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Work Samples

Ghost Life - Moose

2nd virtual ensemble video for Ghost Life

Ghost Life playing Ghostbeat

Live version of Ghostbeat


About Stephen

Baltimore City

Stephen Santillan's picture
I am a Baltimore musician, who has been performing since 1994.   I was a Baker Aritst music finalist in 2019.  I play multiple instruments in various collaborative and personal projects.  

Ghost Life

Ghost Life is an ongoing project and its concept is always changing for me. When it first started, I wanted to combine my love of pop and ethnic music with ensemble organization. The instrumentation allowed me to put percussion up front to form its own narrative. At an age where anybody can play a single instrument and fill up a room completely with sound, I wanted all the individual sounds of the group to be tiny. I also tried to avoid any use of chord progressions, relying instead on the constanly shifting rhythmic elements and combinations to sustain interest in the pieces. I've started making virtual ensemble performances to highlight the physical elements of the sound. That element is an important factor in this music and it might be lost on just a listen through. After years of performances with little documentation, I wanted to have some represantaion that would highligt the sound generating process of the physical action.

  • Ghost Life - Moose

    2nd virtual ensemble video for Ghost Life
  • Ghost Life - Hands (2018)

    virtual ensemble performance video
  • Morning Roosters (2018)

    First part of a projected cylce of 8 parts.
  • a3

    ghost life performance at floristree. february, 2014. filmed by thomas kessler.
  • ghostbeat 2017

    new recording from 2017 of ghostbeat. a new string arrangement has been added in the middle section. the vocals have not been recorded yet.
  • ghostbeat4

    ghost life performance at floristree. february, 2014. filmed by thomas kessler.
  • ghost 2

    first draft mix of a recording. this song represents my initial conception of this group. i wanted this song to be made up of an ensemble of small sounds.
  • like a lot of men going

    ghost life performing at the fields festival. august 2014. filmed by thomas kessler.

Music for solo performance with backing tracks

Non-collaborative music I have written in the past required putting together groups of musicians to perform. The current music trend of performing with backing tracks in a live setting was not something I had wanted to explore. However, the non-sustainability of hiring musicians for orchestral work, along with the potential of intermingling ensembles that would be hard to put together in a live setting, have made this angle more intriguing. I wanted the live elements to balance out the non-live elements, so the approach I am using utilizes the guitar as the primary voice, and vocals function as landmarks on a musical structure. The guitar would dictate the songs, but the ensemble passages would lend different textures and timbres to the pieces. This project is a combination of all the different strands I have been exploring with my other projects. A mix of different rhythmic and ethnic strands, with some orchestral arrangements, within a song-based form. The first performace of this project will be January 16, 2020 at 2640.

Wheatie Mattiasich

I've been accompanying and collaborating with singer, Wheatie Mattiasich since 2012

Ceremony Drum

My usual mode of working is to work on something for a span of time. That way I have some time get some new perspective and develop ongoing ideas. While working out the end of the Relay song cycle, I was getting frustrated by going back to the same material over and over. I decided to sit down and write a song and see it through to the end (or close to it) in the course of an hour or two. This gave me some distance from the main project at hand, and gave me a sense of accomplishment. It turned out to be a good exercise and I continued to do it. After a while I realized that I had acquired a few songs that I liked and wanted to do something with them. My approach to these songs is very different from my usual working methods and the ideas behind this project continue to progress. These songs are based on the pop model.

Relay song cycle

This is a song cycle made up of 4 sections. There is a break between sections 2 and 3, but the other sections are connected. The first 2 minutes consist of a few layers of drum machines playing. Each layer is made up of little sounds and the relationship between the layers shift and evolve. Eventually acoustic instruments join in and sprout songs over the rhythmic base. Each of these beginning section starts instrumentally and ends with a vocal entrance. The last 2 sections mimic the beginning in an expanded way. Section 3 "the cathedral" eventually leads into "the world is always disappearing" (section 4) which is a vocal section. The whole scheme of the work goes like this: Relay 1 (percussion introduction, instrumental section leading to vocals); Relay 2 (percussion transition, instrumental section leading to vocals)// Relay 3 ("cathedral" organ introduction/transition, instrumental section leading to the song"the world is always disappearing"). The use of a sample that exists throughout the piece is another element that ties it all together.

Music for other people's projects

music written for other people's projects

  • We Walk (orchestrated cover) 2019

    Wheatie Mattiasich and I were asked to dj and perform an evening at Fadensonnen. In an attempt to blur the line between the two activities, I made an orchestrated arrangement of a pre-existing song, and I joined in at the end with the guitar.
  • 2018 exquite corpse soundtrack- The Adventures of Prince Achmed

    On October 13, 2108, I took part in 2 live performances of an exquisite corpse soundtrack. New music was written for different sections of the film by different artists, and was performed at the Parkway Theatre. This section was written in collaboration with Emmanuel Nicolaidis playing vibraphone and floor tom. This was a home draft our section, so the vibraphone and drum is not present in this version. The video footage is still being put together at the time of this post.
  • Ark

    Music written for an art installation "By Land or By Sea" at School 33 by Zoe Friedman.
  • Amores Hallaras (2016)

    An arrangment of a Peruvian song for a wedding ceremony,
  • Novoline- track40 w piano (2013)

    I was asked to contribute extra piano tracks by Berlin based musician, Novoline
  • Ishi's Brain (2012)

    Music written for travelling puppet performance of Ishi's Brain, used to promote book by Eamon Espey, of the same name.
  • Thank You - Mother's Nose (2011)

    I collaborated with the band Thank You. I played bass and keyboard on this track.
  • Thank You live video still (2011)

    video still from a live performance of Thank you in London, England
  • Children in Heat (rough mix) (2009)

    Song written in collaboration with Emmanuel for "Children in Heat" a video by Deitra Thompson, based on a song by the Misfits.
  • video still

    video still from Deitra Thompson's "Children in Heat"

Oh Hang 2013-2016

A duo project started in 2013 with long time collaborator, Emmanuel Nicolaidis. These songs were recorded in September, 2014.

  • oh hang live

    photo from a live show in washington dc. 2016
  • oh hang cassette release

    released octo 4, 2015. cover art by chris day.
  • trumpet song

    this song uses a drum machine/sample. in this piece we experimented at times with using keys that would clash with the sample. but we were also trying to approach it that it would still sound natural.
  • sisters (2014)

    the idea behind this song was the use of 3 different layers of rhythm, each with its own timbre. the first one was a sample that had it's own built in rhythm. the second was a more electronic dance club rhtythm, and the third would be the drumset.

Golden Age

this was an attempt to bridge the gap between classical song cycles and pop music. the impetus for this project was an art opening at the current gallery, where it was first performed. for this, we decided to work with orchestral instruments and vocals. the 14 piece ensemble was made up mostly of hired peabody students. the only other time these pieces were performed was at whartscape, in 2008, at the 2640 space. with the exception of the moon song, these pieces were written in collaboration with emmanuel nicolaidis.

  • II. moon song

    this is a midi mock up of this piece because it was never properly recorded. the "bassoon" sound represents the vocal line. unlike the other 2 orchestral songs, this uses more classically oriented melodic figures.
  • III. like a lot of men going

    this was an attempt to write pop music, using pop instruments, but using a more chamber-like interplay between the instruments.

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