustrative art work. My idea is to create programatic music that is understandable as story without program notes by way of utilizing accompanied illustrations.

– the use of avatars in performance. In our visually stimulated society, is it possible to create live music with the audience focused on the performer’s avatar, thus enabling the performer to take on a variety of roles in the performance?

Past Study and Research

As a musician I have studied/researched jazz performance, classical composition (I am most interested in programmatic composition/sonic storytelling). As a technologist I have studied synthesis, sound design, MIDI systems, and I have a lot of practical experience using technology to enhance music performance through my work as a music director and church musician.

Professional Goals

I want to teach at a University.

I want to continue to create music for a variety of musical/visual storytelling experiences.

I have an idea for developing an integrated technology system to enhance execution of live music for large, volunteer-based ensembles.

I want to create multimedia stories in interactive formats. I am still experimenting with what this will ultimately look like.

My Background

The Atlanta Institute of Music

As a musician I have always been interested in how technology can be used to enhance the listening experience. I began experimenting with MIDI in 1981. I was 8. I barely knew what music was.

After high school I tried to attend college, but as a precocious youth intent on exploring technology-based music, I found I had little in common with the teachers who wanted me to learn Bach before I could engage with music I found interesting, so I dropped out.

It was at that point that I really began to learn music. I started studying jazz bass. I won a scholarship to the Atlanta Institute of Music (AIM). AIM had a one-year program in performance which I completed in 6 months. Afterward they hired me to teach. I started teaching there in 1997.  I was 24 years old. In 2001 I was promoted to the chair of my department.

All through my 20s I was engaged in creating music through technology. I made music sequences my bands played to. I owned a small project recording studio housed in AIM’s facility, and worked with one of the other AIM instructors (a much more experienced sound engineer and composer) to learn the ropes.

I also began a small advertising business with another instructor at AIM. Through that experience I began experimenting with video and animation (clients include TLC – the band, Timberland, Foot Action, Turner, the Grammy’s and many others).

In 2004 I realized I wanted to teach at a “real” school, and my interests in music had grown passed the practical to the artistic. Now I was deeply interested in Bach, deeply interested in all forms of thoughtful music and artistic expression.

Here is an example of a piece I wrote while at AIM.

The Atlanta Institute of Music was very jazz-fusion focused school. This piece was a response to John Pattitucci (Chick Corea’s Elektric Band), but sort of blended with my love of Bela Fleck and the Flecktones. It is a “modern straight ahead” piece, meaning it has a simple form (AAB), and the musicians take turns improvising over the form. I wasn’t able to find people who could play it, so I played everything on this recording by recording short bits and editing it together with the exception of the bass part which is me live.

Belmont University: Commercial Music: Composition and Arranging 2006

For Undergraduate work I choose Belmont University in Nashville. I finished their 4-year undergraduate program in 2 years, mostly because they were very generous with “comping” pre-reqs. I passed their “sophomore review” in my audition for school, so I started as a junior.

I earned an undergraduate degree (BM) in Commercial Music: Composition and Arranging there in 2006. They let me skip all their desktop musicianship classes, and hired me to teach for that program as a sub. They also helped me get a job as an Adjunct at Vanderbilt University’s electronic music program while I stayed in Nashville for my first Master’s Degree.

This is a jazz big band piece called “Form”. “Form” is based on a simple form (ABCA) with soli sections, but very little is improvised. The improvisation takes place over the vamp sections between choruses on rhythm instruments. I’m playing all the rhythm instruments, and in this case I’m actually playing everything except the drums which were programed. There are some computer generated sounds throughout for texture.

The idea was to write an atonal piece for big band accompanied by computer. Specifically, I was interested in figuring out how to use some of the ideas I’d worked up as an improvisor (half step relationships for implied resolution) in a way that made the piece feel like it was progressing, but without a tonal center. This was a reaction to Jaco’s second solo recording, Word of Mouth, and specifically, the piece “Three Views of a Secret”.

Here’s a copy of the score.

Belmont University: Classical Music Composition 2008

I finished my MM from Belmont in Classical Music Composition in 2008, 3.96 GPA (I got an A- in Music History). While there I studied computer music and synthesis from Dr Daniel Landis (who focused on classic synthesis techniques), and Dr Bryan Clark (who focused on convolution and means of developing sound through manipulation of existing materials).

My culminating project included 2 long-form works. One was a concerto for violin, marimba, electric bass, and tabla, accompanied by computer. The other was an animated film that I wrote, scored, and performed.

The idea behind the concerto, titled “A Millenia in Alexandria” was to produce a programatic work. I became very interested in the work of Hector Berlioz while in grad school, and I wanted to attempt this idea of telling sonic story in a more modern, chamber music format.

In this movement I attempted to express the love affair between Cleopatra and Julius Caesar (which like all things in the piece, happened in Alexandria).

I should warn you that the piece ends with a metric modulation into the next movement so it kind of leaves you hanging.

The animated film I made for my culminating project was successful for a music student project, but it did not demonstrate the level of skill I felt I wanted to present as a visual storyteller.

Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD): Sequential Art 2012

In 2009 I started studying sequential art (a sub-discipline of communication art focused on drawing and visual storytelling) at the Savannah College of Art and Design. I completed their requirements for undergrad skills I lacked in one year and was admitted to their grad program in 2010. I earned my MFA in Sequential Art in 2012, 3.8 GPA.

Sequential art is really about comics and storyboards, so here is a link to some of my most recent work as a comic book artist. And here are some highlights from that .pdf.

My comic book and illustration work has mostly centered around 2 projects since graduation:

  1. Big in Japan, which is a Godzilla parody about a rock band that fights giant Japanese monsters in a huge cowboy robot.

This is my cover illustration for the second volume.

This is an example of a pre-visualization sketch, followed by the finished drawing for one of the interior pages of this book.
2. Marrow Man, a comic I drew in association with Be the Match for Bone Marrow donor awareness.


Here are some images I drew for DC Comics (unfortunately, unpublished, but I recieved some wonderful feedback from one of my heroes, Bill Sinkevich)

And these are images from personal projects I hope to eventually complete.


Mangrooves is actually a good example of one of the projects I hope to work on while in school at Brown. The idea is that I have created a fictional band of monsters who all play bluegrass instruments. I want to (using something like Adobe character animator) perform live, but have video representation of the character I am “playing” in real time via motion capture.

So far I have only recorded “cover songs” for Mangrooves, but I hope to eventually move it into more artistic directions.

Here is a recording ofBelieve it or Not” as executed by Mangooves (I’m playing bass, guitar,  mandolin, and singing. Kim Barnes on fiddle, and Tim Price on Banjo)

I should include a few video examples, just so you know that I have a concept of how to use cameras, editing tools, and animation, but this is practical work rather than artistic work.

La Bear is a short film I made for fun…the beginning is pretty slow, but it gets better when the wish-granting polar bear shows up.

I co-wrote the script, shot it, edited it, did all the special effects (which were mostly painting out continuity errors in the background, and motion tracking elements into place), I developed a way to do sound recording and camera operation simultaneously for this shoot. I also wrote and performed all the original score (but there is a little bit of canned music in this).

This was an ad I made for a comic book I never finished drawing…but some of the motion graphics are fun. The score is original.


Basilica ID from Alan OW Barnes on Vimeo.

This is a commercial I made for a client. They insisted on stealing this Journey tune, so I composed some stuff around that. I shot it, and edited it, and did all the visual effects.


What I’ve been doing professionally


I left AIM in 2005. In 2006 I got a job teaching Music and Audio Production at the Art Institute of Atlanta (yes, if you do the math you will realize I was commuting between Atlanta and Nashville for 4 years). At the Art Institute (AI) I was a full time adjunct (believe it or not they had such a thing) while I was a part-time adjunct at Vanderbilt University. In 2008 AI hired me “full time” so my wife and I moved to Atlanta. In 2012 I began teaching animation for AI as well.

While I was at AI I was part of curriculum design committees for their national chain. I helped design their Audio Production, Digital Publishing, and Digital Art Foundations degree programs.

In August of 2015 my wife and I moved to Hong Kong for a year. She wanted an adventure, and I wanted a change.

I began teaching drawing and animation for the Art Institute online as well as Kirkland Community College in Michigan, where I also teach for them online.

Independent Media Production

I have created a number of multimedia projects for a wide variety of clients including websites, videos, iphone apps, books, pamphlets, etc. I do this work as an extension of the advertising company I started in my 20s. I still have clients from that time, and they occassionally send me new work. Possibly my client with the biggest name recognition is the Grammy recording academdy, for whom I have built many adverstising products.

Church Music

In 2014 I accepted another full time job as the Music Director at Mount Pisgah United Methodist Church (where I had been working as a staff musician since 2002). At that time it was the 3rd largest Methodist Church in North America. It did not provide me many chances to create art, but it did endow me with a lot of practical knowledge about how to use technology and performance together. I was instrumental in designing the means by which that ensemble (150 member choir, 40 piece orchestra) played to the computer which was consistently synchronized with lights and projectors. I still produce musical materials for that church from afar.

Here is an example of a piece I wrote for Mount Pisgah, specifically because I was tired of computer driven music. This is a Texas swing piece played on all acoustic instruments. The only overdubbing is me, having pre-recorded the bass part so I could play the mandolin.

I currently serve as the music director of Peacedale Congregational Church in South Kingstown.

New Acoustic Music

Since 2013 I’ve been experimenting not only with computer music, but also new acoustic music. In addition to electric and acoustic bass, I play mandolin and flat-picked guitar. I have also been studying voice for the last 3 years.

Moving to Providence

In August of 2016 we moved to Providence, RI. In all honesty, I’ve been looking at Brown’s MEME program for years, but had no idea how I could possibly get to Providence with my other commitments. My wife’s decision to leave the things we’d established in favor of a new adventure made that decision for me. We actually moved to Providence for her job. We have a 6-year-old daughter. I really hope you will consider my application. I think finishing my training at Brown would be the perfect end to my formal education and launch me in the direction of the academic and musician I’ve always wanted to become.