Zeitgeist’s annual Playing it Close to Home concert celebrates the wealth of compositional creativity in our Twin Cities musical community. We feature winning entries from our annual Eric Stokes Song Contest along with musical works from one of our community's most highly esteemed composers. This year, we’re featuring works by Jeffrey Brooks. Jeff is a native, Mankato born and raised, but he spent young adulthood studying composition at Yale with Martin Bresnick, falling in love with his wife Maura, traveling, and forming close friendships with some of the most vibrant minds in new music, a club in which he is a member.

Eventually, Jeff and Maura came back to Minnesota and began contributing in amazing ways to our local new music scene. Along with Mary Ellen Childs, the three of them founded Corn Palace Productions, an organization that brought into being several new music-theater works. In recent years, Jeff’s pen has been quieter, slowed by Parkinson’s disease. Even so, he is creating some of his finest work, as our performance of After the Treewatcher (2012) will attest. Our repertoire for this concert features works by Jeffrey from the early 1990s to just last year, and it has been a profound experience to immerse myself in these chamber works.

Jeffrey Brooks is Minnesota born, but while working in rehearsal on the many works we are preparing for this concert, I don’t hear Minnesota sounds. I hear music from around our whole country. Jeffrey takes care to truly understand the musicians for whom he is writing. He makes sure to tap into their strengths and to write music that performers will love to play. Thus, when we are rehearsing Planting Tears, a work he wrote for the Milwaukee ensemble, Present Music, I hear the understated elegance that typifies that ensemble along with the intricate lines that they execute so well. Skeleton Crew, written for New York based Bang on a Can, is brash and amped up, with a jagged groove that keeps one just slightly off-balance. I bet they relished playing it. On the opposite coast is Thinking Flame, a work Jeff wrote for the California E.A.R Unit. Brilliant and propulsive, it reminds me ever so slightly of Frank Zappa, who collaborated with them on several occasions. Jeff has written one work for Zeitgeist, the tongue-in-cheek Still Life for Compressed Air. At just under three minutes long, it’s brevity is perfect for it’s musical message, but it certainly leaves me wanting more for this ensemble. Perhaps Jeff’s next major chamber work can sound exactly like Zeitgeist and the vibrant city we call home.


Zeitgeist: Playing it Close to Home
February 22-24
Tickets and more information at: http://www.zeitgeistnewmusic.org/playing-it-close-to-home.php