Conversation with a young colleague


Ryan Rey, youngest of the six Artistic Directors of Composers, Inc., recently had a leisurely Skype conversation with the oldest composer – me, Allen Shearer. We started right in with the most important topic: his music. Ryan’s Level Inflation for orchestra will be premiered by the University of the Pacific Symphony Orchestra on our opening concert November 17.

Is he excited? Very. Level Inflation was Ryan’s master’s thesis at California State University, East Bay, and hearing a performance of it was something he dreamt of but didn’t count on happening. His description of the piece is intriguing: a study in expansion and contraction on several levels. I asked him how it came about.

I started from a single note, picked an interval at random, found that note, then went on to another, wider interval. Through that process I ended up generating a tonal language that inspired the rest of the piece.” There is expansion and contraction in the time dimension as well, using the technique of augmentation and diminution. It’s what Bach did to his fugue subjects when he doubled or halved the length of notes.

In fact Bach was mentioned as an influence, but in company with heavy metal and many other things. Ryan is a guitarist (and sometimes trombonist or back-up vocalist) in the group The Mineral Kingdom, which announces itself as a chiptune/folk/doom chamber music group.” Does he live in two musical worlds? Apparently more than two, but he seems comfortable with that. In writing Level Inflation it was easy for him to set aside the predictable chord progressions of rock music. He was less willing to give up his beloved “groovin’ rhythm” (definition: “it makes heads nod”), an essential ingredient of whatever he does in music.

Ryan has recently accepted the job of Executive Director of Composers, Inc.—this was the next topic of conversation. He brings the right qualities to this rather daunting task: he is organized, calm, articulate, and good with people. And the one quality he acknowledges without modesty is his enthusiasm for the group and its mission.

A decade ago Ryan began coming to the Veterans’ Building in San Francisco to hear Composers, Inc. concerts. He recalls being captivated by a world of music that he barely knew existed. Sometimes he came to hear music of his professors at CSUEB, which closed a circle for him. In short, he was exactly the listener Composers, Inc. strove to interest in the group, and in new music. Our mission succeeded with Ryan, and that seems an excellent vantage point for his leadership going forward.

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