Jeff Myers : Requiem Aeternam

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The music of Jeff Myers (b.1977) has been called “Striking…and harmonically rich” by the New York Times and “…brilliant and powerful…” by The Classical Voice of New England. Many of his works incorporate themes from Asian folk genres (kulintang and gamelan music), visual art (Escher), literature (Poe, Baudelaire, Rimbaud) and acoustic phenomena (overtone harmony and microtonality). Electronic sounds and instruments (Disklavier, amplified machines, drones) have been used in several of his works to achieve special or complex soundscapes. His recent large scale project Book of Islands involves a series of individual compositions that are based on characteristic islands or island themes, incorporating geographic, cultural, conceptual or linguistic features of various islands. The first set of pieces includes E—- (for loadbang ensemble), He mele no kane (for soprano Rachel Schutz and pianist Jon Korth) and a cello piece for Joshua Roman.

Myers’ The Angry Birds of Kauai was commissioned, premiered and recorded by Grammy award winning violinist Hilary Hahn and pianist Cory Smythe (see ‘In 27 Pieces: the Hilary Hahn Encores’ album). Other notable collaborators/commissioners include New York City Opera (Maren of Vardø at VOX 2011), Beth Morrison Projects, Orchestre National de Lorraine (after Escher), Ann Arbor Symphony (LiberationRoaring Fork), University of Michigan Symphonic Band (Organum-Tambura), Transit (Makassar Strait), JACK Quartet (dopamine and Requiem Aeternam), PRISM Quartet (Tidtu), pianist Ralph van Raat (Three Sketches), violinist Yuki Numata (Metamorphosis, Six Sketchesand Kulintang Suite), pipa virtuoso Yang Jing (Turtle and Rat, from her ‘Elements’ album), hornist Laura Klock and tenor William Hite. He has collaborated with librettist Royce Vavrek on two operas (The Hunger Art and Maren of Vardø) and librettist Quincy Long on a one-act opera (Buried Alive) for American Lyric Theater (premiered at Fargo-Moorhead Opera in 2014).

Myers’ music has been played at venues such as Carnegie Hall, Library of Congress, Disney Concert Hall, Kimmel Center, Darmstadt, Het Muziekgebouw aan ‘t IJ, Bard College, Institute for Advanced Study, Le Poisson Rouge and many others at home and abroad. He has received awards from The American Academy of Arts and Letters, BMI, and ASCAP, as well as fellowships from the Yale Institute for Musical Theater, Aspen Festival, Tanglewood, Festival Acanthes, Atlantic Center for the Arts, and grants from the Jerome Foundation, American Music Center, NYSCA, MetLife, Con Edison, Ivar Mikashoff Foundation, Meir Rimon Foundation, Puffin Foundation and The Fromm Foundation. He served as composition faculty at the University of Hawai‘i in 2011-2012. He holds degrees from University of Michigan, the Eastman School, and San José State University. He currently resides New York as a freelance composer and music editor.

Jeff Myers’s “Requiem Aeternam,” performed by the JACK Quartet and mezzo-soprano Rachel Calloway, revealed a gorgeously multi-colored composition set to Filipino, Italian, German and English texts from poets and the Christian mass for the dead. Myers’s use of pianissimo, breath and silence within the rich kaleidoscope of vocalism and subtle string writing produced a stunning work that deserves multiple hearings.

Myer’s describes the first section of Requiem Aeternam ~

The introduction to my Requiem Aeternam. Sustained strings play a microtonally contracted “Dies Irae”. The singer enters into this fog and pleads for mercy.

Rachel Calloway, mezzo soprano
JACK Quartet – Trinity Church, Wall Street, NYC, March 12, 2015

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