Photo Courtesy of Anna Yatskevich
Each year, we move closer and closer to a convergence of electronic, rock, and classical music. Composer-performers lie at the core of this movement, bringing new sound ideas to the forefront of public knowledge while acting as musical conduits and interpreters for other like-minded creatives.
Enter Tyler Neidermayer, an NYC-based clarinetist who is poised to re-imagine the next wave of art music happening in North America.
“My background as a performer absolutely influences how I think about writing my own music, but the two originally were very disconnected,” Neidermayer explains. “I started writing back in 2016 during my undergrad but limited myself to only working with notation software.”
“Around the same time, I started getting into improvising with other musicians and on my own and it really opened this wide door of possibilities for me,” Neidermayer continued. “I was also playing a lot of rep using extended techniques, so finding spaces to freely explore the bass clarinet's palette and discover what else I could do with the instrument was huge for me. I didn't actually consider my improvisations as compositions until very recently. Discovering music by solo performers writing their own music like Colin Stetson and Holly Herndon really helped validate the concept of composing without notation. I much prefer to work directly with recorded sound to lay out and organize different ideas and listen for what I want to come next.”
This approach to exploring composition has led Neidermayer to create an artistic language that feels incredibly open and alive. The use of electronics play a large part in realizing this style of music.
“Many of my first compositions were written with fixed media elements made from processing field recordings, but I didn't really know what I was doing at the time,” Neidermayer said. “I started really delving into Ableton Live at MSM working with Todd Reynolds and Mike Lowenstern to amplify and process my clarinets. Ableton was a complete game changer. It's my primary tool for composing but also this hybrid instrument I can play and control in real time. I like to think of it as an extension of my bass clarinet sound because it can do so many things I could never physically play on my horn, but that in turn made me start approaching the bass clarinet like a synthesizer trying to find ways to replicate the new sounds I was creating in Ableton.”
“I think it's necessary for all musicians to have a basic understanding of music technology / electronic music and to know what is available to them. We live during a time when recording equipment is more accessible than it ever was and many free studio-level tools can be used with just a laptop, yet most music schools still do not include an equitable electronic music education in their core curriculum leaving their students wildly unprepared.”
The experimentation with recording, improvisation, and electronics spawned two notable pieces this year, strata and Witch King, with a slew of new works on the way.
“I got into the hall [at Manhattan School of Music] and had a lot on my mind with so much unknown and up in the air at the time, I wanted to just play whatever came to me and push as much as I could through my horn,” Neidermayer said.
“That improvisation became strata after I came back to it a month later and started to play with pulling out specific tones from the recording to slowly build this wailing chord throughout the entire piece. It was a one-in-a-million improv for me and I have conflicted feelings on if I should try to transcribe and recreate the piece or if it should just exist as a recording, as I think that lets it stand out as a composition in its own beautiful way. The visuals I built for the piece was also my first time working with interactive graphics in Max but the result turned out to represent my concept of the piece well; this fission of sound between my voice and my horn that eventually collapses into just one split sound.”
“Witch King was born from an exercise on circular breathing I had been working on for a while, starting from this almost subtone sound with minimal air and focus on the physical key clicks and growing into a three chord progression that explores different overtone possibilities until the sound starts to split into this shriek,” Neidermayer continued.
"Both of these pieces have greatly influenced how I am currently writing music because they both came from such opposite beginnings, one from months of testing techniques and the other from a burst of raw emotion, yet they became full works that I am extremely proud of.”
This same ethos of embracing new means of making music has blended into the ensemble work Neidermayer is currently involved in.
One of his latest endeavors is acting as a member of Apply Triangle. The trio, consisting of Joshua Weinberg (flutes) and Jixue Yang (keyboards) and Neidermayer, will soon enter the scene with a series of recordings that center around creative use of new technologies and exploring the integration of electronics in art music.
“We wanted to create an opportunity for emerging composers to start or continue experimenting with electronic / electro-acoustic music by writing up to five minutes of music for our instrumentation,” Neidermayer said. “ All of us in [Apply Triangle] are versed with the various DAWs available and want to share our experience performing new music that uses electronics with composers who may be new to the medium. We currently have over 25 new pieces in the works and plan to release them as a set of albums throughout 2020 and 2021.”
The ensemble currently has an open call for scores, that can be found on their website.
Despite coronavirus completely altering the musical landscape for the foreseeable future, Neidermayer hasn’t been deterred.
“I want to continue as much of the work that I have been doing with my groups and collaborators, Neidermayer said.” “Apply Triangle has our Call for Scores underway, Quintilia is in the works of developing new types of online artistic events, and BlackBox Ensemble is kicking off our third season navigating a hybrid of recorded and live performances. Things are just going to be new and different moving forward and I want to be involved with as much as I can to keep creating and making new music however we are able to.”
“I have plans to produce an album of my own compositions later this year which I am very stoked about. Most of it is recorded already, I will be recording the rest of it from my home studio here in Brooklyn but I am excited to see what comes from working with new limitations. I also want to get more into creating some content for my YouTube channel about my workflow and some examples of how I process my sound.”
With so many projects in the works, striving to create the novel and exciting could seem overwhelming. Neidermayer approaches this challenge with grace, making him someone we should all be on the lookout for in the coming months:
“Remember that everyone has new limitations they are dealing with now and workflow on both sides might not be what it was a few months ago," Neidermayer said. "Making music in this time can often be difficult and when we're collaborating with people across the world we need to stay flexible and supportive. Just because we see so many people constantly putting out different projects or streams or whatever doesn't mean things need to be rushed. Music takes time.”
You can listen to Tyler Neidermayer’s music on Youtube and Soundcloud and can follow him on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. Learn more about Apply Triangle here and check out his piece, strata, below.
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Erich is a musician and writer living between Montreal and New York whose work appears on Best Life, Eat This, Not That!, MSN, and more and has represented artists for years as a PR rep. He likes weird music. If you want to find his music, it's over here.