Faculty Profile: Dr. Brian Cobb reflects on his musical experiences


He would have to put himself at 12 years old to describe his discovery of his ability and passion for music. “I happened to be finding heavy metal at the time,” said Dr. Brian Cobb, a composition and private instruction teacher at Bellevue College. Cobb was taken aback by the sheer power and energy he felt when hearing heavy metal for the first time live. Later in life, “that feeling has translated into Beethoven’s symphonies, where there are really powerful musical gestures. They are simplified in heavy metal, but I’ve always really connected with that.” From this point of his adolescence, “the track of my musical career has been figuring these things out, and it just happened to start out with heavy metal,” said Cobb.

Cobb studied music at the University of Massachusetts and the University of Washington.  He’s dabbled in the craftsmanship of many musical mediums, but his favorite style to perform is what he calls “Third Stream.” In the Pacific Northwest, this genre crosses classical contemporary music with an aesthetic very in tune to ambient music with a lot of electronics. “It’s very organic, which is  different from third stream on the East Coast, which tends to be more aggressive in nature,” said Cobb.

Outside of the classroom, Cobb has played double bass and electric bass with groups including, The Tom Baker Quartet, Crosstalk, The Bill Smith Trio and Radiosonde. Radiosonde concerts feature a collection of improvised dancers and musicians. “We start with a concept. It could be a word, it could be an image. From there, we do a 45 or so minute performance.” Cobb further elaborated on his work with David Hahn, where the two performed for Concert Imaginaire. “It’s a collective of rock, contemporary and classical music, along with jazz and free improvisation. It’s all very eclectic and on edge.”

In his spare time, Cobb works on a collection of personal compositions. “My most precious little project is a collection of lullabies for my daughter, Darwin.

She was born two years ago, and we’ve been working on a collection of lullabies for each day of the week.” Cobb has constructed an arrangement for chamber ensemble and electronics for this project. “Goodnight Darwin” is “very much like ambient music, hearing it loop over and over again I find that really appealing. It’s a way to make very gentle music that leads to imagination, but not too much that keeps the child awake,” said Cobb.

When reflecting how his musical career came to be, Cobb attributes much of his success to teachers and mentors in his life. Salvatore Macchia, a music instructor at the University of Massachusetts comes to mind. “He’s kind of a fireball of energy, and what he taught me that writing music is 10 percent talent and 90 percent decision making.  He didn’t want me to settle on first drafts. We’d always be searching and refining. That has really translated to many aspects of my life, even as a teacher.” Cobb also made great artistic progress with Klaas de Vries during his time in Holland. “He was the first to open the door as music being anything you want it to be, and not be held by any standard, regional mindset, or style.”

Cobb hopes that his experiences and teaching philosophies speak to students and enrich their lives. “The study of music leads to greater understanding of abstract concepts such as proportions, time, patterns and it’s something that is really organic.”