Clarinetist, Kyle, talks with our composers
Stephen Ryan Jackson
Based in Boston, MA, Stephen Ryan Jackson is a composer and trumpet player from Fort Worth, TX. A graduate of the New England Conservatory, Stephen’s current projects include collaborations with Les Deux duo and a solo album for trumpet and electronics. You can find his music on soundcloud and instagram @stephenryanjackson and on his website .
Thanks for taking the time to talk to me today. Can you tell us about the music you’ve been composing lately and what your style is like?
This may all change one day... but my work lately has been centered around recreating small micro moments in my life. I take these small, mundane, seemingly indescribable moments and try to find and amplify the core physical sensations and emotions that are inside of it. I almost obsessively observe these moments (things like a candle flickering, patterns in your ceiling, someone shampooing their hair) and then stretch, layer and distort them to create my work. Lately in a lot of my compositions, I have taken source recordings of these small “micro moments” and have used programs to stretch, layer, distort, etc. to create digital mockups, (fixed media pieces) which I then use as a base to transcribe the pitches, rhythms and techniques to the ensemble that I am writing for.
What medium do you most frequently write for?
My favorite thing to do is to collaborate with soloists and small chamber ensembles. I enjoy fine tuning sonorities, articulations, phrasing, and techniques to create the exact sound world that I intend, past what can realistically
be written on a page. I also think that with smaller groups and venues there is a special type of communication from performer to audience member that I believe is really essential in making my music come to life. All that being said, I do somehow end up also writing a lot of large wind ensemble music as well, haha!
We’re super excited to be premiering “Tooth Necklace” this weekend. Can you tell us and the audience a bit about the piece?
So similar to my other pieces, “Tooth Necklace” is about recreating a distinct sensation. In this case the sort of “micro moment” that I was inspired by was a person or creature chewing. I try to surround the audience with sound and create the sensation as if the audience themselves were the food being consumed and the ensemble is the teeth, mouth, and throat of the consumer. The piece is broken up into two contrasting sections, the first being the act of chewing, gnawing, and tearing and the second being the act of being swallowed, dissolved and digested. I want the audience to live in the moment of being consumed by an imaginary being and all the physical and emotional sensations that are associated with it.
In addition to being a composer, you’re also a trumpet player. We’ve talked a bit about the music you write, but what about the music you play?
Because of quarantine and everything going on in the world, a lot of my playing lately has been solo improvisations with electronics which is entirely new to me. I have done a few now for digital concerts via Zoom and Twitch and I am really excited about the results and to pursue it more in my work.
I always like to ask the people I interview what they’re listening to as a final question - I think we can learn a lot about a musician by hearing what’s on their Spotify playlist. What’re you listening to lately?
First off, Bjork is always playing on my Spotify. She is my idol, my icon, my muse. Utopia is probably my favorite album by her but lately I have been listening to Volta a ton. Other than Bjork, I have been listening to a lot of pop-adjacent stuff like Bon Iver, ANOHNI, Okay Kaya, Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith, and Colleen, a lot of contemporary classical composers such as Pamela Z, Kate Soper, David Lang, and Malin Bang, and there’s always some bops like Britney, Beyonce and Doja Cat sprinkled in.