Guitarist and composer Jeff Lambert has recently completed a brand new work written for Zeitgeist entitled From Afar, the Dragon Calls. The work will received its world premiere this weekend at Zeitgeist's season opener at Studio Z. We were delighted to chat with Jeff about his new piece and his work as a composer and performer.
Tell us about the new piece you wrote for Zeitgeist.
From Afar, the Dragon Calls is scored for soprano saxophone, piano and 2 percussion (marimba, cymbals, snare drum and tom). The four movements are to be played without pause. The outer movements enlist the entire ensemble while the middle movements highlight duets within the group. The piece is entirely modal, and the rhythm is fairly straightforward and groove oriented. Even when meters continually shift, the pattern is often repetitive, giving the listener a chance to really get to know it. Occasionally, so-called irrational meters are used along with incomplete tuplets. However, they are used in such a way as to be identifiable and accessible to the listener. For example, if a measure consists of five triplet-ed quarter notes, I want the listener to be able to know that without looking at the score.
In part, my composition was influenced by attending Zeitgeist concerts over the last 15 years and by performing with the group as well as its individual members. As I wrote, I would often imagine watching them play. I would remember things they did in the past that I really liked, and sometimes this led to the formation of a similar idea.
In addition to composing, you are also an accomplished guitarist. How does your work as a performer influence your composing, and vice versa?
As a performer, I've worked with composers to present new works many times, so I know what it's like to be on that side of the collaboration. It's no fun to receive a piece that's awkward to play or in which the ensemble is difficult without good reason. So when I'm the composer, I want the performers to have idiomatic parts that lay reasonably well on their instruments, and I try to avoid unnecessary ensemble challenges. To this end, I prefer to work closely with the performers. When I don't play the instrument for which I'm writing, their feedback is invaluable, and I use it to make a more performer-friendly piece.
Composing also influences the way I interpret music as a performer. I feel that it allows me to get inside the head of the composer, helping me come to an understanding of what's behind the notes printed on the page, and to grasp overarching ideas more easily.
Do you have any other projects coming up that we can look forward to?
I have spent the last year studying the ten guitar etudes of Giulio Regondi (1822-1872), and I will be giving two performances of them in December. Hopefully, I will be able to present these on a Romantic guitar which is in the process of being built for me. In April I will be performing with the Bakken Trio at MacPhail Center for Music in downtown Minneapolis. I also play in the Solaris Guitar Duo with University of Minnesota guitar instructor, Maja Radovanlija, and we plan to present a program of new music in the spring.
As a composer he has written for a wide variety of instrumentations ranging from full orchestra to drum set to unaccompanied clarinet. He has been commissioned to compose for Zeitgeist, the Ironwood Trio (clarinet trio) and the Saint Paul Guitar Trio, and he has received multiple commissions from MacPhail Center for Music. A full album of his works is currently in production.
Jeff holds Master of Music and Doctor of Music degrees from Northwestern University. He teaches at MacPhail Center for Music in downtown Minneapolis where he enjoys working with students in a variety of styles including rock and roll where he can revisit his roots as a musician on a weekly basis.
Zeitgeist: New Discoveries, Old Favorites
Oct. 3-4, 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 5, 2 p.m.
Studio Z, 275 East Fourth Street, Suite 200
$10 Friday & Sunday
Zeitgeist kicks off the 2014-15 season with the debut of the ensemble’s newest member, pianist Nicola Melville. A concert of favorites both old and new, the season opener features the world premiere of From Afar, the Dragon Calls by Minnesota composer Jeff Lambert, new music by Justin Rubin, Joshua Harris and Doug Opel, and long-treasured works from Eleanor Hovda and George Crumb.
Jeff Lambert: From Afar, the Dragon Calls
Eleanor Hovda: If Tigers Were Clouds
George Crumb: Mundus Canis
Joshua Harris: OCT 21 2015
Doug Opel: Playtime with Elvis and Krispy
Mike Olson: Breathing Voltages
Justin Rubin: The armed man should be feared… and other lessons from the Renaissance
*Saturday’s performance includes wine and hors d'oeuvres, a special solo performance by pianist Nicola Melville, and a post-concert reception with Melville and composer Jeff Lambert.
Jeff Lambert is a Fiscal Year 2014 recipient of an Artist Initiative Grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board. This activity is made possible by the voters of Minnesota through a grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board, thanks to a legislative appropriation by the Minnesota State Legislature; and by a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts.