Making Noise in the Library: An interview with Composer Greg C. Brown

From Amy Hunsaker, Librarian for Music & the Performing Arts:

The Making Noise in the Library series, generously supported by a grant from the UVA Arts Council, is a program that brings UVA artists into the Music Library for free performances. This year, we wanted to expose students to local, professional musicians who they may not normally interact with, so we invited guitarist and composer Greg C. Brown to play a set for us at noon on Friday, December 3. For more information about Greg and his compositional style, visit his website.

I caught up with Greg Brown earlier this week and asked him about his music.

Amy: Could you please tell me how you got started as a performer and composer? Have you always written your own music?

Greg: I started playing guitar right before I turned 12. As soon as I learned a handful of notes I was creating melodies. When I started performing the music I wrote in my middle school metal band, the response was positive and I was hooked for life. I performed mostly metal during the 80s and early 90s, then turned my attention to classical guitar where I fell in love with composition on a whole other level, never turned back.

Amy: Please tell me about your musical style and your influences.

Greg: Hands down the reason I wanted to play guitar was Angus Young from AC/DC after Back in Black came out. It was the 80s and there was such an explosion of amazing guitar players: Eddie Van Halen, Steve Vai, Yngwie Malmsteen (who turned me on to Paganini who I adore), Metallica, so many really. When I started studying classical guitar I really got into Segovia, Albeniz, Tarrega, many flamenco artists as well as Nikita Koshkin, Leo Brouwer. When I dug deep into composition, I had the opportunity to really analyze many of the masters: Bach, Beethoven, Stravinsky, Tchaikovsky, huge list. I also got into Eastern composers as well, Takemitsu and Tan Dun and studied pipa music, the guitar of China.

Amy: Do you want to talk about your metal band? How does the metal genre fit into your overall musical/compositional style? Does it influence your other writing?

Greg: My metal band Age of Fire has been busy over the past few years with new releases and remastering of some old works. Last year’s release “Shades of Shadow” was on Sliptrick Records but came out right before. We are currently working on the follow up EP, “Through the Tempest,” out in 2022, but the first single, “Children of the Night,” was released on Halloween for obvious reasons. I’ve really tried to focus on “my style” and the more that happens, my metal influences have been bleeding into my classical music. I’m a huge fan of symphonic metal bands such as Nightwish and many others. What a cool fusion. I’d like to write a concerto for electric guitar and orchestra and can see that start to happen within the next couple years.

Amy: I know that you’ve spent some time in Spain, and you have composed quite a few Spanish guitar pieces. How has Spain and Spanish music influenced your music?

Greg: I love the uniqueness of the music of Spain. They were cut off from the rest of the western world due to the Pyrenees and were at the end of the Silk Road, Moorish influences, Celtic, so many cultures and became such a melting pot. Their national instrument is the guitar, what more do I have to say? When I hear flamenco to me it’s like classical technique with a Heavy Metal attitude. So passionate, intense, and powerful.

Amy: What sort of program are you going to play for us on December 3? Can we expect to hear traditional seasonal music in addition to your own compositions?

Greg: I’ll be playing works of mine that span decades as well as some flamenco, maybe something seasonal like selections from the Nutcracker. An hour goes by fast.

Amy: Anything else you’d like us to know about you and your music?

Greg: I look forward to seeing everyone on the 3rd. Also, I had two works of mine published this week and distributed through J.W. Pepper, my revised score for guitar and orchestra, “Alpha Centauri,” that premiered originally in the 1990s at UVA and a duet I wrote for my mom for violin and guitar called “Alicemande” which premiered in Vermont this past August.

Join us to hear Greg Brown perform on Friday, December 3, at noon.
Old Cabell Hall, Music Library
Bring a lunch! Coffee & treats will be served.


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