Original Compositions


World Premiere Performance

University of Michigan Symphony Band

Michael Haithcock, conductor

September 28, 2017

Hill Auditorium, Ann Arbor, MI

Recorded by Dave Schall and Cory Robinson

There's a wildness at the core of my Pacific Northwest home— a darkness

too, and a melancholy—a gray-blue-dark-green, the overwhelming

aloneness the rain makes one feel, but there's also a glory to it, a singing

out, the open varied spaces: it's riding a ferry past mountains in the morning,

or driving through the woods at night, it's a tiny beach town called Copalis, which inspired a band and an album by the same name, which in turn inspired this music, it's hurricane cliffs and never feeling abandoned by the wind, but instead wanting to abandon yourself within it, dreams from a bus on a bridge in the fog—I close my eyes and see trees and the dark spaces between them, I see fog sighing off the mountain— "the Log Lady", from David Lynch and Mark Frost's Twin Peaks (fimed about 20 minutes from my house), said it well: "I grew up in the woods. I understand many things because of the woods. Trees standing together, growing alongside one another, providing so much. I chew pitch gum. On the outside, let's say of the ponderosa pine, sometimes pitch oozes out. Runny pitch is no good to chew. Hard, brittle pitch is no good. But in between there exists a firm, slightly crusted pitch with such a flavor. This is the pitch I chew."

dance and

meditation and

dance and

Performed by Karl Ronneburg and Jesse Goldberg

Dec. 19, 2017

Mannes College of Music, New York, NY

Recorded by Yifan Guo

When I moved to New York I had to meditate almost every day just to stay sane in this crazy town----this is some music about the dance that is living here and meditating inside it and then dancing and meditating and dancing and

An expanding/contracting structure sandwiches free improv in this lo-fi tune.

Karl Ronneburg, Drums

Ben Murphy, Bass

Scot Fish, Guitar

March 2019, New York, NY


Bahnhoffnung: a combination of the German words

for train station (Bahnhof) and hope (Hoffnung)

Bahnhoffnung tells the story of my grandfather Jürgen Ronneburg's escape

via train from East Germany through the original government documents and

personal poems I received after he passed away in the Fall of 2018.

English Translation:


Jürgen Ronneburg was born to Paul and Herta Ronneburg on June 21, 1939 in Bitterfeld.



May 28th, 1953

Subject: Your son


Because of the new structure of high schools, a new standard is being applied for school performance as well as for social activity, and thus the admission of your son is withdrawn. You now must decide on a vocational training.


Habel Bauermeister, Head of Department

It certainly won’t happen again,

that I miss another train,

and let it drive away without me.



July 7, 1957

High School Certificate German Democratic Republic


Jürgen Ronneburg, born 21 June 1939 in Bitterfeld, son of the commercial employee Paul Ronneburg, Bitterfeld, attended the class 12B in the high school and took the graduating exam. The exam was passed with a grade of "Good". The Examination Board hereby establishes the ability to attend a university and has granted the certificate of graduation.

Jürgen can't enjoy anything from this feast,

But at least we can greet him in writing.



Friedrich Schiller University, 27 August 1957

Subject: Your application to study chemistry


Unfortunately, I must inform you that so far none of the admitted and pre-approved chemists have returned their place of study to us. It is therefore not possible, as all places are occupied, to make a different decision than what you have already been informed.


Dr. Stamfort, Vice president

Herta's heart laughed in love,

When he then brought her to the train station.

A farewell kiss was given, a fine one indeed

And Herta got into the last carriage.



October 9th, 1957


Mr. Ronneburg, Jürgen, born on June 21, 1939 in Bitterfeld. The applicant is 18 years old. He has applied to the emergency department in West Berlin for the granting of residence permits for the federal territory. In support of his application, he submits to the Recording Committee: After graduating from high school, he applied for a place to study; However, his efforts were unsuccessful. He attributes this to the fact that he comes from a working-class family--his father is a commercial employee--and has not received a favorable sociopolitical assessment. In order to achieve his professional goals, he saw no way out but to leave the Soviet occupation zone on 20 September 1957.


On the basis of these documents as well as the admission hearing, he is hereby granted permanent residence in the federal territory.

Even if our Jürgen today is not there,

he is very close to us in our thoughts.

And despite the occupation zone,

he lives on in our hearts.



The Rector of the Technical University of Darmstadt, 9 April 1958


Dear Mr. Ronneburg! I am pleased to inform you that through the selection process, you have been admitted to study in your chosen department for the 1958 summer semester.



Prof. Dr. C. Schmieden

One now sits in Darmstadt all alone,

this is our dear Jäckilein.

But now enough of my poems,

I must now relinquish them.

Premiere Performance at the German Consulate General, New York, February 28, 2019.

Jens Ibsen: Tenor

Lasse Bjerknæs-Jacobsen: Trumpet

Jesse Goldberg: Piano

Narrated excerpts from Jürgen Ronneburg’s documents

Sung lyrics by Jürgen Ronneburg

Edited and Translated by Karl Ronneburg

Hack the Bells: "Reclaim"

By Karl Ronneburg and Spencer Haney

Electronics: Becca Fisher and Alex Miller

Carillon: Rachael Park

Amanda Ross: Trumpet

Spencer Schaefer, Daniel Skib, Tommy Militello: French Horn

Riley Bahin: Euphonium 

Cars: Spencer Haney and Em Yang


Made possible by Professors Tiffany Ng, John Granzow, and the University of Michigan's "Hack the Bells" Grant

