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home : features : features June 24, 2016

6/12/2012 10:30:00 AM
Composer finds complexity of nature an inspiration
Composer James Romig will discuss how nature influences his work at an artist talk June 18 at McKee Amphitheater at Grand Canyon. Submitted photo
Composer James Romig will discuss how nature influences his work at an artist talk June 18 at McKee Amphitheater at Grand Canyon. Submitted photo
Rene Westbrook
South Rim Artist in Residence Coordinator

GRAND CANYON, Ariz. - The South Rim Artist in Residence (AIR) Program is currently hosting composer James Romig as artist-in-residence through June 21.

Romig is an Associate Professor of Music Theory and Composition at Western Illinois University, in Macomb, IL. He received his BM and MM at the University of Iowa (Iowa City) and has his PhD from Rutgers University (New Brunswick, New Jersey). His work is influenced by a strong interest in the complexity of nature (as experienced through the activities of hiking and photography) and how these complexities may be applied to musical composition.

Romig said when confronted with modern music for the first time, some listeners describe the music as difficult to follow, mind-bendingly complex, too dense to comprehend in one sitting, or overwhelmingly diverse.

"Some listeners might say that it is difficult to understand the music because it is difficult to imagine how it is created in the first place," he said. "What I wish to point out is that these phrases could just as easily be used to describe a national park. I feel that contemporary art music is far closer in structure and complexity to nature than any of the music that came before it. Most of us, especially those of us who love spending time in national parks, have reached an understanding that nature is seldom comprehended immediately, and that it is almost always necessary to devote personal time and energy into revealing the rich rewards that nature has to offer."

Romig added the vast complexity of the natural world allows each person to have a unique aesthetic experience.

"Nobody sees a national park the same way twice, or the same way as someone else," he said. "The same things are true of complex contemporary music such as my own, and what we know about appreciating nature can be applied to appreciating new musical compositions."

While in-residence, Romig will present two informal evening program artist talks, and one short introductory talk at Phantom Ranch during an inner Canyon hike. His second evening program takes place June 18 at 8:30 p.m. at McKee Amphitheater. The Phantom Ranch mini-program is scheduled for Saturday. In these family friendly programs, Romig will talk about his music and how nature influences the work. In-studio, he'll be working on a large-scale work for solo piano, which will ultimately be performed in concert by his pianist wife, Ashlee Mack, for whom he has previously written two piano sonatas (2004 and 2007).

Romig's recent guest-composer visits include Northwestern University, the Aspen Institute, the Cincinnati Conservatory, the University of Illinois, Juilliard, and the American Academy in Rome. Romig was in-residence at Petrified Forest National Park (2009) and Copland House (2011) and has participated in many festivals including June in Buffalo, the Imagine Festival, Wien Modern, and regional/national conferences of the Society of Composers, Inc. His university performance venues read like an alphabetized list of the United States; Romig has worked from coast to coast and internationally throughout his career, working with individual instrumentalists, chamber groups, and large ensembles.

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