Ben Justis
Ben Justis
Ben Justis

An amalgamation of broad swaths of neotonality, captivating textures, and infectious grooves gives the music of Ben Justis sonic magnetism. His works have been selected for the Cortona Sessions for New Music, International Double Reed Society, George Lawner Prize, and the New York Electro-Acoustic Music Festival. In the summer of 2019, he will be an Artist-in-Residence at Denali National Park and Homestead National Monument of America. Currently, he is pursuing his doctorate in music composition at the University of Kansas where his primary teacher is Kip Haaheim. At any given point you might find him skiing, stargazing, fly fishing, camping, cooking, home brewing, or, most likely, composing at home in Lawrence, Kansas.

Solo Works - For English Horn

How many worlds that, after blighted
Can bear existence once ignited
As we set forth to those so far
Our pioneering soul delighted
Will we last the night?

Tendrils reaching through the distance
For any realm without resistance
Grabbing at a place so far
An act of engineered subsistence
Could we last the night?

Now looking back in time to Earth
Our first home, our place of birth
The pale blue dot we set ablaze
For we never grasped her worth
Should we last the night?

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Be Wildered2016
Large EnsembleFor Band

Be Wildered is a musical journey that takes the ensemble and audience on a trek up to a high mountain peak.  The piece is divided into four sections: "Setting Out", "Scrambling", "Breathless, Bewildered", and "Drenched Descent".  Elements like aleatoric textures, quotations of rocky mountain birdsong, and audience participation effects create an immersive work as somber and contemplative as it is thrilling.

    My piece appeals to the concept of environmental consciousness.  Despite being so fortunate to live in such a great place like Colorado, many people don't explore the natural environment around them.  I love technology but it can be easy to be absorbed and consumed by it.  I hope Be Wildered inspires conversations about nature and how precious it is in a world where ecological and social travesties are woven into the fabric of everyday existence.

    Be Wildered was commissioned by the Middle School Outreach Ensemble (MSOE) at Colorado State University as part of the Trying on Teaching initiative.  The premiere was heard in Griffin Concert Hall on April 23rd, 2016 under the baton of Mr. Spencer Poston.

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Solo WorksFor Bass Drum and Melting Glaciers
Combining an array of extended techniques on bass drum and the processed sounds of melting glaciers, Calving is an experimental piece meant to inspire serious reflection on how a changing planet has effects far beyond climate change.  How will future artists bring to light important global issues in ways that unite listeners in reflection and self-awareness?  The piece was premiered in 2016 by the composer.
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Conversation Six2016
Chamber EnsembleFor Alto Saxophone, Vibraphone, and Electronics
Originally for soprano (with live processing) and vibes, Conversation Six is an exploration of sonorities, rhythmic cells, and virtual spatialization.  The piece was premiered in 2016 at Colorado State University by Kate Duncan and Spencer Poston.
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Up In Smoke2016
Solo WorksFor Solo Clarinet

In 2012, the High Park Fire, a blaze started by lightning, ravaged the forest land west of Fort Collins, Colorado.  Smoke descended into the town causing panic and disrupting normal daily life.  Many buildings were destroyed, people suffered illness, and friends of mine were evacuated from their homes.  Fire, however beneficial to ecosystems, can be intimidating, hazardous, and deadly.  Up In Smoke illustrates fire as both a giver and taker of life — a necessary scourge as awe-inspiring as it is frightening.

Up In Smoke was premiered in 2016 at the University of Kansas by Justin Harbaugh and was selected for the 2016 Society of Composers Inc. region VI conference at the University of Texas-Arlington.

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Conversation Five2015
Chamber EnsembleFor Flute and Marimba
Conversation Five explores combinations of styles within an arch-like structure.  The opening evokes a minimalistic sound and becomes increasingly dense as the flute and marimba contribute rhythmic layers to the texture.  A flurry of split scalar patterns leads into a very slow samba that gradually picks up speed.  Moving in asymmetrical meter and propelled by harmony based on tritones, the dance builds in intensity quickly.  The flute takes a lyrical role over the incessant patterns presented by the marimba.  Eventually, the samba winds down and the motives from the beginning of the work serve to end the piece.  In 2016, Conversation Five was selected for presentation at the Rocky Mountain Collegiate Music Society conference.  The piece was premiered in 2015 by the composer (marimba) and Gabriela Bliss (flute).
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Moon Rock2015
Chamber EnsembleFor Woodwind Quartet and Electronics
This piece was written for synchronization with the silent film "Le Voyage Dans La Lune".  It has been adapted from the original version for string quartet and electronics.  Experience the piece here.
Travelogue: The Silk Road2015
Large EnsembleFor Band