Today, the University of Michigan's Baird Carillon strains to be heard

amidst rampant noise pollution. The acoustic environment is drowned in

road noise from cars and buses, the drone of regulating machines on the

roofs of buildings, the crunch of construction vehicles and the monotonous

pacing of hundreds of people en route. Lost in a sea of noise, the carillon has

no voice. Without a voice, the carillon stands only as a monolith, unable to subvert its physical presence as yet another erection of institutional power. We claim this loss of character to be unacceptable, and propose a reclamation of the sonic environment that has been lost. In "Reclaim", we subvert the rise of a capitalistic soundscape by augmenting the pollution that it creates past a threshold of ignorance. We bring attention to our environment, and by extension the greater power that has led us into this state of ignorance. That which remains unspoken will be screamed, and will resonant in institutional cavities that block progress. Our performance takes place in and surrounding the neighboring Ingalls Mall, compositionally arranging augmented environmental sounds in order to bring attention to the sonic environment of a space that is forgotten. Compositional elements include a caravan of automobiles, a brass ensemble, recordings of the Ann Arbor soundscape played through PA inside Burton Tower, the carillon, and live carillon processing using Max/MSP.

Three Scenes 

from Sleeping Bear

Andrew Grossman: Percussion

Phoebe Wu: Piano

Karl Ronneburg: Timpani

University of Michigan, November 2014

The final version of this music was inspired by a weekend camping trip to the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore in October 2014. The particular flavor of those few days, combined with the rugged sparseness of the landscape and the inescapable feeling of fall, solidified itself for me in these notes.

The title for this music and each of the section titles are out-of-context quotes

taken from Ayn Rand's "The Fountainhead"--the idea being that I was using

Ayn's words to tell my own story, making my commentary, interpretation, and

refutation of her writing with my music. The title main title comes from architect

Howard Roark: “I would give the greatest sunset in the world for one sight of

New York's skyline. Particularly when one can't see the details. Just the

shapes. The shapes and the thought that made them." 

Originally this description was an inspiration to me, as I attempted to

make each of the eight parts in this piece a study in musical form, shapes

guided by my thoughts; however, in this process I discovered that shapes

and form alone do not make something good--it's instead the people and

stories behind them, the shape only a frame for the humanity inside.


Above are four of the parts, and the whole 35-minute performance can be found here:

iii. spit on his stairways

a dirty, dirty apartment building; a sunset

-Dominique (another character), describing one of Roark's buildings, says "a man who can conceive a thing as beautiful as that should never allow it to be erected", because "women will hang out diapers on his terraces" and "men will spit on his stairways". For this, then, I start with a musical depiction of a spit and dirt-covered apartment building, grimy and dripping, perhaps ugly on the surface but made beautiful by those living within it: a man (the bari sax) singing to himself while watching a sunset from the stairwell--his melody then slowly taken up by the higher saxophones, ending with the last bits of light leaving the horizon.


v. loneliness is a pinnacle

a conversation for percussion and electronics, to chris sies

-This quote, originally "every loneliness is a pinnacle" isn't so much taken out of context as questioned. I have a solo player freely improvising on bongos, while electronics listen to his rhythms and play back synthesizer melodies in fragmented patterns from what he plays, all processed live. Though billed as a "conversation"', the electronic responses are entirely dependent on musical material from the live player. Is a lonely echo chamber really a pinnacle or high point for human existence?

vi. echoes of echoes

with fragmented text from allen ginsberg's "elegy for neal cassady"

-Rand says that most people "want nothing but mirrors around them...reflections of reflections and echoes of echoes", describing what she sees as the reliance of most people on others for encouragement and self-esteem. Here instead I take some of those echoes--words written by people to and for each other (Allen Ginsberg mourning the death of Neal Cassady)--and spin them into my own elegy, splitting the poem across two separate readers. The readers both echo and reflect each other's words, and the musicians do the same with their musical phrases, until all come together for the ending prayer towards the departed spirit. Echoes and reflections aren't signs of human frailty, I would say, but instead the makeup of cultural identity, of human relationships, of love for each other.

vii. the exception-making

feat. jonathan hostottle, alto saxophone

-Perhaps the one quote taken non-ironically, Rand writes "Love is exception-making" to describe Dominique's uncharacteristic behavior around Roark, citing intense personal love between two people as the only thing that could make a truly strong person compromise their normal values. Though extreme, the idea of "the exceptions that we make for those we love" stuck with me after reading the Fountainhead and is represented in this music. Here a solo saxophone plays against an electronic drone, a melody aching for love. The drone stays constant in the background, never changing in spite of the saxophone's dissonant protestations, until after a climactic outburst, the drone shifts up exactly one half-step--the exception-making--before returning, this time taking the saxophone back down with it as the two come together, finishing in a unison crescendo in which their tones mesh, both encompassing the other.


and the thought that made them

Thomas Gamboa, Conducting

Janet Lyu, Violin

Jack Mobley, Viola

Zan Berry, Cello

Tommy Hawthorne, Bass

Andrea Voulgaris, Soprano Sax

Jonathan Hostottle, Alto Sax

David Foley, Tenor Sax

Jeffrey Leung, Bari Sax

Julian Bridges, Percussion

Andrew Grossman, Percussion

Nicole Patrick, Percussion

Karl Ronneburg, Percussion, Speaking

Lucas Gran: Speaking

Canterbury House, Ann Arbor, MI, May 2016 

Recorded by Patterson McKinney and David Newton 

Trio for Light and Air

Chase Lancaster, Vibes

Jonathan Hostottle, Bari Sax

Karl Ronneburg Glockenspiel

April 2014

University of Michigan

Johnny Stevens, Guitar/Vox

Jackson Rudd, Keys/Vox

Mitch Schrader, Bass

Karl Ronneburg, Drums/Percussion/Keys

Recorded by Don Farwell

Released August 2, 2013