Composer Spotlight-JP Merz
Get to Know...JP Merz
Many people might look at a score for two piccolos and electronics and say, “No Way!” Not our members, a lot of our members love to play the piccolo and drops on a living surface the winning work in the flute duo category this year is garnering a lot of interest from the membership. Composer JP Merz describes the pieces as one that “imagines the cone of a loudspeaker as a thin barrier between the physical and digital world -- a surface for drops of electricity to come alive. These drops begin quietly, almost bell-like, and accumulate into a majestic, electric rainstorm.” He skillfully exploits all of the ranges and colors the piccolo can produce in a really interesting work for a rare instrumentation. We think you’ll agree, there are two performances available on JP’s website.
photo credit-Owen Zhou
Q&A with JP…
Describe your musical background and current activities.
My love of music-making began in southern Wisconsin playing guitar in rock/jazz bands, viola in orchestra, and making strange electronic tracks on my family's computer. I always enjoyed creating in whatever style I was in, but when I was exposed to even more traditions in college, I became overwhelmed by the possibilities. At some point I realized that composition can focus all of my interests into one practice. Much of my work is concert music for classically-trained musicians but I frequently draw on my previous experiences in other traditions and also enjoy collaborating with musicians and artists from different backgrounds. I’ve made string quartets, electro-acoustic works, arrangements for singer-songwriter albums, custom performance software, feed-backing robotic objects, a voice controlled massage chair installation, among other things.
Who is/are your favorite “new music” composer/s and why?
Too many to list, but my one sentence answer is usually: anyone on New Amsterdam Records for their efforts in democratizing genres and supporting stylistically diverse projects. If I were to name a single, independent composer though, it would be Meredith Monk. Her relentless exploration of the voice and ability to convey emotion and story without words is always inspiring to me.
What about new music for the flute appeals to you?
Obviously the versatility and huge range of color is amazing to work with. But for me the main appeal is working with flutists themselves, who are always so supportive and excited about new music. That feeling comes from working directly with enthusiastic flutists on a pieces of mine, seeing flute teachers encouraging their students to work with composers or through the awesome efforts of FNMC.
What advice can you give to flutists about approaching new music in practice?
Don’t be afraid to take risks, try new things and truly interpret the music. In my opinion this is true for all music really, but especially for brand new or rarely performed works. As a composer, it’s a great feeling when the performer is more focused on making the piece their own rather than worrying about playing it “correctly” or even the way I intended.
More About JP…
JP Merz is a composer who works with classical, jazz, and rock musicians, as well as improvisers, dancers, electrical engineers, internet researchers, programming languages, and robots. His recent work explores intimate, emotion-driven, and kinesthetic experiences of sound. JP’s work has been performed by members of the JACK Quartet, Altius Quartet, Playground Ensemble, Iowa Center for New Music, and Colorado Music Festival Orchestra at places such as the Weill Hall of Carnegie Hall, New Music Gathering, Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art, Madison New Music Festival, San Francisco Fringe Festival, the Abrons Arts Center, record stores, coffee shops and living rooms. In 2016, he received support from the American Composers Forum's JFund for New Music and interned with his favorite new music series, Liquid Music. In addition to composing, JP performs on electric viola, guitar, and electronics with an eclectic variety of groups ranging from new music/improv ensembles to folk-rock bands. This fall he began his DMA in composition at the University of Southern California. http://www.jpmerz.com/
If you like drops on a living surface…
an eagle flew
Year of Composition: 2015
Instrumentation: soprano, viola, flute, and piano
Year of Composition: 2013
Instrumentation: flute and electronics
The Flute New Music Consortium is an organization dedicated to the creation and support of new music for the flute.