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.





6/20/2008
R. Murray Schafer string quartets

I've been on a string quartet kick lately. Partly, I think it is because my subconscious is gearing up to write another one. I can almost hear it, almost being the key word. It would be a pure vanity project since there is no quartet anxiously awaiting a third string quartet from yours truly. Hell, there aren't that many interested in my second quartet. The first quartet, if you must know, was rolled up in a carpet and thrown off a bridge. We are all happier for that.

So, among the many sets and scores that I've been spinning, I finally got R. Murray Schafer's complete quartets. Schafer was a guest composer my first semester at the University of Kansas, back in 1994. I had no idea who he was and I think that was a good thing. His music and attitude towards music were completely new to me and I was really intrigued. He played his third quartet for us and I still remember it, even though this morning was the first time I'd heard it in 14 years.

Some of his theatrical and musical ideas in that work have gestated and emerged in my own writing. For example, his quartet ends with the first violinist repeating a simple figure as the performer walks off stage. There is a point where you don't know if you are still hearing the figure or if your brain is just inserting it. For any of you familiar with my solo trumpet piece, you'll see where I got the idea.

The big question is: why doesn't Schafer get the love in the US? He has some choral pieces that get done but those quartets, all 8 are total masterworks, are largely ignored around here. Carter's quartets get a fair amount of play and, while I'm a fan, they don't have the expressive emotive power of Schafer's works. There is a lot of music in Schafer's quartets, plenty for the performers as well as the audience. The sheer craft and musicality in those scores is totally off the charts. Quartets should be crawling all over themselves to play and record them. The scores should be easy to find. Yet, he remains a silent giant here in the States.

Don't even get me started on his flute concerto. Most people don't think they'll be blown away by a flute concerto. Those who know Schafer's concerto know the truth, though. That piece is awesome!

Maybe I'm wrong and just don't hang out with the right people. Is there love for RMS around here and I'm just being kept from it?