Meet Composer Jack Frerer

Meet Composer Jack Frerer

Your Arapahoe Philharmonic has a new composer-in-residence! Hailing (and writing) from New York is Australian composer Jack Frerer, a man early in his career but tackling every aspect of the arts from classical composition to audio engineering to film-making. You might describe him as a Jack of all trades (if you’ll excuse the pun) who’s only just beginning his journey towards mastery of each craft. In short, Frerer hopes to pursue an amalgamation of artistic techniques that allows him to transition seamlessly between each discipline. Frerer’s studies at The Juilliard School in Manhattan have both challenged and molded his creativity, which was already potent due to his sense of experimentation.

Jake Tharan, our AP Journalist, talked with Jack about his artistic life and projects:

Jake Tharan: You’re involved in many aspects of the arts from music to dance to film. What is your background in composition or film-making?

Jack Frerer: In terms of composition, it was all pretty straightforward: piano lessons as a young kid and then transitioning into other instruments and becoming interested in different styles of music. Then while going to college in Australia for a year, I stumbled into classical composition and realized that it used a lot of my interests and abilities in a way that was enjoyable and fulfilling. So I decided to dive in head first, and I’m so glad I did. That’s the composition side of it, I suppose. I’ve been studying at Juilliard for the last four years doing my undergrad.

My mom is a photographer and I grew up with cameras all over the place. While all of this music stuff was going on, I could still explore and experiment with other art forms and mediums, which in turn helped influence and inform the music that I write. I feel that having done a lot of work as a film maker now has taught me about how time-based art forms can and should be structured in ways that are compelling or interesting – in ways that are not entirely obvious when you’re just dealing with sound or just dealing with music. It’s been great to be able to work with a few different art forms

It all feels like one big, fluid thing. I’ve been trying to find ways to combine them more often as of late. For the longest time, the film work was the film work, and the music work was the music work, and never the two shall meet. But recently I’ve been doing a lot of video projects, filming pieces and making music videos for pieces, as well as writing music where film can be displayed while music is being performed. I also do a lot of audio engineering and production, and I’ve been trying to find interesting ways to combine that with live classical performers. I’m still trying to figure it out (laughs) – it all still feels new, which is exciting.

JT: What kind of music videos have you worked on?

JF: For a long time I only really did film work for other people and kept my own projects out of it. In terms of actual music videos, I’ve done a few smaller independent projects for a couple of bands and ensembles around the city. But in my second and third years at Juilliard, I put together a project with a friend who is a contemporary dancer and choreographer working in New York named Liana Kleinman. We created this project called The Roof where we commissioned a bunch of composers and choreographers to work on pieces together and we filmed and created music and dance videos on different roof tops around Manhattan. We released it as a web series and did a live show. We did a shorter second season last year, no longer on roofs, and integrated other art forms outside of just choreography and composition. And then we ran out of time [laughs], so we’ve put that on hiatus for a bit. I think we made 14 short films over the course of a couple years, which was a great time. And again, it helped inform so much of the work that I do as a composer, which is what I do most of the time these days.

JT: How did you get started composing classical music?

JF: The first piece I wrote was like dots on paper. I had been doing some film music and submitted it to a community orchestra. They asked me to write a piece for their upcoming composer’s workshop. I had never written a notated piece before. All of a sudden I had to write an eight minute orchestra piece for people who were actually going to play it. I was used to just making orchestra sounds on computers. I hadn’t actually really investigated writing musical parts for performers that were actually going to play them! So I had four months to learn how to make music for other people to play. I knew how to notate music but I was lucky that I had a lot of friends who played instruments who were able to help and give me advice. You start having to take things into account beyond just what’s going to sound good. You have to start thinking about what a performer is going to want to play and what a performer is going to feel good about playing and, as a result, will make sound good. There is a lot more to take into account when you’re actually writing music for musicians to play on instruments.

JT: What will you be doing after graduation?

JF: I hope I can do all the things I’m doing now but expand and keep progressing with all of them. This last year I really just focused on composing. I’ve realized that it’s certainly something I want to keep doing, but I want to do it while still maintaining all of these other different creative alter-egos. I want to keep making films while writing music for orchestras and ensembles while recording music for groups and artists. Just anything I can do to keep all of these things going in tandem is my dream at the moment. Now that school is almost over I’m trying to figure out a way to make that realistic and sustainable. I don’t how it’s going to go, but we’ll see! The final performance of the Arapahoe Philharmonic’s 2018-2019 season is this Saturday, May 11th – do not miss out! The concert will include a performance of Jack Frerer’s own competition-winning composition, On-Again, Off-Again.