Jeremy Allen, an Iowa native, and I know each other from the beginning days of Cleveland-based new-music ensemble FiveOne.
Starting in the spring of 2007, we met for coffee weekly with Mike Bratt and John Thompson (former and current Artistic Directors, respectively) to dream, discuss, and devise ways to bring a new-music ensemble into Cleveland. It has been a long road, with many successes and some failures, but I’ve been thankful for the time I have had to spend with these three inspired gentlemen, and to have such a generous platform for creativity. While my time as a member of FiveOne will soon come to a close, I am excited to see what the future holds for this group, and for Jeremy as one of the founding members.
I have had the privilege to get to know Jeremy’s music and a bit about his life over the past few years. One of the reasons I chose him as my first commission was because I respect him as a person as much as I love his music. In fact, knowing a bit of his story (we find this in mainstream culture), has really contributed to my appreciation of Jeremy’s music. If you ever get the chance, listen to Twende, a piece he wrote for FiveOne, and then ask him what it’s all about. It will break your heart.
I would like to dedicate this first installment of Tune In to an email interview I did with Jeremy. I’ve left it unedited so that you receive the full benefit of his generosity in sharing with all of us.
How did you get into music?
I remember dancing to Michael Jackson, the Doobie Brothers, Bobby McFerrin and the occasional Van Halen track when I was a wee lad. There are 8mm home movies of me dancing right in front of the speaker with my huge diaper on. Making up boogie-woogie tunes on the piano when I was about 4 or 5 is another of my earliest musical memories. Both my older sisters were playing the piano by that time, and my parents started me into lessons at age 6. From there, let’s face it, ending up as a musician was inevitable.
Why did you choose composting? (jk. composing.)
Composing is the best job in the world, and I am firmly convinced of this fact. What better job than to create sounds that have never been heard before, potentially changing lives in the process? Also, I am among a group of few very lucky composers who get to have our music played by world-class performers. I love listening to new things, trying new things, figuring out how to solve problems and create new forms, and, most of all, communicating to both performers and listeners that which cannot be communicated with words. It’s amazing, and every musician should try it at some point.
You'll be working with the Mauthe Quartet as you compose Mercury Retrograde -- Will this be your first string quartet? What other kinds of works have you done in the past, and how will this be similar or different?
Although I have written for string quartet before, this will be my first “full-scale” string quartet. I have heard other composers say how intimidating it is to write a string quartet in light of the already stellar (and abundant) collection of repertory for the ensemble, but I refuse to be afraid. I am simply approaching it as a group of instruments with its own unique challenges and opportunities…just like I approach writing for any other ensemble. I want to create beauty and cosmos through this piece, and learn from it in the process.
What kinds of things are you considering musically?
Oh, you know... I’ve been considering doowop-doowah, diddle-deeeee-qwabaaang, and chikadoodadiddle. Along with twaaahaaahaaatwaahaaaa, zigazigazigaziga.
Now I am sensing that you meant...something...else...
How do you hope listeners and musicians will be impacted by your music?
In ways that stir an interest in new music; in ways that inspire them to be better teachers, firemen, business owners, and parents; in ways that draw them to good art; in ways that create hope; in ways that are unique and belong only to them. I want to create music worth listening to, and worth remembering, and I can only hope that it changes lives for the better.
Stay tuned for the conclusion of this two-part spotlight on composer Jeremy Allen. Also check out his website at www.allencomposer.com
Thanks for reading!
I'm Erica Ward, formerly