Saturday, May 25, 2019


Chris Opperman and Kurt Morgan started a Kickstarter campaign for a new release.

Here's a message from Chris Opperman :

Hi, everybody! First and foremost, I want to say thank you again to everyone who has pledged so far. $6,000! That's amazing! I'm really looking forward to writing the prize pieces.

Quick bit of housekeeping: according to Kickstarter, there's over a hundred people following this project who haven't pledged yet. I just want you to know that I'm happy to answer any questions that you have, especially if that will help you pledge to our project. (I'm also happy to answer any questions our current pledgers have!).

My friend Jedd was kind enough to do an interview with me for this project, which I am happy to present to you!

Jedd Beaudoin hosts the nationally-syndicated music radio program, Strange Currency, from NPR affiliate KMUW in Wichita, KS. He teaches in The School of Art, Design and Creative Industries at Wichita State University and holds an MFA in Creative Writing from that institution. He is a regular contributor to the cultural website PopMatters as well as KEYBOARD Magazine and recognizes Chris Opperman’s genius as a parent and composer. Additionally, he worships Kurt Morgan’s ability to wear a necktie and produce a record like a mofo.

Jedd: Your compositional focus has shifted in recent years and yet there’s not much in the way of recorded evidence. This record seeks to correct that.

Chris:Yes, the primary goal of the album is to make commercially available some of the serious classical music I’ve written in the last decade since The Lionheart. One of the fun aspects of the project, though, is that it feels like we’re making a debut album, even though it’s my sixth. I feel like all of my albums have been very different from one another. Chamber Music from Hell will not be an exception to that.

Jedd: This is a collaboration between you and Kurt Morgan. Had the two of you wanted to work together for a long time? What’s it been like working together?

Chris: Well, Kurt and I have gotten to be friends over the years (it’s too bad I never knew him when I lived in Los Angeles). I’ve always really enjoyed his playing in Dweezil’s band and the musical thoughts that he has, so I used to daydream about playing with him and drummer Ryan Brown. Honestly, Dweezil’s current band is the best band I’ve ever heard in my life.

One day, Kurt and I were chatting and messing about on-line and Kurt made a demo of the first “Shades of Beige” movement from Composition V to show me his samples. Literally just for fun. I thought it sounded great on its own but when I compared it to the Meraki Chamber Players’s actual performance of the same piece I couldn’t believe how close it was sonically! It was just a “little demo” but Kurt really put a lot of thought and care into it and it showed. I’m an exceptionally lucky composer to have him in my corner.

One of the things I like about working with Kurt as a producer is that one of the first things he did after agreeing to do the project was to start pushing the boundaries of what the project could be. It was really inspirational, and the album will be much less predictable for it. Also, he seems to have just instinctually completely understood a lot of the themes and concepts behind many of the pieces and the result is going to be a concept album that’s a cohesive whole of all that.

Jedd: At the core of this is a shared love of Frank Zappa’s music and appreciation of his aesthetic. [Can you talk a little bit about that?]

Chris: Well, without Zappa, you don’t get either of us and we know it. I don’t want to speak for Kurt, but to me it’s a humbling thing (and not in the way that politicians and award-winners constantly misuse that word). The influence that Zappa and his music has had on my life is so profound that the trumpet lesson that I had in 1993 where I saw the Zappa’s Universe poster on the wall and heard his music for the first time is probably the second most important event in my life, second only to my actual birth. That isn’t rhetoric. That’s how powerful Zappa’s music is.

Jedd: At some point you decided to launch a Kickstarter campaign. There are many artists who revel in this kind of fundraising, others who are less enthusiastic. It seems that the two of you decided to embrace it.

Chris: We’re really having fun with it. Our friends, families, colleagues, and fans have been genuinely enthusiastic about the project and that makes us feel really good and encouraged. We’ve gotten a lot of positive feedback about the prizes (the $66 one is especially popular). We were also the featured music project on Kickstarter for a couple days and they gave us the “Project We Love” designation!

We also had a ton of fun making the video. We do have some truly hilarious NSFW outtakes of Kurt’s part of the video. I was personally really excited that [Zappa orchestrator] Ali Askin agreed to play the part of a painting of Arnold Schoenberg (by Dutch painter Paul Berkholst) because I thought that would be bizarre and funny, which it was.

It’s tough to put yourself out there in a world where consumers assume that all recorded music is free. Especially since it’s quite obviously not free to create high-quality recordings, but I’m glad we decided to go for it.

Jedd: I wonder if a Kickstarter campaign is something that only hardcore fans engage with or if you find that people who may not have ever heard your music before trickle in, say, “This seems dope!” and plunk down their cash.

Chris: Kurt and I recognize probably 75% of the names on the backer list. We got a few comments from people who had no idea what the music was going to sound like, but the random pledgers mostly seem to just want the $66 musical nameplate, which is fine by me! I’m going to have fun writing those weird melodies.

Jedd: I’m looking forward to hearing the music, be it on CD, WAV or brain implant. It must be exciting for you as well to usher this stuff in the world in a listening format.

Chris: Brain implant! Hah! That totally fits in the themes of the album! I’m excited that people are going to be expecting this awesome whacky album called Chamber Music from Hell and then they’re going to get something that’s even better than that! Not to hype it too much!

Jedd: Last one: Did writing The Cribbage Variations actually make you a lover of the game and if one were to become the single largest donor to this project would you consider making a video in which you play the game with Scott Thunes?

Chris: LOL! While I think Scott would enjoy being paid to play a game of Cribbage with me on video, I don’t even know if he knows how to play. The Cribbage Variations came about because someone in the Zappa ’88 band was more interested in playing Cribbage with Keneally than they were about getting paid to write a piece for Scott. I guess this just continues the time theme with the music: Scott’s desired commission got fulfilled twenty-nine years later. I have to say I really had a good time playing Cribbage on my iPad for research. Not even research in scare quotes!

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