The album SPARKS VOL. 2 couldn’t be more aptly named, as bows bend and sparks fly in this vibrant collection of pieces for string orchestra. Bound to please modernists and traditionalists alike, this eclectic collection features Reflection by composer Jeff Mangels and performed by the Janáček Philharmonic Orchestra. Ethereal harmonics, rich chords, lyrical melodies, subtle articulations, and warm dynamic contrasts are featured in this work, along with a persistent pulse that drives its energy.
Today, Jeff is our featured artist in “The Inside Story,” a blog series exploring the inner workings and personalities of our composers and performers. Read on to discover his thoughts on composing with performers in mind, and the underlying message of triumph through tribulation in his music.
What inspires you to write and/or perform?
Nature. Especially the ocean, lakes, streams, mountains, and woods. Listening to Beethoven, Debussy, Bartok, Prokofiev, and the like, inspires me as well.
If you weren’t a musician, what would you be doing?
Interior Designer/Architect (My Grandfather was an Architect).
What advice do you have for young composers?
Young composers should master their craft as well as the industry side of things. Whether through school or on your own, study theory, analysis, orchestration, scores, and music history, and listen to all types of music. Performing skills are also important to understand how music is interpreted and functions. In addition, you need to know what instruments and voices are capable of and be able to put yourself in the shoes of the performer so you will know what they experience when reading and performing your music. In terms of the industry, learn about ASCAP/BMI etc., recording companies/labels, music publishing, and the financing, marketing, and legal aspects of music projects (very important!).
When did you realize that you wanted to be an artist?
Indirectly when I was about 9 years old through sounding out music I loved on the piano and exploring piano lessons. More fully in high school and college when I realized how to pursue music seriously.
If you could spend creative time anywhere in the world, where would it be and why?
My family’s heritage is from Germany/Ireland and I’ve always wanted to visit northern Europe. I love the geography of the north and northern hemisphere (especially epic, rural landscapes, etc.). In addition, I’ve always loved the beauty of a winter landscape and find it very inspiring. With that said, Germany/European Alps, Iceland, Scandinavia, and Ireland come to mind (maybe even Antarctica!).
Is there a specific feeling that you would like communicated to audiences in this work?
This work is a tone poem about reflecting on one’s journey through a challenge in life, knowing that the difficult obstacles are behind and the euphoric aspiration of the journey’s end is near. I think this feeling could be applied to many situations in life: Formal ceremonies, climbing life’s ladder, recalling history and overcoming struggles, etc. As we make progress coming out of the pandemic, it may be especially appropriate as we feel hope to overcome it.