Continuing our series profiling the composers on our upcoming CD which we’re funding through Kickstarter (GO DONATE!! We’re getting close to the deadline!) , we’d like to introduce you to one of our favorites, D.J. Sparr if you’re not hip to his music already. His compositions are some of the most groovin’ new works we’ve ever come across, and he’s full of ideas that reshape and re-frame the way we think about music. Here you can hear an informally recorded sample from his piece Carnal Node, which we’ll be recording and featuring on the CD:
[audio:http://greatnoiseensemble.com/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2011/05/Carnal_Node_GNE_Feb13_09.mp3|titles=D.J. Sparr: Carnal Node]
GNE: “What inspired you to become a composer?”
Sparr: “When I was three or four years old, there was a show called He-Haw. I would stand in front of the television at my great-grandmother’s house with a broom pretending to play the guitar like Roy Clark and Buck Owens. So, when she gave me a ukulele for my fourth birthday, I must have played it a lot because my parents found me a guitar teacher soon after. Around the same time, I had a piano teacher who assigned me to write a little piece about Soccer…which was my topic of choice. So, it seemed normal to write a new song using all of the new guitar chords I learned each week. My teacher would have me sing them for the music store. The outfit of choice was a western shirt (unbuttoned for good taste), jeans, boots, and a cowboy hat for good measure. This was in the very hip ‘Bo and Luke Duke’ style of the early 80s.”
“I never had a real ‘flash!’ moment where I saw someone who was a composer and thought, ‘I want to do that too.’ Mostly, as with a lot of the nature of guitar players, writing your own music is just part of playing the instrument.”
“Eventually, this lead to writing music for other instruments which was very exciting- and really just a continuation of the guitar player’s zeal for having fun and being creative with the people around him.”
This will all come full circle in two years when I premiere my second work for the California Symphony, an electric guitar concerto named after my great-grandmother: Violet Bond. The CS is integrating the Young American Composer-in-Residence position with their Music-in-the-Schools program, so there will be a lot to talk about with the students for that year.
GNE: “What type, style, or genre of music being created right now (be it classical, pop, country, Broadway, whatever) inspires you or interests you the most? In other words, what artists and composers are speaking to you most with their new work?”
Sparr: “I try and listen to everything I can find by all composers- even in any style. As a fan of music, I lean more towards what I consider the line of music that came from Stravinsky and impressionism, skipped over the pond, found Copland and a beat, turned into minimalism and post minimalism, and is now being written by people with very little academic hang-ups. I like that kind of stuff. But, as someone ‘n the business,’ there are things to learn from every piece and every style. If a piece doesn’t speak to me as a ‘fan,’ I try to pay attention to the people around me in the audience, gauge their reactions and feel what they are experiencing. This allows me to enjoy or learn something from all music and art. In terms of things that inspire me, this happens with anything from a science theory, a cultural phenomenon, a rock song, a moment from a classic classical piece, or a car chase scene from a movie. Most times, it’s all of those things combined – as in the GNE piece that is being recorded, Carnal Node.”
GNE: “What was your inspiration for composing the piece we’re featuring on the CD and what kind of process do/did you go through when composing it or similar pieces?”
Sparr: “I had a friend who moved back to his parent’s house on a farm after living in a very big metropolitan city while at college. He was one of the first friends I had who tried online dating – like Prodigy and America Online, and he would go on blind dates. He sent me crazy and very lengthy emails about these experiences which were very entertaining. So, I assembled something like one hundred pages of text of these emails and put them into a fictional narrative, mini-drama for soprano and chamber ensemble.”
“The singer fulfills a dual role of narrator and protagonist. So at times, she is performing recitative, and at other times, she sings lyrically in first person, direct quotes from the emails.”
“Here is an example from the text. In this moment the main character is weighing his options for if he never finds love:”
“‘I will live with some old guy, and we will talk about how the kids these days have no respect for their elders, and we will smoke and drink until we are old and fat. Then, when the first one dies, the other will set him into a chair and talk to him like he’s still alive. Then, the Police will come and take the survivor to the sanitarium.'”
“‘Some old guy’ was actually a person’s name in the text – and I was going to set it that way, but I changed it at his request because he was more-than-a-tad offended. And, rightly so… It was a smart request on his part, because ten years after this piece was written, we all know him… as he is in the music writing business too! Anyway, it wouldn’t have worked well leaving his name in because he has found love and is married… which would throw the story off and make for confusion.”
“But, in Carnal Node there seem to be no happy endings:”
“He has false memories of your party-talk and the lock of hair he clipped as you slept on the couch.”
You can hear more of D.J. Sparr’s work on his website or over at iTunes.
If you haven’t donated yet, please do– we have eight days left and a little over $2,000 left to raise– please go over and donate to the project if you haven’t already!!