Composer Jeff Myers, whose name you probably have seen because violinist Hilary Hahn had this thing called the In 27 Pieces project where she had new pieces commissioned from 26 composers. When it was apparent that there was a 27th that was yet to be announced, she then launched a contest where up and coming composers were invited to submit a piece for Hilary to be selected as the 27th encore–Jeff was the selected winner with a work titled “The Angry Birds of Kauai”, and sadly, I have not yet heard it, but Alain Matalon, who recently attended Hilary’s concert in Turkey, has heard it (Published in Seen and Heard International, 1/7/13):
“Jeff Myers’ ‘The Angry Birds of Kauai’ (no relation to the popular computer game), the winner among the more than 400 works that were submitted for the project, is built upon a wide range of influences from Filipino kulintang music to overtone music. Mostly dodecaphonic in style, this high strung music gives equal weight to both instruments where the violin mimics the sound of exotic birds while the piano provides the sound of nature in the background.”
Jeff had a few minutes to spare to talk to us about this and a couple other pieces of his.
CM: First of all, big time congrats to you for entering and winning the 27 Encores contest for Hilary Hahn! I am a huge fan of hers, and I was very happy for you when it was announced you won. Can you please talk about your entrance in the contest and how you came upon the writing of “The Angry Birds of Kauai”?
Jeff: Yes–I heard about it when I saw that my friends Soren Eichberg and Avner Dorman received commissions for her project. I think the project is brilliant. I had an experience in Kauai in the mornings. The birds music is tremendous and very “exotic” for lack of a better term. I wrote some sketches with bird inspired themes and when I found out about the contest, I tailored it to violin and piano and wrote the piece. I am really lucky to have this commission, I hope it leads to more in the future.
[Pictured left (from left), Jeff Myers (w/son Max), Hilary Hahn and Cory Smythe]
CM: Hilary Hahn is definitely a supreme being as a violinist, and she is a great ambassador for classical music, contemporary music, and practically for anything of artistic merit. What has it been like working with her?
Jeff: So far she has been very professional and kind. She gave us a fantastic holiday card! Our rehearsal went well, she is very attentive. Cory [Smythe, the pianist] was mostly attentive to Max, who had him in a spell.
CM: Has Hilary heard any of your other violin pieces like the solo violin one titled “Vertigo”, and has she expressed any interest in performing them?
Jeff: I don’t know if she has been through my website. I hope she will discover my other pieces like the “Metamorphosis Concerto”.
CM: What was it that got you into composition, and where did your music start to find its identity?
Jeff: I began as an improviser on the piano, became interested in orchestation and chamber music, some electronics and opera more recently. I like the narrative style of composing; I also like unusual sounds and particular harmonies which are somewhat idiomatic and abstract. It is hard to talk about my own music, I know it is very eclectic, but there is one voice.
CM: I loved hearing the work titled “3 Pieces for Carillion”, it sounds so beautiful in stereo with headphones. Can you talk about this, and is it difficult to write music for carillion bells?
Jeff: I wrote the carillon piece at the University of Michigan where a professor of chemistry gave me a few tours of the instrument. It is kind of like writing for Kulintang, so I treated it like a set of gongs.
CM: Can you talk about the piece “Gestations”? This is an electronic piece you did where you used your voice and processed it, correct?
Jeff: I wrote “Gestations” when I was a student at Eastman. I used various filters to my voice as I read some lines from a manual or something. It isn’t important what the text was. I had some Unix and Linux based software (Cecelia; Ceres3) which I used to get the analysis/resynthesis of my voice and the filters.
CM: Congratulations also for your baby Max! He came into the world literally at the same time that we found out you were the winner of the contest. You are truly blessed! Does this kind of make composing harder or easier?
Jeff: Harder in the sense that there is less time, but I am also more focused because I think about what I have to do all day while my hands are full.
Jeff’s piece “The Angry Birds of Kauai” will be featured on the following Hilary Hahn tour dates:
Palais des Beaux-Arts, Brussels, Belgium – 01.12.13
Auditorium de Lyon, Lyon, France – 01.18.13
University Concert Hall, Münster, Germany – 01.21.13
Berlin Philharmonie, Berlin, Germany – 01.29.13
Amelia Island Festival, Amelia Island, FL – 02.06.13
University of Mississippi, Oxford, MS – 02.12.13
Santa Fe Concert Association, Santa Fe, NM – 02.19.13
McCarter Theater, Princeton, NJ – 02.25.13
Celebrity Series, Boston, MA – 03.01.13
Disney Hall, LA, CA – 05.07.13
Jeff Myers’ other premieres this year:
Students of Bloomingdale School of Music premiere
Four Little Sketches for string quintet
8pm @ Carnegie Hall (Weill), NYC, 02.13.13
The Links premiere Prelude and Mutation
10pm @ The Stone, NYC, 03.26.13