Travelogue: The Silk Road takes the band (and audience) through a journey along the silk road from Beijing to Damascus.  During each musical postcard you'll hear traditional scales, indigenous percussion instruments, and experience some of the cultural context at each locale.  The players are asked to use some interesting techniques like aleatoric (free time) elements, speaking roles, and improvisation.  It is my hope that through this work, all who hear it gain a new understanding of and appreciation for lands and  cultures that to many seem far-off and far-out!  This piece was premiered by Colorado State University’s Middle School Outreach Ensemble (MSOE) under the baton of Bethany Bohnenblust.

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An Apple A Day2014
Chamber EnsemblePercussion Quartet

An Apple a Day is a suite of four short movements for percussion quartet. The harmonic content is derived from a single chord (major with sharp 9th and 5th) that gets transposed, rearranged, and shared in each section of the work. Every movement uses a different apple story to set a tone for the music. The prologue (a term borrowed from the prologue Bernstein uses in West Side Story in place of an overture) previews the thematic content that will appear later in the piece.

“Newton” begins with environmental effects - the rustling of leaves in the wind followed by the snap of a broken branch. An apple falls and a strange texture is heard, led by the udu drum. The players are in phrases that don’t line up and add a sense of strangeness, of mystery. A sense of continuity and groove evolves, as if the pattern has been discovered. A triangle pattern is the signal of change in this movement as the rhythmic phrases become clearer.

The most lyrical of the four movements, “Eden” emphasizes long sounds and synthetic scales to create a tone of serenity. In the middle of this movement, the two percussion players join the mallet instrumentalists to add more density. Melodies are layered atop one another and form a swirling mass of sound that eventually turns into another chorale.

The most aggressive and rhythmically driven, “Hercules” uses material introduced in the prologue with quotations from the other movements as well. This entire movement focuses on conflict by using quickly changing time signatures, rhythmic dissonance, and split drumming patterns. The two mallet players switch to large toms for a rambunctious final section to end the piece.

An Apple A Day was premiered in its entirety in 2016 by the Colorado State University Percussion Ensemble under the direction of Dr. Eric Hollenbeck.  The embedded sample below is the prologue.

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Solo WorksSnare Drum Solo
This piece was composed as a commission for a friend's senior recital at CSU. The principle theme reminded me not just of operatic interludes but the "recitatives" Paul Lansky uses in his piece Threads as well. This piece was submitted to the 2013 Atlanta Symphony Modern Snare Drum Competition and is dedicated to my friends at CSU.  It was premiered there by Landon Adams in 2013.
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Conversation Three2012
Chamber EnsembleFor Harp, Percussion, and Soundscape
For this piece I tried pairing instruments of limited dynamic level together. What started as a combination of udu drum and harp grew into featuring a complement of world percussion instruments and electronics as well.  Conversation Three was premiered in 2013 at Colorado State University by the composer (percussion) and Katie Miksch (harp).
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ChoralFor Women\'s Choir (SSA), Oboe, and Piano
Using text from Rupert Brooke's (1887-1915) poem "Flight", I tried to create a setting that would sound as entrancing as the poem is to read.
Painted Sky2010
Solo WorksMarimba Solo
Painted Sky was inspired by the beauty of Colorado's spring sunsets. This piece relies heavily on four-mallet permutations but is accessible to intermediate marimbists. A 4.3-octave instrument is required.
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Ben Justis has written show materials for many different ensembles including those at:

  • Colorado State University
  • Arkansas State University
  • Monte Vista High School
  • Pueblo South High School
  • Skyline High School
  • Seeger High School

From 2014 to 2016 Ben was the principal arranger for the CSU drumline and wrote several wind arrangments for the band. Some notable audiences include the 9News Parade of Lights, St. Patrick's Day Parade in Dublin, and the Royal Purple Bowl.

Please send an email for inquiries and services such as arranging, composing, design consultation, and instruction.