Guitarist and composer Kevin J. Cope will join music ensemble Mélomanie 2 p.m. Oct. 18 to celebrate the world premiere of his piece, Conscium Universum (The Conscious Universe), at the Delaware Center for the Contemporary Arts. He’s excited for the chance to use the harpsichord and take advantage of instruments often thought of as “historical” by pairing them with modern music. We caught up with him to ask a few questions about his work and what to expect from this performance.
TSD: What was your inspiration for the piece, Conscium Universum (The Conscious Universe)?
KJC: I really love science, especially cosmology, so when I was asked to write for Mélomanie, I thought they would be the perfect ensemble. Their integration of the viola da gamba and harpsichord allows for hinting at the history from which our current understanding of the world grows, as well as the more modern instruments, allowing for a more current feel. Each movement started with some concept within a scientific discovery, then I allowed myself to brainstorm ways that I could represent those ideas musically. Each idea was developed with a hope that it would work!
TSD: What do you want the audience to take away from this piece?
KJC: I would love for the audience to walk away with an intellectual itch to learn more about these discoveries. Musically, I’d love for people to come away with a sense that their preconceived notions of historical instruments – such as the harpsichord and viola da gamba – are too limited, and these instruments have within them the ability to play far more than their ‘standard’ repertoire.
TSD: Who are some of your favorite composers?
KJC: I have a wide range of influences. Classically, I’d say my favorites are standard names as well as modern composers that are less well known: Stravinsky (obviously), Richard Danielpour, Christopher Rouse, John Corigliano, Roland Dyens, Astor Piazzolla, and Nikita Koshkin. Heightened emotions tend to pique my interest in music, and works by these composers tend to be very emotional – whether anger, passion, grief or other emotions are the centerpiece – I love them all.
Away from classical is Antonio Carlos Jobim, who wrote some of the most amazing Latin pieces ever. Really just a fountain of inspiration! I’ve also been a fan of rock music since middle school, so I’m definitely influenced by the likes of YES, Queen, Symphony X, Mattias Eklundh, and recently Native Construct. My taste has just been pushing more into the classically-influenced rock styles since those youthful introductions to rock.
TSD: Where did you study and who were your mentors?
KJC: I received my bachelor’s degree in audio recording from Bloomsburg University. Simultaneously, I began composing with Dr. Patrick Long at nearby Susquehanna University. I went on to get my master’s degree in music composition at the University of Delaware, where I studied with Dr. Andrew Bleckner and Dr. Jennifer Barker. I also studied guitar at Bloomsburg University with Dr. Matthew Slotkin and received a master’s degree in guitar performance from the University of Delaware, working with Christiaan Taggart.
TSD: What do you feel is the hardest part of the creative process?
KJC: The hardest part of writing for me is always starting the piece. I don’t typically start with an idea of a sound that I want, so it’s a trial-and-error game to find a snippet of an idea worth pursuing and building. The idea of this piece allowed me to have a philosophical sense of where to start, so the notes were a bit easier to discover, but starting still took some time.
TSD: What song or composition (current or past) do you wish you had written?
KJC: This list could go on for pages! I’d say The Rite of Spring by Stravinsky, Circus Maximus by John Corigliano, Allegro Barbaro by Bela Bartok, the whole “Night at the Opera” album by Queen, and many more.
TSD: Where will you appear next?
KJC: I have a performance with the Wilmington Classical Guitar Society at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 12 at The Music School of Delaware. The program will feature only my own compositions and include solo guitar, duos and small ensemble works. It will be fun as well!