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Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Fort Thomas Composer’s Symphonic Work Recorded in Europe

Jason Richmond. Provided. 
By Chuck Keller 

“I wanted to study marine biology but the ocean scares me,” says Jason Richmond.

It’s dark down there and you never know what you’ll encounter. So he followed another passion - music - and he now teaches classical composition at Northern Kentucky University.  But the exciting thing is that one of his compositions will be recorded by the Brno Philharmonic in the Czech Republic later this spring.

Jason played in the rock band Backspin when he was in high school and he still has a bit of the rocker look about him. “Actually, yeah. I still love playing guitar.” But as he played more, he wanted to know more. And as things often go in life, what appears to be just a casual interest turns into a lifelong passion.

While at Highlands, music teacher, Charlie Wells, turned him on to music theory.  And Jason wanted to know more. So he studied classical guitar, theory, and composition. He graduated from NKU, then from the University of Louisville with a master’s degree in music composition, then from the College Conservatory of Music (2014) with his doctorate. “My teachers opened me up to different and ‘weird’ composers. But a composer must have a voice that creates originality.”

So he learned the craft and the tools.

He talks about an earlier experimental piece.  “I had an electronic piece called ‘PLuCK’ that Ablaze Records released last year on their Electronic Masters Vol. 4 album, which has been played at a few festivals and along with a few upcoming festivals as well, and was broadcasted on a radio station in Ottawa, Canada over the winter.”

Now a pop songwriter can post a song online which might leads to discovery. They can make CD’s to sell or pass around to people. They can pull together a band to play to audiences. But the classical music world doesn’t quite work like that. Classical composers submit compositions to workshops and festivals around the world in hopes of getting their music performed to an audience. And that’s where Ablaze Records enters the scene.

 “Ablaze Records deals with contemporary classical music, so the worldwide audience and sales aren’t high enough for the record company to give out any huge advancements to their artists, even though they do take on a large percentage of the cost, which is great! The kind of music that I play and write, we need record companies like Ablaze to record and promote this type of music. The good news is I get to keep the rights to my work and I get royalties from any album sales.”

But now he has a larger piece, “Ctrl+Alt+Del”, that will be recorded by the Brno Philharmonic and that’s pretty exciting.

But about that title.  Jason used the Sibelius computer notation program (named after composer, Jean Sibelius). One aspect of the program is that you can play back what you wrote so  “it provides instant playback so you have an idea of how it will sound.” But he kept stripping the piece down to its essentials. He deleted doubled instrumentation and other “unnecessary” instruments.  He “stripped to its foundation. Did away with what I didn’t need and there you go.” Thus the title.

Jason describes how the piece came to him.  “I started with a couple of chords that I liked” that pattern and built it from there. “It’s repetitive but it builds in complexity as it unfolds. It gets really thick in parts and then dies off but then it repeats the theme.”

“The recording will be taking place in the Czech Republic, performed and recorded by the Brno Philharmonic this May from the 7th to the 14th, along with the other composers that were selected for the album." Jason says that, “I am pretty stoked” about the trip and the recording. “I was invited to stick around for the mixing and mastering of the final piece which is kind of exciting.”

Music is an interesting pursuit because it is made from invisible material to make something beautiful, but it always reveals something new with each listen. “The beauty of music is that you always hear something new in music.” A painter sees the world as a canvas, the dancer feels the rhythms of the world, the writer hears the words of the world. But the musician? “I view everything on texture and color. John Cage claimed that ‘everything is music.’”  And if you listen carefully, you can hear the music of the world.

Orchestral Masters, Volume IV will probably be released in November of 2016 - just in time for Christmas.
Jason Richmond. Provided. 

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