One day four years ago, Jim Peterson, a retired English professor approached Randall Speer, associate professor of music, and asked him to put music to Peterson’s poetry, The Resolution of Eve, a collection of 19 poems inspired by the etchings of Goya. Captivated by Peterson’s beautiful imagery, Speer not only wrote the first two musical pieces at the poet’s request, but he also spent his sabbatical last fall composing another six pieces as a response to the art and sensitivity of Peterson. Speer will present his composition, A World Premiere, Friday, April 3, at 7:30 p.m., in Wimberly Recital Hall.
Speer’s work is written for an instrumental ensemble of tenor, violin, guitar, and percussion. Speer’s composition features several Spanish musical motifs, such as the flamenco, tango, march, and other traditional dances. The set begins, coincidentally,with the first two pieces Speer composed for Peterson, and leads the audience through a bizarre journey with a range of emotions, ending purposefully on a down note.“It is reflective of life,” Speer said. “There are going to be ups and downs. That’s not going to change.”
Speer hopes his composition tells a vivid and truthful story of the human experience. “I actually read them (Peterson’s poems) and reread them and thought about them for about four months before I started any composing,” said Speer. “I tried to react musically to the text, let the text live in me, and let the musical ideas come forth as an honest response to it.”
The creative process was also Speer’s reconnection to his old roots. As an undergraduate music student, Speer was always composing, singing, and conducting. A full-time career as a professor left him less time for composing. “This is a return to a part of me that I haven’t got a chance to acknowledge for a long time,” he said.
The ekphrastic journey started with Peterson, moved on to Speer, and is now beckoning the musicians. As Speer conducted his own work, he was delighted to hear the musicians’ interpretations of his art. “That process is fascinating to me because at that point ,the piece stops being just mine, but they (the musicians) start incorporating themselves into it as well,” he said.
Tags: music, poetry, randall speer