Associate Professor, Music Theory
Coordinator of Music Theory Studies

Zachary Cairns

Zachary Cairns, Associate Professor of Music, coordinates the music theory curriculum at the University of Missouri - St. Louis. He received his Ph.D. in Music Theory from the Eastman School of Music at the University of Rochester (2010), an M.A. in Music Theory (2003), and a B.S. in Music Education (2000) from Penn State University. While at Penn State, he also earned a Performer’s Certificate in Percussion.

Dr. Cairns' research interests involve the modernist music of the Soviet Union during the Khrushchev Thaw, rhythm and meter in rock music, and film music theory.  He has presented at numerous international, national, and regional conferences, and his work has been published in Studia musicologica, Music Theory Online, Indiana Theory Review, Gamut, and Music Theory and Analysis. In 2012, he was awarded a grant from the University of Missouri Research Board to conduct research at the Tanyeev Library of the Chaikovsky Conservatory in Moscow, Russia. And in 2021, he was awarded a campus-level grant to travel to Los Angeles to study film scores at several different libraries and studio archives.

Recent research:
- an invited book chapter on multiple-row serialism in Denisov's music for a collection titled Analytical Approaches to Twentieth-Century Russian Music (ed. Bazayev, Segall), Routlege Press, 2020.
- a conference presentation titled "Whole-Tone Collections and Temporal Dislocation in Film Music" for the Music Theory Society of the Mid-Atlantic, summer 2021.
- an published article titled "Switching the Backbeat: The Quick Flip and Polymetric Pogo in 1980s-era Rock Music" for Music Theory Online, spring 2022.
- an ongoing study of harmonic departure in the guitar solos of Guns N' Roses
- beginning a study on musical depictions of Russian villains in 1980s and 1990s Hollywood film scores (with grant support described above)


As a composer, Dr. Cairns' works have been performed across the United States and in Europe. His work Two Pieces for Baritone Saxophone and Percussion won first prize in the 2014 Percussive Arts Society's Composition Contest. An expanded version of that work, Interactions for Baritone Saxophone and Percussion, was premiered at the World Saxophone Congress (SaxOpen) in Strasbourg, France in July 2015. A work for wind ensemble titled Refracted Moonlight has been performed by numerous collegiate and advanced high school bands across the country. Other works include Rhythmic Ceremonial Ritual for 7 antiphonal tambourines (yes, you read that correctly), The Land of Nod for two-part treble choir with piano, clarinet, violin, and percussion (also available for SATB choir with the same instrumental forces), Concert(in)o for Marimba and Wind Quintet, and Passing Through for alto saxophone and string trio.  Another work, Blumenlieder (for mezzo-soprano, flute, cello, and piano), based on the poetry of St. Louis native Sara Teasdale, was premiered in Stuttgart, Germany in 2018 as part of the American Days festival. Several of Dr. Cairns' works are available for purchase through C. Alan Publications and Carl Fischer. Please contact Dr. Cairns directly for performance information on any of his non-published works.

Zachary Cairns lives in St. Charles, MO with his wife, Whitney, and their two children.


Chamber Music/Solo:
Beyond the Sequestered Grove
for solo marimba
(on texts by Sara Teasdale), for mezzo-soprano, flute, cello, and piano (commissioned by Die Akademie für internationalen Kulturaustausch, Stuttgart)
Concert(in)o for marimba and wind quintet (commissioned by Dr. Jeffrey Barudin)
Eight through Eleven: Four Episodes for Seven Trumpets (commissioned by the UMSL Trumpet Ensemble; Lisa Blackmore, director)
Interactions for baritone saxophone and percussion (winner, 2014 PAS Composition Contest) 
Marimba Malinke for marimba and djembe
Passing Through for alto saxophone and string trio (commissioned by Chamber Project St. Louis)
Rhythmic Ceremonial Ritual for seven antiphonal tambourines (yes, you read that correctly)
[untitled] three movement duo for bassoon and percussion 

Large Instrumental Ensemble:
All In for chamber orchestra
Chasing Eris for band (gr. 2.5)
Diablerie for wind ensemble (commissioned by Aaron Datsko and the Lower Merion H.S. Wind Ensemble)
Ebenezer for band
Fanfare: Generation Next for band (gr. 3)
Hope Remains Within for band (gr. 2.5; commissioned by Johanna Steinbacher and the Mt. Nittany Middle School 7th and 8th Grade Bands)
Mischief of One Kind and Another for wind ensemble (commissioned by David Wenerd and the Chambersburg Area Senior High School Band)
Refracted Moonlight for wind ensemble (gr. 5)
Refracted Moonlight for orchestra (winner, 2015 Missouri Composers Orchestra Project Contest)
Wind Down for band (gr. 3)

Blumenlieder (on texts by Sara Teasdale), for mezzo-soprano, flute, cello, and piano (commissioned by Die Akademie für internationalen Kulturaustausch, Stuttgart)
Land of Nod
(text: Robert Louis Stevenson) for 2-part treble choir with violin, clarinet, piano, and percussion
Land of Nod (text: Robert Louis Stevenson) for SATB choir with violin, clarinet, piano, and percussion (winner, 2017 Missouri Composers Orchestra Project Contest)
Light from Dark (texts: Henry Wadsworth Longfellow "Night" and John 1:5) for SATB choir, with occassional divisi. (commissioned by Dr. Nathan Zullinger and the Haverford-Bryn Mawr Chamber Singers)
Psalm 145 for SSATBB choir, trumpet, and strings (commissioned by Matthew Mazzoni and the Central Presbyterian Church, Clayton, MO)
Where Does My Song Go? for one-part treble choir with piano (co-written with Whitney Cairns)


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