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Stephen James Taylor

Stephen Taylor
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An evening of transcendent tonality by Stephen James Taylor



Just intonation harmonies rise up into a swirling cleanse. Handclaps and singing provided by the San Bushwomen of Etosha, Namibia.

2. POWER OF STEEL (4:30)

Written on Lou Harrison's  "11 limit" just intoned steel guitar.  Propelled forward  in combinations of 7 and 8 beat couplets that immediately repeat.


   -An 11 limit just intonation “shout out”.  Based on lively rhythms derived from the geometric spacing of the 12 tone scale nested inside the 31 tone scale. it is counted out as 3+2+3-+2+3+3+2+3+2+3+2+3=31, hence the time signature of 31/8.  This  rhythmic structure is infused with hip hop shouts and custom made instruments like  the glass marimba, the Wilson Microzone, 31 tone vibes, Ubertar (electric guitar with moveable frets), PVC horns and a 31 tone gong array.


   -31 tone equal temperament piece of spangled electronic staccatos  in rhythmic unison with African drums.

5. BE STILL (4:40)

   -A custom tuning array of unusual ratios based on specific frequencies forcefully  compressed into a narrow range.  This produces a tense but stable foundation for an abstract rapper’s exploration into mystic philosophy.


31 tone equal temperament melodic lines and harmonies slowly melt into each other.  If Arvo Part's Spiegel Am Spiegel had been beamed to another planet, this piece (with its totally different DNA), is what that planet might have beamed back to us on Earth.


   -ML Taylor poem accompanied by "5_limit" ambient wash created using software programs written by Subhraag Singh and Marcus Hobbs.

expelled itself from the confines of its mother’s tears.
free falling from her eyes,
into jungle mists below.

at the birth,
she called it “Zero”.

the name became weight,
weight became falling,
sound falling through tears it had abandoned,
then landing,
on the back of a hollow log,
announcing its arrival.

into ears that had never heard it
into arms that had never drummed it
into minds that had never known it

minds opened,
the people began dancing,
their feet pounding the jungle floor into a frenzy,
creating waves rising,
waves expanding,
waves moving,
out, and away, from zero.

Infinite patterns sink into oceans
Infinite rhythms bore into earth
Infinite sound zero,
to be danced.”

10 minute intermission



This piece depicts the sonic landscape of another world.  It is an epic journey driven by the use of many different tuning systems.  An eclectic blend of influences underlie this composition...from Xenakis, to Ligeti, to Baba Olantunji, Harry Partch, Frank Zappa, Terry Riley, John Cage, to Mozart to Dr. Dre.  Though consisting of 11 movements (the 12th movement being the silence at the end) it was conceived  as a sort of 21st century tone poem. From its narrative setup this piece plunges into a vast emotional times frightening, at times tender. 

Taylor’s inquiry began in 2009 while writing the music for the Black Panther animated series. He began to ponder a number of questions such as:

"If the African nation of Wakanda had indeed developed  on its own as a high tech, highly literate society, independent of outside influences, then what if some sort of indigenous classical music were to have evolved there?   If so what would it sound like? 

Would such music display the same harmonic  intricacy found in western classical music while maintaining the complex primal rhythm elements that characterize all African music?  Would they have unique instruments?  What tuning systems would they use? And what if their ancient rhythms and microtonal tunings were designed to open doorways into other dimensions of consciousness where reality can be apprehended directly, beyond the logical capabilities of the mind?"

These questions led him off in an unusual direction different from the Wakanda of film, comic books and TV animation.  Taylor sees this combination of transcendent tonality with primal rhythms, surround sound and classical music architecture as fertile ground for many more years of exploration.



Stephen James Taylor has a unique musical identity. His Afro-Futurist style represents a blend of classical, rock, blues, gospel, world music, homemade instruments, and avante garde. His past projects include scoring Richard Tanne’s 2020 Amazon film Chemical Hearts, music for the Star Wars Cantina at Disneyland’s Galaxy’s Edge (2019) {the first microtonal music ever in rotation at Disneyland), the PBS documentary by Charles Burnett entitled Power To Heal (2018), Maya Angelou-And Still I Rise (2016), Richard Tanne’s theatrical release, Southside With You (2016), Tom Bradley: Bridging the Divide (2015), People Are The Sky, (2015), Marvel’s TV Series The Black Panther, music for  theme parks such as Disney World and The Red Sea Astrarium, Universal's The Adventures of Brer Rabbit, Disney’s Mickey’s Twice Upon a Christmas (for which he won Best Original Score at the 2004 DVDX Awards), Teachers Pet, a Disney animated feature with wide theatrical release in 2003, and most of the films directed by Academy Award winner, Charles Burnett including To Sleep With Anger and the  blues documentary, Warming By the Devil’s Fire produced by Martin Scorsese. He has composed scores for many of Robert Townsend’s films such as The Making of the Five Heartbeats (2017) Of Boys and Men (2008), Carmen, A HipHopera (2004) and Holiday Heart (2000). In 2001 he wrote underscore and produced some of the songs for Clark Johnson’s Boycott (HBO films) as well as his 2018 Netflix film, Juanita (2017).

In 1996 he was commissioned to write an orchestral suite for the Opening Ceremonies of the Olympics and was one of the conductors of the Atlanta Symphony for that occasion. In 1993, Stephen received an Emmy nomination for an R&B song he wrote for I’ll Fly Away as well as a Daytime Emmy nomination for his classical orchestral score for an episode of the animated series, The Lion King’s Timon and Pumbaa. Other Emmy nominations have been for the PBS movie Brother Future (1991), and Raw Toonage an animated series for Disney. In 1999 and 2000 he has received Annie nominations for his work on Disney’s Mickey Mouseworks. He has also done string arrangements for James Taylor and for Crosby, Stills, and Nash. He is currently working on a cartoon series for Netflix.

After graduating from Stanford University in 1976 with a B.A. in music, he studied orchestration and conducting privately with Dr Albert Harris and contemporary classical composition for four years with Henri Lazarof, professor of music at UCLA.  He studied microtonality with Erv Wilson for 20 years and whom he helped develop a new 810 key microtonal keyboard used in many of the above scores. Taylor’s second chamber symphony was commissioned and premiered by the Pasadena Chamber Orchestra in 1983. The Detroit Symphony later performed it in 1990. His various chamber works have been performed throughout the country.  He has done a great deal of composing in surround sound.  His 2001 “COME ALIVE” premiered at the El Paso Microhoot and has been presented many times since.  More recently his 55 minute microtonal surround suite, “MUSIC FROM THE OTHER WAKANDA”, had its premiere in 2019 at the Glendale College Planetarium.

Other projects include a trans-tonal pop album entitled Embrace It All (now available on itunes).  A filmmaker as well, he has also completed some short films of his own: the award winning documentary, SURFING THE SONIC SKY, the science fiction short, I AM HERE. as well a research documentary about the micro-geometry of subatomic matter with co-director Jesus Trevino called “Gurule Shells, A Quantum Metaphor”.  


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