Performer Blogs@Sequenza21.com

Jay C. Batzner is currently an Assistant Professor at the University of Central Florida where he teaches theory, composition, and technology courses as well as coordinates the composition program. He holds degrees in composition and/or theory from the University of Missouri Kansas City, the University of Louisville, and the University of Kansas.

Jay's music is primarily focused around instrumental chamber works as well as electroacoustic composition. His music has been recorded on the Capstone, Vox Novus, and Beauport Classical labels and is published by Unsafe Bull Music.

Jay is a sci-fi geek, an amateur banjoist, a home brewer, and juggler.





6/11/2006
The (Stephen) King and I

My wife is a big Stephen King fan and, more particularly, a fan of the Dark Tower series. I have been developing a certain penchant for epic storytelling so I've decided to pick my way through the books. There seems to be some literary law about the 7 novel epic. Dune (-1, but his son and that other guy are writing the last one...as two books...but it is still Dune 7), The Song of Ice and Fire, Harry Potter (which I haven't read and doubt that I will), Narnia, heck even LOTR breaks down into seven books instead of the more traditionally well-known 3 book version. The 7 book arc seems to be the "9 Symphonies" of the literary folk. Yes, of course, that analogy is not perfect. I don't want the discussion to devolve along the lines of "What about Shostakovich?" "What about Discworld?" "What about Hovhaness" "What about TekWar?"

Back on task. Believe it or don't, this does relate to music. I just finished the third book of The Dark Tower and I see a surprising parallel between how King is working out ideas and how I work out ideas. The first book in the series, The Gunslinger is set in a very compelling world but you have no idea why anybody is doing the things that they are doing. Sort of like a David Lynch western. At the end of it you aren't really sure what happened or why. In The Drawing of the Three, King creates more of a narrative and a more coherent story arc. Fantastical things happen but you accept them in the context of the other events. In the third book, The Waste Lands, you really get a sense that King is regrouping and figuring out what the hell he is doing. It is a necessary volume in that respect. The problem with it, though, is that some of the magic has gone away. It is as if King feels the need to explain what is going on rather than let it happen. The Waste Lands is sort of the opposite of God Emperor of Dune: a turning point in the series where the events become more concrete and direct (GEoD does the exact opposite, IMHO).

I point this out because I tend to write music in the same way. I start off in a direction, following the Man in Black, and gradually figure out why I was doing it and what it all "means." The rest of the composition becomes, in essence, a justification for the previous material. Sometimes my material takes hard turns and unanticipated changes. That is where my fun begins! Then I get to figure out the Why and make it seem like I always meant to do it (and that the piece couldn't exist any other way).

Reading The Waste Lands was encouraging because it is nice to see wildly successful and famous people working the way that you do. I recognize that some of my criticisms of the book are applicable to my own music. Awareness of the pitfalls of my process (if you can call it that) should be enough to steer clear of those traps. We shall see. I just so enjoy seeing parallels between the work that I do and works in other media. It makes me feel less alone in the artistic world.