What do I write?

What do I write? – by Jesse Passenier
Eindhoven, 18th of February 2018

Who am I as a composer? What is my music about? To answer these questions, I have to start by sharing with you what made me go in the direction that I went, which could be described as crossover composing, generally between jazz and classical music.

As a young 17-year-old boy I heard a live broadcast of 'Pluto and Beyond', presented by Hans Mantel on NPS Radio 2. It's a roughly 40-minute-long composition by trumpeter, composer and arranger Jens Winther, and it was performed by himself with the Metropole Orchestra, conducted by Markku Johansson. This piece took me by surprise. It was late, I had to go to bed, but was able to start a cassette recording once I reached my bed. Fascinated and blindsided, I was intensely listening to the whole piece, of course having to flip my cassette somewhere in the middle… “This is it!”, that’s what I thought and felt.

My fascination with ‘Pluto and Beyond’ was not only musical. Also the theme and depth of the piece struck me as meaningful. The composition uses a journey from our planet, through our solar system – and beyond – as a metaphor for life. Birth, life, and death – beyond life – to be more precise.

Such philosophically deep topics, brought to the listener and experiencer via metaphor, became a prominent way of working for me. Secondly, the musical approach of Jens Wither’s composition became my starting point.

I think this is a significant point. For me, crossover writing was the starting point. It wasn’t something I ran into while already being a composer. It was a given for me, while I was still learning to write and play. That’s why I like to play with blending genres, and using them somewhat contrasting each other, sometimes in a single piece. For my ears and experience, there’s no conflict, it’s simply a possibility.

What does this mean for my signature? Let me start by saying that I think it’s quite healthy for a composer’s signature to evolve. So I can’t give a fixed answer. However, there are certain detailed technical characteristics that you will find in most of my pieces. Those details are tools I use to “make the mix” between something considered classical, and something considered jazz. Secondly, my style allows for great contrast, that can be perceived as shifting between genre’s. Also this can be seen as a signature. Finally, I consider the metaphoric use of themes from nature and life, to represent deep philosophical matters, as well as writing about deep philosophical matters directly, an important characteristic of my work.

Why do I find this meaningful? To my mind, humankind must philosophise to learn more about our existence. Music can play an important role in this matter, because of its experiential and creative nature. It has the power to drive the matter at hand into the intuition and creative mind of the listener, adding depth to it, changing the perspective. When philosophy is something of the ratio, it risks being incomplete. When creativity is sparked, and intuition and experience are included, we can learn; we can progress inclusively. This is where I hope to contribute.

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