Having played piano since the age of five as well as a slew of other instruments, it’s a cinch Betz ended up at St. Olaf studying composition. “There was no distinct moment where I realized composition was right for me. It all just came together.”
The marriage of JFund’s resources and Wells’ ingenuity isn’t likely one you’d have found fifty years ago in classical music. But its reverence for technology, and the overall refusal to remove the human element not only represents a stronger artistic medium but actively pushes it forward.
Los Angeles-based Jerome Fund awardee Leaha Maria Villareal talks about musician relationships with tranquility in her voice. She composes music for Hotel Elefant, an ensemble that takes on the difficult task of representing music from living composers. “‘Modern Music’ is already solidified,” she explains. “There’s a canon for it, but it hasn’t yet included works that are being written today. So, how do we support the contemporary music of our colleagues?”
Social inequity is being discussed in the mainstream more and more frequently, and the music industry is not an exception. “When people have opportunities, those build upon one another. But if you never have that opportunity…people may think you must not be good, and that’s unfair.”
Like JMW Turner’s maritime images, Petuch’s art likely wouldn’t have been appreciated for its full weight in the mid-19th century. Be they nonlinear plots, broad brushstrokes, or mixing strings with harsh electronics, these are abstract and unconventional methods. Petuch makes this idiom work by attaching recognizable themes like the passage of time or a famous whale. “8p is like one chord and they can play it as long as they want.” Naturally, you won’t hear the notes and immediately think of early evening. However, we can meditate on the piece and make those connections ourselves. What exactly does this piece represent? We’ll let our ears tell us.
Merz has set himself apart as a composer through his willingness to deemphasize his own talents in favor of accessibility. “Virtuosity is tied up with the classical tradition, and I’m looking for ways to subvert that. I’d rather get the emotion out of the technique rather than show off the technique.” Instead of championing his own specific narrative, he’s creating pieces that further the classical and electronic music traditions without having to lean on their complexity. As with the inclusivity of Mediated Intimacy, Merz is extending his arms outward toward lovers of art instead of drawing boundaries between them.
“I guess you could say it has elements of film music,” Mark humbly quips about a few of his works. If he’d gone down the standard path of film composition, it might be his name flashing on the big screen after everyone’s left the theater. Even calling him a film composer is way off the mark. Instead, we’ve got his name behind pieces that have a tangible human component to them, be they an interview with someone who lives with a double lung transplant or a reimagining of history’s emotional weight. An artist’s artist, Brian Mark is an intelligent, modern composer who employs many media elements and does so with marked idiosyncrasy and depth.
Close your eyes, turn out the lights, and listen to Trevor Babb’s “Septet.” Put enough research and complexity behind your music, and you can still appeal to the brain which often seeks only that which is immediately rewarding. Trevor Babb encompasses the best of both worlds, where the music is pleasant to the ears while remaining stimulating to the thinking mind. The universe Babb creates sucks you in, and you’ll have no problem staying with him until Warmth has said all it needs to say.
“Genre-defying” and “experimental” are words that music critics enjoy tossing around, especially when it comes to genre-mixing. However, most genre-mixing is old news, and the terms only gesture at describing a diverse arrangement. Every once in awhile, though, someone earns the terms. M. Lamar’s records are shining examples that successfully blend opera, doom metal, classical, and electronic music, usually within the course of one song. Sound confusing? Give him a listen and you’ll see what I mean. Until the day where Lamar’s work gets a specific genre tag, we’ll be scratching our heads trying to explain it, and reveling in its abstract wonder.