February 24, 2016

Jessica Meyer: Composing with Electronics

by Kurt Gottschalk

J.-Meyers“Any good writer, whether they’re writing a book, whether they’re writing a novel, writes what they know,” violist Jessica Meyer explained to a pair of composition students, “I wanted to write a piece with everything I love in it.” Meyer was joined by associate professor and chair of Adelphi’s music department, Sidney Marquez Boquiren, Ph.D.

With that, she played some quick variations on a short theme, used an electronic-effect foot pedal to loop the melody and then began plucking a rhythm that was reminiscent of an African thumb piano over the repeating phrase. Within minutes the concert hall was flooded with sound and then, with a tap of her toe, was quiet again, leaving her to find soft, staccato polyrhythms.

It’s the sort of performance Meyer regularly gives as a member of counter)induction, the chamber ensemble she co-founded, or in her work with such acclaimed contemporary composition groups as the Argento Chamber Ensemble and the Either/Or Ensemble. But at Adelphi University on February 19, her audience was smaller than any of those groups.

“It’s the kind of conversation that I can’t imagine happening in a classroom,” Boquiren explained. “There’s not that opportunity to speak with a composer/performer who’s making that specific kind of music.”

The talk was a part of an informal series of lectures and workshops geared toward specific interests among select students in the music department. “Students have the opportunity to attend two to five times a semester,” Boquiren said. For this one, Meyer – who grew up on Long Island and was a member of the Long Island Youth Orchestra – discussed the techniques and technical aspects of composing with electronics, including such on-the-job hazards as getting a mistake or a moment of feedback caught in the repeating audio track.

Composition students will get another such opportunity next month when the percussion duo Radical 2 hosts the Adelphi’s New Music XI, a workshop geared toward student works. Adelphi’s New Music XI will be on Saturday, March 5, 2016 at 12:00 noon in the Westermann Stage concert hall.

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