In the minds of most people, classical music conjures up images of men in white wigs and works by composers like Mozart or Bach. But for Jeremy Beck, classical music is not a static canon of sounds and ideas but a creative continuum. Beck views the centuries of classical music as a shared language that contemporary composers can use to entertain audiences.
“It is not important to me that someone be able to find a link between what I do and something that was written 200 years ago,” Beck explains. “I know that link is there because I studied that music and I brought it into who I am. I learn from those great masters of 200 years ago and 20 years ago. Then I just assimilate it in my own way.”
Beck’s way has taken him many places. He’s released four CDs on the Innova label and is currently working on a recording with the Da Kappo Quartet, a chamber group that includes members of the Louisville Orchestra. Beck has also written compositions for musical theater, opera, orchestras, and dance ensembles. In addition to being a composer, Beck is an attorney at Ackerson & Yann, where he focuses on intellectual property law (copyright and trademark), entertainment and art law, contracts, and general business law.
A resident of the Highlands, Beck lives with his wife, Christine Ehrick, a Latin-American History professor at the University of Louisville, and their 7-year-old son. The family moved to Louisville in 2001. At first, Beck taught at U of L’s School of Music, but when his position was eliminated he decided to pursue his interest in law. Even then, he kept composing.
Beck’s work is celebrated for both its originality and the subtle ways he incorporates his influences into the compositions. Critic Mark Sebastian Jordan, reviewing Beck’s CD “Never Final, Never Gone,” writes: “Indeed, though there are traces of Copland, Ravel, Debussy and minimalism here, the strongest impression is that of an original voice celebrating music. Without self-consciousness, without paralyzing abstraction, Beck reminds us that music is movement, physically and emotionally.”
Beck, 51, was born outside of Cleveland, Ohio, and raised in Quincy, Illinois. His father was a visual artist and his mother was a pianist and church organist. Beck played cello in elementary school, and became interested in composition after he started studying with the head of the local orchestra. Beck’s high school orchestra was one of the first to play his compositions. After high school, he moved to New York where he studied composition at the Mannes College of Music.
The study of composition taught the composer attention to detail and analytical skills which later carried over into his law practice. Beck says Louisville has been an ideal home base for him to pursue his twin passions because of the vibrant arts community that provides him with both collaborators and clients. “I’ve enjoyed getting to know the musicians in the area and working with them in various ways,” he says. “We’ve been pleased with the city.”
On Sunday, September 18, local classical music fans can hear two of Beck’s compositions (along with Bach, De Falla, DeBlasio and others) as part of a Louisville Guitar Society benefit concert at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, 1206 Maple Lane, in Anchorage (see page 11). More samples of Beck’s work are available at www.beckmusic.org. His newest CD, “IonSound Project,” is performed by the Pittsburgh-based new music sextet of the same name.