Lyle Stephanovic (August 19, 1908 – August 5, 2005), better known as Spud Murphy, was an American jazz multi-instrumentalist, bandleader, and arranger.
Born Miko Stefanovic to Serbian émigré parents in Berlin, Germany, Murphy grew up in Salt Lake City, Utah, where he took the name of a childhood friend. Murphy studied clarinet and saxophone when young and took trumpet lessons from Red Nichols's father. He worked with Jimmy Joy in 1927-28 and with Ross Gorman and Slim Lamar (on oboe) in 1928. He worked in the early 1930s as saxophonist-arranger for Austin Wylie, Jan Garber, Mal Hallett, and Joe Haymes, then became a staff arranger for Benny Goodman from 1935 to 1937. At the same time he also contributed charts to the Casa Loma Orchestra, Isham Jones, Les Brown and many others.
From 1937 to 1940 Murphy led a big band, and recorded for Decca Records and Bluebird Records in 1938-39. In the 1940s he relocated to Los Angeles, where he did work in the studios and with film music, in addition to authoring and teaching the 1200-page "System of Horizontal Composition" (a.k.a. "Equal Interval System"). He recorded two jazz albums in the 1950s, but his later career was focused on classical and film music. In the film world, Murphy was staff composer/arranger for Columbia pictures under Morris Stoloff where he worked on over 50 films including "The Tony Fontaine Story" which won him the Neff Award for best music score.
In 2003, orchestra leader Dean Mora, a close friend of Murphy's, recorded some two dozen of his arrangements in a tribute CD, Goblin Market.
In addition to being a talented composer, arranger and musician, Murphy became a renowned educator, writing over 26 books on various topics in music such as instrumental techniques and music theory. His crowning achievement was his completely original 12 volume course in composing, arranging and orchestration for the professional musician titled “The Equal Interval System." He taught mostly in Los Angeles but also taught a special course at the Mt. Royal Conservatory in Calgary, Canada. He was a much beloved instructor who was voted the Educator of the Year by the LA Jazz Society in 1990.
Spud Murphy died in Los Angeles, two weeks short of his 97th birthday.
Equal Interval System (EIS)
The Equal Interval System (EIS) (also known as the 'System of Horizontal Composition based on Equal Intervals') is a modern system of music composition, developed by Murphy over a lifetime of research. Several courses based upon the EIS system are currently taught at Pasadena City College. Many notable composers and arrangers have been students of the Equal Interval System, such as Tom Chase, Gerald Wiggins, Jimmie Haskell, Richard Firth, Mary Ekler, David Blumberg, Steve Marston, Clair Marlo, Dan Sawyer, Don Novello, Don Peake, Danny Pelfrey, Craig Sharmat, Scott Paige, James L. Venable and Oscar Peterson.
- Four Saxophones in Twelve Tones (GNP/Crescendo, 1955)
- New Orbits in Sound (GNP/Crescendo, 1955–57)
- Gone with the Woodwinds (Contemporary Records, 1955)
- Twelve-Tone Compositions and Arrangements by Lyle (Contemporary Records, 1955)
- Dean Mora's Modern Rhythmists, Goblin Market (Mr. Ace Records MACD-004)
- Scott Yanow, Spud Murphy at Allmusic