"I began writing music almost as soon as I started playing music--noodling around on guitar, making changes to songs I would learn off the internet, plunking around on the keyboard we had at home. "Ilan, leave the composing to the composers," my first guitar teacher would say to me when I would come into my lessons having made all sorts of changes to the pieces he'd assigned me to play. I sure showed him! Since then, I've generally followed my first musical love - the guitar - as it's taken me through a variety of styles and settings. Feeling most at home in more popular styles of music, I try to follow my musical curiosities to create music that I find enjoyable, moving, and stimulating.
Musically, my biggest influences stem from rock bands like Hop Along, Radiohead, and Wilco; acoustic groups like the Punch Brothers and Hawktail; and composers like Sarah Kirkland Snider, Gabriel Kahane, and Robert Honstein. Throw in a pretty extensive knowledge (if I do say so myself) of the journalists who read the news on NPR at the top of the hour (“From NPR news in Washington, I’m...”), a love of WWII-era Soviet literature (Vassily Grossman, anyone?) and the 16 year old cat I’ve had for 14 years, and you get... well, me!
I've had endless teachers to whom I owe everything I know and so many of the opportunities that I've had and to whom I am and will be eternally grateful. There are too many here to list, but I’ll mention just a few who changed my perspective, music, and life: Joanne Metcalf, Gabriel Kahane, Asha Srinivasan, Matt Turner, Julie McQuinn, Ray Mueller, Nathan Wysock, among many, many others." -Ilan Blanck
Ilan is one of three winners of Zeitgeist's 2021 Eric Stokes Song Contest. Named in memory of late composer Eric Stokes, the contest is designed to encourage and celebrate amateur composers throughout the Twin Cities. Ilan's winning composition, Pesach Tras Pesach, will be featured on Zeitgeist's annual Playing it Close to Home concert, Sept. 10-11 at Studio Z.
Ilan writes about Pesach Tras Pesach:
"'Pesach Tras Pesach' is the second song from Ya No Tengo Miedo, Por Primera Vez, a song cycle I composed and premiered as a part of the 2019-2020 Cedar Commissions. The piece follows the life of my great-grandparents as they grow up in Eastern Europe at the turn of the twentieth century, survive the Holocaust in Soviet work camps, and ultimately immigrate and settle in Mexico City, where my grandparents and parents would be born and raised. 'Pesach Tras Pesach' itself is a snapshot into my great-grandfather's childhood years and specifically, his relationship with his mother (who died of cancer when he was only 13). A loving parent who always encouraged his education (my mother would say "you need to be able to write the letter in Yiddish but the address in Polish!"), he carried her memory and his love for her until the day he died at age 99. The lyrics are mostly verbatim quotes from a video interview my great-grandfather did in 1997 for the USC Shoah Foundation's Visual History Archive." -Ilan Blanck
Playing it Close to Home
Studio Z: 275 East Fourth Street, Suite 200, St. Paul
$15 / $10 students & seniors
With winning songs from the 2021 Eric Stokes Song Contest plus music by local composer Michelle Kinney, Zeitgeist’s Playing it Close to Home concert celebrates the wealth of musical creativity found right here in our own backyard. The program includes music by Eric Stokes Song Contest winners Ilan Blanck, Julie Sweet, and Ellie Gold, plus the world premiere of new music composed for Zeitgeist by Michelle Kinney.
*Seating is limited to allow for social distancing. Masks will be required and attendees must provide proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test result from the previous 72 hours.*