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Bob Dylan, odd instruments inspire Reid

January 11, 2008

Bob Dylan, odd instruments inspire Reid

A swish of the paintbrush or the swirl of oils on canvas, it was the early colors in Clement Reid’s life that shaped his love of music. His mother, Dorothy, was a commercial artist in the 1930s through the 50s, with her work appearing in the New Yorker, Harper’s Bazaar and Vogue.

Throughout her life, and before she died last summer, she did many abstract paintings, cut glass works and a bit of photography, Reid remembered last week when he talked about what inspires his musical compositions today.

“I really didn’t have any particular gift in that area,” Reid said of his mother’s innate talent with the paintbrush.

“But I did want to transfer what she did into music.

“I found that I liked expression in modern music,” he continued. “I know there were people who didn’t like modern music, but it just seemed natural to me.”

The genesis of his career in composition came in junior high, when he composed a guitar piece.

He still has the piece and might include it, he added with a smile, in a guitar instruction book he is currently working on. After junior high and guitar came piano and pestering his teachers to help him learn more about composition. He attended Eastman School of Music in Rochester, N.Y., and then studied composition for his graduate degree at the University of Southern California.

About 20 years ago, he moved to Washington and continued composing and teaching lessons. He arrived at PLU in 2002 at the invitation of PLU’s chief composer, Greg Youtz.

When he composes a piece, Reid now borrows from Bob Dylan, his classical favorites, other instrumental sounds and from trips to China with fellow composers such as Youtz.

He also likes to compose for odd instruments.

“I did a piece a number of years ago that had all kinds of odd percussion in it … a toy piano, hammers, wood,” he said. And then there was a strange instrument that sounds like a cow mooing.

He collects pieces of a similar ilk.

In his hands this day is an orchestration by George Crumb called “Ancient Voices of Children,” a sprawling work that looks a bit like a Rorschach test of musical notes.

Mezzo-soprano, boy soprano, mandolin, harp, toy piano and Tibetan prayer stones are all called for in this score that fills pages, some of which are 20 inches long. And if one can’t get prayer stones?

Use rocks, Reid laughed.

Reid’s music will be included in a program of chamber music on Feb. 29th at 8 p.m. in Lagerquist Concert Hall. The pieces will include compositions for clarinet, piano and bass, and one piece will premier a harpsichord that Dorothy Reid actually built.

University Communications staff writer Barbara Clements compiled this report. Comments, questions, ideas? Please contact her at ext. 7427 or at Photo by University Photographer Jordan Hartman.