Leading up to the concert on April 24th at the Center for New Music we will be talking to our composers and performers to get an idea of how their brains work and releasing one or two per day leading up to the show.
Per usual, the composers will initially be anonymous, but you are welcome to read this (spoilers!) and give yourself a competitive advantage in guessing before the official announcement!
Introducing composer Garrett Shatzer:
Name and trade?
I’m a professional composer based in Sacramento. I finished my Ph.D. last year at UC Davis and decided to forgo academia in favor of non-profit work, so I work at the Association of California Symphony Orchestras as well. Like many musicians, I started piano very young but eventually picked up the guitar as well. I spent some years playing metal guitar in bands and was active in the Detroit rave scene, so I also produced a bunch of electronic music. After a brief stint in music theory, I decided to give composing a try. It’s worked out so far, so I’m continuing to roll with it. I usually tell people that my style grows out of what the Russians of the 20th-century were doing. So I’m a traditionalist when compared to most of my colleagues, but there’s also a bit of an edge to my music…by which I mean that it’s almost always dark and brooding. I’m always out to create something that’s as hauntingly beautiful as possible, and thankfully listeners tend to pick up on that. I’m not sure what about my personality dictates my sound, but I’m also drawn to poetry and art that could be described the same way. My style could change, of course, but that’s the type of music that currently truly moves me, so I’ll continue down this path as long as that remains true.
How did you get involved? What was so appealing about Jarring Sounds?
About three years ago I saw Danielle sing with the American Bach Soloists, and I was compelled to email her that night to say how wonderful she was. From there our paths crossed a few more times and we got to know each other a bit better. So when this opportunity came to write for her, I was sold. I’d seen Jarring Sounds perform in SF about a year ago as well, so I knew what a great musician Adam was. And I’ve been writing a lot of guitar music lately, so the stars aligned so-to-speak.
What’s your inspiration? How did you find a poem for the project?
I’ve set the poem “Resonance” by Austin Smith, a current Stegner Fellow in Fiction at Stanford. Poetry is my primary passion after music, and I had seen Austin read at a promotional event for his book “Almanac” (Princeton University Press 2013). I was captivated. Fortunately I have a friend who knows him, so I was able to get an introduction. I sent some of my music to Austin and told him I’d like to set something by him. He was into it and sent me some poems. (Our initial plan was for him to write an original piece, but he’s busy working on a book and simply doesn’t have the time.) I picked “Resonance,” and he was thrilled since he said he’d always considered that one somewhat musical in a way. The poem tells a story, but I didn’t want to “narrate” it with music. Instead I chose to focus more on the mood as it changes throughout.
What was it like workshopping your music with Jarring Sounds?
The workshop was very enjoyable, and it was incredible to hear the level of performance after less than a week of spending time with the song. Thankfully I didn’t have to change anything after discussing the piece with them, and I know it’s in very capable hands!
What’s coming up for you?
Right now I’m working on a commission for guitarist Aaron Larget-Caplan’s New Lullaby Project. As you’ll hear in “Resonance,” my style is currently focused on simplicity, so I was extremely excited to be contacted by Aaron for this project. And then I’ll spend the summer working on a large-scale song for blues guitarist Greg Glazner, jazz/gospel vocalist David Saul Lee, and new music sextet Citywater that’ll be performed at C4NM and elsewhere in the fall. Greg also happens to be a Walt Whitman Award-winning poet who’s been featured in many of the major publications, so he’s writing the text. The idea of the piece is for the text to “elevate” (I use that term *very* loosely) traditional blues lyrics to contemporary poetry and for the music to “elevate” (I use that term even more loosely) the blues to contemporary art song. I’m actually quite nervous about the piece because I do not under any circumstances simply want Citywater laying down a blues groove. We’ll see what happens!