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jack vees


Guilford, CT   

My career includes significant work in music composition and inter-media collaborations, as well as celebrated performances as an electric bass player, and since 1986, the position of Director and (from 1986-2004) co-director, of the Center for Studies in Music Technology at the Yale School of Music.

      In addition to working on the framework for Twin Reverb, my proposed project, I have composed many recent works for acoustic instruments with electronics, and also strictly acoustic cooncert works.  My most recent Piece, War Tubas, combines the solo tubist with an interesting backing track. In post WW1 times devices known as war tubas were gigantic listening devices created to track incoming aircraft.  This was before the advent of radar.  My piece takes the sound of early aircraft and modifies them in a number of ways, including playing these sounds through a current day concert tuba, and recording them at the mouthpiece end. I mention this piece because it provides a good example of how my works, even when more toward the straight ahead concert hall end of the spectrum, often have theatrical underpinnings. 

      I also have frequnetly written for electric guitars, and have a number of pieces performed by Ben Verdery, including National Anthem, which incorporates material from the rck band The National, whose guitarist Bryce Dessner has been a student of Ben's.

           I also wish to reference  Feynman,which is my one-act chamber opera about the brilliant and quirky physicist Richard Feynman. It was commissioned by Real Time Opera and performed by the virtuosic So Percussion Ensemble and Michael Cavalieri, baritone. The premiere performance, at the historic Norfolk Chamber Music Festival, was the subject of both a preview article and a review in the New York Times. Among the comments: “The music was often inventive and attractive, now lyrical, now jazzy. And the performances, especially that of the crack ensemble So Percussion, with the players required to interact physically with Mr. Cavalieri as well as tend to strenuous musical demands, were game and compelling.” The New York premiere of Feynman took place at The Knitting Factory, and the work was later presented on tour in New Hampshire and Vermont.

           I have also written works made exclusively for radio. In 2003 Chris Cutler and the ORF Kunstradio, Austria, commissioned a world-wide group of artists to create environmental pieces. My work, “Woolsey Holes,” was first aired on Austrian radio and subsequently released on the CD, “Twice Around the Earth,” Recommended Records.

            In 2000, a CD of my work, “Restaurant Behind the Pier,” was also released by Recommended Records. This CD is unique in that it consists entirely of pieces I wrote for myself performed on solo bass guitar with electronics. It has been recognized in reviews the world over as a stunning achievement that re-defines the sonic resources available to the bass.

            Starting 1998 and continuing through 2003, I wrote a number of pieces that explored applications of technology and music with solo instruments. Strummage, commissioned by guitar virtuoso Benjamin Verdery in 1998, received its premiere performance at Amsterdam’s Concertgebeow and was later released on Verderey’s CD, “Soepa.” Gloria, for oboe d’amore and Hammond organ, was commissioned by Yale University’s Digital Media Center in 1998.

            In 1997, I received a prestigious commission from the Berlin Biennale Festival to write a large ensemble piece for the internationally revered “Ensemble Moderne.” The piece, Party Talk, a setting of a Japanese instructional manual of how to behave at American parties, took place at the 1998 Berlin Biennale.

            1997 also saw the release of my first CD of original compositions, “Surf Music Again” released by CRI. All of the pieces that comprise this collection have been performed numerous times.

            I was the recipient of two exciting and stimulating commissions in 1995.   A pair of cutting-edge Dutch chamber ensembles, “Future Shock” and The Aurelia Saxophone Quartet, commissioned me to write for their combined forces. The premiere of this work, The Moral Behavior of Rational Numbers took place at the Concertgebeouw in Amsterdam.

            That same year, I was chosen to participate in an extensive collaboration with the California EAR Unit sponsored by the Philadelphia based ensemble, “Relache.” Our piece, Fake I.D., received its premiere at “The Painted Bride” in Philadelphia. Once again theatrical elements were combined with clear structural musical architecture.

            Earlier commissioned compositions include: Rocket Baby for electric cello, commissioned in 1993 by the New England Foundation for the Arts for Jeffery Krieger. Stigmata non Grata for hand bell choir, was commissioned in 1992 by Corn Palace, Minneapolis; Saints Before the Vanishing Point for mixed ensemble, commissioned in 1990 by the new music ensemble, “Zeitgeist” (Walker Art Center premiere); The Nutcracker, an arrangement of Tchaikovsky’s holiday hit for instruments and electronics, commissioned by the New Haven Ballet Company in 1987; and Apocrypha for oboe and electronics, commissioned in 1985 by the Minnesota Composers Forum in conjunction with the Jerome Foundation. This work has received numerous performances throughout the world. The score was published in Oboe Unbound: Contemporary Techniques, and a complete recording of the piece was included on the book’s accompanying CD.

            In addition to my compositional work, I have been active as an electric bass performer. Some of the highlights of my bass-playing career include performing in the American premieres of De Stijl, De Staat, and De Tijd by Louis Andriessen (1987 and 1985); solo bass guitar concerts at the Interpretations series, NYC, Los Angeles, and in Rekjavik; the American premiere of Stockhausen’s Sternklang for the Olympic Arts Festival in Los Angeles 1984; the release of my all-bass arrangement of Procol Harem’s Repent Walpurgis; duo performances with acclaimed bassist Mark Dresser and with composer/vocalist Kitty Brazelton in New York City.

            The publication of my manual, The Book on Bass Harmonics, Alfred Publishing Company, 1981 was the first text to present a method for this technique, and has become a standard reference among bassists.

            Other honors not mentioned elsewhere include: Featured Composer, Present Music, Milwaukee (2001,) Nancy Hanks Artist in Residence, Duke University (1992). Meet the Composer and Arts Midwest grants (1991) , Yellow Springs Artist in Residence (1991),Northwest Area Foundation grant (1985,) and ASCAP awards annually from 1991 to the present.

            I was fortunate to study with a wide range of brilliant and creative composers including: Louis Andriessen, Vinko Globokar, Mel Powell, Morton Subotnick, and Steven Mosko. As a student at California Institute of the Arts, I was appointed to the position of electric bass instructor, and also produced sound design for artists such as John Cage, among many others.           

            As an undergraduate, I received the Dean’s Award for Creativity and Scholarship from Glassboro State College, New Jersey (1977), and I was an intern for the Philadelphia Composers Forum (1973-76), which included presentations and workshops for the Philadelphia prison system and production assistant for Satie’s Socrate, which included Alexander Calder’s original mobiles for the production.

            My diverse life experiences have led me to my current state, which I feel uniquely qualify me to undertake the work I’ve proposed. This would include not only the ability to write a convincing score, but also to be able to work in an interdisciplinary frame work, and bring this large scale music theater piece to fruition.


Articles by jack vees:

Headlines October 5 2010 | By jack vees
Life Without Art – Remembering Art Jarvinen (1956-2010)

Arthur Jarvinen (1956-2010) was a dynamo whose output seemed to be just a matter of course in a normal day for him, with his output switching gears seamlessly from concert...

Headlines March 24 2010 | By jack vees
Remembering Eleanor Hovda

This Saturday would have been the 70th birthday of Eleanor Hovda, a prominent Minnesota-born composer and dancer whose compositions were championed by leading new music ensembles all across the country....

Articles November 10 2006 | By jack vees
Deal or No Deal: A Grand Rights Primer

If a performance of your music also involves a couple of dancers, or costumes, sets, and maybe even a dramatic scenario, you may have just entered the mysterious realm of...