Opperman was first inspired to become a composer by hearing the music of Frank Zappa.The Chris Opperman website
The Zappa influence on Chris Opperman‘s compositions is clear on his debut album, Oppy Music, Vol I: Purple, Crayon. But there are more strings to his bow (and his piano) than that. The solo piano pieces on his second album, Klavierstücke, remind me of Ron Geesin’s work. And the ghost of Laurie Anderson lurks in his third, Concepts of Non-Linear Time, where he scores for mixed ensembles. He may not be as zany as Ivor Cutler or Captain Beefheart, but I think we can safely say that ‘Oppy’ is well qualified for the tag “at a slight angle to the universe”.
To give you an idea of this guy’s talent and approach to music, here’s a collection of tracks from his first five albums.
We start with two versions of a tune called Sophia’s Dream. The first one is from the debut album, and it’s very much in the vein of Frank Zappa; the next is from the Klavierstücke album of solo piano pieces. Together, these two tracks show both the source of inspiration for the composer and the technical skill of the pianist.
The third track in the playlist is a wonderfully lyrical acoustic guitar and piano piece, named after the prog rock guitarist and composer, Mike Keneally. And track 4 is another acoustic guitar and piano offering, this time with a distinct avant-garde flavour. These two are from the Concepts of Non-linear Time album.
After that, we have three tracks from Beyond the Foggy Highway: Beware of the Random Factor evokes the jazz leanings of Keith Tippett; Taro Lucius features a classically moody cello; and Someone to Watch Over Me/To Return To You is a song from the musicals given a Middle Eastern accompaniment that leads into an original composition by the singer.
The last tune in the playlist takes us into movie soundtrack territory. We may be Miles Behind, but we are completely at peace here.
Chris Opperman’s latest album is Chamber Music From Hell. I confess, I haven’t been able to get into this collection of modern classical works, but that is almost certainly my problem, not his. Next time I feel like a challenge, I’ll be going back to CMFH in the hope of understanding what I’ve been missing, at least a little bit.
For more information about the man and his music, see his website. There’s also an interview with Chris Opperman on YouTube, which was featured on the Cirdecsongs blog a few days ago. It was that post that introduced me to the man who, more than any other I know, carries the mantle of Zappa forward. Thanks, Ced, your taste is impeccable.