Steven Weimer’s music has been performed by the JACK Quartet, Molly Barth, Fear No Music Quartet, Murray State University Wind Ensemble, Café Momus, and many others. Performances of his work span from Alaska to Bulgaria, with performances at June in Buffalo, Forum-Festival computer Music Space, North American Saxophone Alliance,Fairbanks Summer Arts Festival, and various new music festivals. Recent awards includethe Music Now competition of Indiana State University, Eta Omicron chapter’s Phi Mu Alpha Composition Contest, and the CCM Concerto/Composition Competition. Dr. Weimer is currently Assistant Professor of Music at Murray State University in Kentucky.
Join us for the premiere of his piece Frame Data as performed by e513 at the Mercantile Library on October 12.
CSB: Could you tell us a little about your work as a composer? What are you interested in exploring in your music?
SW: As a composer I am interested in harmony and color in my music. Most of my pieces explore ways to divide the 12-note aggregate into smaller groups and utilize different combinations of these groups. I use these divisions to create structure in the harmony and form, while many other elements are left up to intuition. I tend to gravitate towards harmonic collections that have elements of symmetry, but I am also attracted to triadic chords. My aim is to reconcile the structured and mathematical part of my musical mind with the section that loves the tonal language of Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, and Brahms.
CSB: What is the background to your piece for this concert, Frame Data?
SW: The background of Frame Data is actually a bit of a departure from my usual approach. For one, the ensemble was a new venture, and I felt that the balance and timbral challenges presented by the quartet needed a different approach. Secondly, I have always wanted to write a piece about my interest in video games and heavy metal. It took until I was in my mid-30s to finally acknowledge these influences, which have been a part of my musical upbringing since the beginning. Writing such a piece demanded a different approach than what I had used in the past.
In writing Frame Data, I wanted to pay respect to the “Street Fighter” series, which are video games where players fight in a two-dimensional side-by-side setting. In these games, every move a player may input to the game has specific frame data that dictates the speed and shape of the move. This frame data is a large chart that lists the ‘frames’ for each move, which is like frames in animation, with the game operating at 60 frames per second. A good player will know and study this frame data for their character to determine which moves are quicker, which moves are safer, which moves are more risky, etc. This element, in combination with the game’s combo mechanics means that a good player must study and practice in order to be skilled at the game. Furthermore, facing a human opponent as your in-game foe requires reaction and improvisation abilities.
All said, the experience of playing the game is quite similar to developing a musical skill. It requires practice and discipline, as well as an understanding of structure (the data) and intuition (reacting to your opponent during the match itself). My work, Frame Data, was initially inspired by precise rhythmic timing, which is the main element in utilizing frame data in a fighting game. This spawned the first section of the piece, which also develops a repeated chord progression. After this idea develops, the piece changes suddenly to incorporate the intuitive side, which features a guitar solo and is reminiscent of the music in Street Fighter games. The final section returns to the original progression, now with blast beats and distortion. The overall structure is loosely ternary.
CSB: How have you seen the environment for new music in Cincinnati change? What are some similarities or differences in your current location?
SW: Cincinnati has always been a great location for new music. What has changed over the years, in my experience, is who is organizing and cultivating new music. Although I have been away from Cincinnati since 2014, the scene seems to be vibrant and youthful, which is wonderful. It is encouraging to see so many events and organizations that are independent and thriving.
I currently live in western Kentucky, where the scene is more scarce due to fewer resources. However, we are still able to have performances throughout the state that feature music by composers who live in Kentucky. Additionally, some recent CCM graduates now reside in nearby Nashville and Memphis, so I am very optimistic of future collaborations. I hope to start a new music ensemble of my own in Nashville some day.
CSB: What are some of the upcoming projects and performances on your radar?
SW: My future projects include a new tuba piece, a four-movement choir piece, and a setting of the Latin Credo for vocal soloists and large chamber ensemble. The tuba work has been submitted for performance at a national tuba conference, and the choir works are being composed for the students of Murray State University, which is where I teach. The Credo is a passion project that I have wanted to finish for a few years and will hopefully be completed down the road.