Rob Deemer

Composer Rob Deemer teaches at SUNY Fredonia. He blogs regularly at NewMusicBox; he’s also a frequent contributor to Sequenza 21. The presenters enjoyed his whole string quartet, but were running short on program time. He was kind enough to consent to our request to present an excerpt as part of next week’s Sequenza 21/MNMP Concert (Oct. 25 at 7 PM at Joe’s Pub).

I’ve heard many composers say that the time directly after they finish their studies is one of the most important periods in their career when they finally feel comfortable to experiment, free from the pressures of being accepted by their peers and instructors. I found myself in that exact position in the two years between finishing my degree at the University of Texas and landing my current position at SUNY Fredonia. During that time, I lived and taught in Oklahoma, and the relative seclusion I had while working there allowed me to dig into some very primal concepts that I hadn’t dreamt of writing about up to that point – death and politics being two of them.

When the MacArthur Quartet at the University of Oklahoma asked me to write a string quartet, I drew upon the paintings of Julie Speed for inspiration. A surrealist painter based in Austin, Texas whose works have been shown throughout the world, Julie’s unique ability to create images that were at once recognizable and pleasantly disturbing had interested me for some time and when the opportunity presented itself to compose a work based on her paintings, I jumped at the chance and created a four-movement work Speedvisions. The individual movements are general interpretations of each painting, and while the other three movements Tea, Military Science, and Diminuendo have been received well in performances, the second movement of the work that ACME will be performing Tuesday evening has always garnered the most attention.

The Grand Dragon Crossing the River Styx on His Way to Hell is glorious in its directness and pulls no punches with its subject matter. With a nod towards Charles Ives, I have interweaved several slave and protest songs (including Hallelujah – I’m A-Travelin’ and I’m on My Way to the Freedom Land) together with a slave owner’s song (Run, N___, Run) and an ostinato pattern fashioned from We Shall Overcome. The movement is one of the most visceral of my works, but with enough tongue in the cheek to not become overbearing.


The Sequenza 21 Concert is free.

October 25 at 7 PM

Joe’s Pub in NYC

Tickets and Tables are still available by phone.

Call 212.539.8778 to make your reservation