Date: August 6, 2006
About: Jeremy Beck - Class of 1978
A recent review of former Quincyan Jeremy Beck's compositions called him "Exhibit A in classical music's defense against the charge of being out of touch."
The June Gramophone magazine reviewed both of Beck's CDs of original compositions, "Pause and Feel and Hark" and "Wave," in its "Best New Recordings from North America" feature.
"Much of his output references current events," the reviewer writes. "Take his orchestral 'response' to the elder George Bush's questionably optimistic address of 1992: Beck's 'State of the Union' (on 'Wave') saw a much more troubled America. It opens with a pompous 'March of the Politicians,' sings a Lullaby (for an urban child) and ends with the 'false celebration' of 'Revels.' It is pointed, if a bit obvious, cultural criticism."
"My music is not always pegged to current events, but whatever interests and inspires me musically," Beck said from his home in Louisville, Ky., where he lives with his wife, Christine Ehrick, and his 2-year-old son, Sam.
Beck said he finds inspiration in anything that evokes an emotional response, such as Joyce Carol Oates' novel "Black Water." Her "slightly veiled fictional account of the events at Chappaquidick" in 1969 led to an "extended composition for soprano and piano ... a monodrama, with the soprano and the pianist assuming multiple roles and states of mind," Beck writes in his notes on "Black Water" on "Pause and Feel and Hark."
Beck said he was surprised and pleased by the review, and that both his CDs were "presented as a package."
The recordings were a long-term labor of love.
"A number of these pieces were written in the mid- to late-'90s," he said.
"Some were recorded about that time and in the late '90s. The orchestra pieces were recorded in the spring of 2003."
It takes times to apply for grants and make the right contacts with recording companies and CD designers, he said.
"Once a CD is out it's out forever," he said. "I wanted these projects to be done right."
Beck has other recording projects in the works. He has written two operas.
"The Biddle Boys and Mrs. Soffel" was named by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette as one of the Top Ten Cultural Events in Pittsburgh in 2001, and "The Highway" was presented by New York City Opera as a part of that company's Showcasing American Composers series in May 2000.
He's working on two commissioned pieces, a double concerto for two cellos and string orchestra for the Iowa Composers Forum in 2007 and a short chamber opera for the Long Leaf Opera for the summer of 2009.
Meanwhile, Beck is completing the final year of study toward a law degree.
Reading the law and composing music require the same analytical skills, he said. "Composing music is not just from the heart, but an intellectual activity as well," he said. "It requires discipline and focus."
Whatever aspect of law Beck chooses, he plans to strike a balance between it and music.
Beck was introduced to music by his mother, Katrine Aho, who played piano and organ and now lives in Memphis. His father is artist and educator Al Beck of Monroe City, Mo. Beck started playing cello in fourth grade, and remembers being inspired by teachers Wayne Pyle, Don Langellier, Eddie Allen and John and Paul Duker.
"The music I learned in public school starting at a such a young age has remained this constant for me," he said. "I've slowly built on that... I find that brings great meaning to my life."
Contact Staff Writer Holly Wagner at (217) 221-3374 or firstname.lastname@example.org