Harvey Stokes, composer and professor of music at Hampton University, is the founder and director of the Computer Music Laboratory.
- [Harvey] We perform for the love of music.
So, the notion of us not performing music,
well, that's not going to happen.
We're going to perform somehow.
(brass instruments playing)
There's a certain sort of adventure element
to anything the Symphonicity Orchestra
is involved with,
because this ensemble involves itself
in doing new things.
When the call came to participate in the MOCA program,
I mean, we kind of jumped at it.
In Symphonicity we've always been
in a place to expose new audiences
to what we do.
And this is a great way to do that.
Even in the COVID environment.
(mysterious orchestral music)
I had a brother, he played the tuba,
he played the oboe,
and he was a dancer in Broadway musicals,
and did a lot of acting in Broadway musicals and so forth.
So I watched him like a hawk,
and one day he said
I'm not going to play the oboe anymore.
So he gave me his oboe.
He taught me a few notes.
And that's when that bug started happening.
(string instruments playing)
Yeah, I went to Norview and tried out
a bunch of instruments while continuing to play the oboe.
Then my brother went down
to East Carolina University to study music.
He studied for one year.
So, I did the bachelor's degree at East Carolina,
and developed down there
in playing the oboe
and learning about music and so on.
Then I left there and went to the University of Georgia.
This was around 1979,
and there was a gentleman at University of Georgia,
John Corina, who played the oboe.
He also was a composer, an organist,
and he was a theory professor.
Basically, he took me under his wing
because I was an oboe player,
I wrote a lot of music,
taught a lot of theory courses and so forth.
After I left, I went to Michigan State University.
I went there because Adolphus Hailstork went there.
He was writing music, and I wanted to write music.
(intense orchestral music)
We've written a lot of music right on this machine.
We is me and my muse, God.
We kind of work together.
We write it here, then we put it on paper.
It's got to be in your mind first.
I have in my mind what the instruments sound like
as well as what each individual instrument can do
in terms of the various melodies that I would devise.
So, it's very important to have a sense
of what instruments sound like,
and what orchestra sound like, what bands sound like.
And there's no way to do that
unless you listen to a lot music.
We are approaching about 70 compositions.
This is a piece for viola and orchestra here.
A bunch of string quartets in here,
there's quartet number nine.
We try to write three, four pieces a year.
Sometimes it ends up being two pieces,
because of the length aspect.
I mean, if you're writing a symphony,
it kind of takes a while.
I got to Hampton U in August of 1990,
and I've been at Hampton, what, 31 years?
There is this band, it's called the fuzz band.
They tell this story, you know, a lot of their music
they wrote as a result of chord progressions
they learned in my theory class.
(band plays and woman sings indistinctly)
- [Harvey] It's good to see everybody here at Hampton.
Let's see if we can get our review done today.
So we can give you a test on Friday.
They told us to not come to campus,
so all of us are in rooms that we specifically
set up for instruction,
I've got a little mini studio in there,
with kinda, computers and synthesizers,
and drum machines, and things like that.
And we engage the students that way.
The work that I chose to base this quartet on
was the piece entitled Motherless Child.
I happened to have known that piece for a while
and in this particular quartet,
we sought to merge that tune
with my particular way of writing music.
(string instruments play)
So you have that fusion between the Negro spiritual,
and the sum toll, my musical experiences as a composer.
When you are listening to music that you've composed,
you have this feeling of elation.
You have this feeling of joy.
You have this feeling
that you're sharing a part of yourself with people.
(orchestra music rises to climax)