Texas Tech University

Peter Fischer

Associate Professor
School of Music
J.T. & Margaret Talkington College of Visual & Performing Arts

What are your research objectives and interests?

My research objectives and interests are evolving and intertwined. I enter the world of research through the creative composition of original works of music. To this end my objectives are well on the way to, though also far from any ultimate goal. I have completed significant works for wind ensemble, choral, vocal, piano solo and orchestra genres. I have composed major chamber works, including a Sonata for Contrabass and Piano that was awarded the prestigious first prize by the International Bassist Association. My 30-minute Piano Quartet was commissioned and premiered by the world-renowned Amara Quartet in 2016. Two significant concertos are complete and have received performances—the Violin Concerto and the Trumpet Concerto.

Since my interests run the gamut of musical creativity, my ongoing objectives are to find the time and make sure I actually finish as many of the planned projects as possible. Therefore, I have one-year, five-year and 10-plus-year plans and goals. I am interested in all genres of music and a partial list of planned objectives includes a first symphony (and also a second, third, and fourth), a full two-hour opera, a Broadway musical, numerous chamber works, more choral works, vocal works and additional concerti for solo instrument and orchestra. Electronic music plays a smaller, but still significant role, in my creative interests. Of course my overall objective is to see each one finished, performed and circulated to a wider national and international audience of performers, listeners, composers and academics. It is a lifelong endeavor filled with joy and love.

fischer at keyboard with music behind himHow do you feel your research impacts the globe?

One of the most rewarding parts of what I do is that performances of my music can and do reach so very many people—not just academia, but audiences of non-musicians and musicians alike. Music distribution over the internet can reach audiences that go beyond any conception of the original intended audience. My music is listened to in dozens of countries around the globe through both my website and through the SoundCloud app (and soon others as well). Because I am reaching out to people in a non-verbal way, I am intensely aware of how emotional reactions play in the reception of my art. My style is somewhat unique in the musical language I employ and the lyrical handling of melodic materials. I include personally developed musical complexities in each work I create, though almost always people will inquire and research that aspect only once they become interested because of the aural experience.

I am always trying to elicit feelings in ever evolving complex ways. I want people to walk away feeling something that allows them a fresh perspective on a personal level, and to see those emotions as part of the world landscape in which we live. I am very aware that my music is designed to be presented to audiences, both live and through recorded media; and I am acutely aware that I want the audience to be enthralled—to walk away with a nascent appreciation of the power and potential of my contribution to contemporary music. Whenever I am in residence and also through my available program notes I discuss aspects of my musical language—a further dissemination to the public at large.

Recent international performances include works in Toronto (opera premiere), Brazil (wind ensemble), Iceland (chamber ensemble work) and the triennial International Saxophone Congress in Ljubljana, Slovenia (chamber work). I have also had numerous performances at national and regional conferences that included an international presence of composers and performers.

Music is my chosen art form and my belief is that art absolutely makes for a more resplendent world.

What types of service projects have you been involved with?

Apart from many of the normal service activities—committee work and other smaller commitments of time through the area, college and university, the major service area is a new music festival. Upon beginning my appointment I immediately began exploring the possibility of re-establishing a festival that was a tradition at TTU for some 30 years, but had dissolved in the 1990's. The renewal began in March 2005 and has seen 11 festivals. I became the founder, coordinator and director of the Mary Jeanne van Appledorn Festival of New Music, named after TTU's famous and longstanding composition faculty member. Composers in residence for three of the festivals included the internationally famous Chen Yi, Stephen Paulus and Evan Chambers. Festivals often feature our major ensembles (orchestra, choir, wind ensemble), as well as important chamber concerts with School of Music students and faculty. The year 2011 saw the wonderful collaboration between School of Music areas, including numerous faculty and students in the presentation of Stravinsky's Les Noces. The work was a complex organizational feat with choir, percussion and four grand pianos. Because of the work's complexity and the staging forces, the work is rarely done, even in larger big-city venues—we brought it to TTU. The festival events have become a staple of the music year in West Texas, bringing new music and powerful contemporary standards to the music stage, all with the help and support of the wonderful faculty, students, and administration in the School of Music and CVPA.

What are you currently working on?

I am working on several significant works in terms of scope, complexity and duration. A piano concerto in the 35-minute range for piano solo and full orchestra is scheduled for completion this year (2017). The piano concerto is the culmination of seven years of work—design, sketches, development and computer entry. Admittedly, the work was interrupted numerous times to complete works that have now had their premieres, a circumstance not at all unusual in the world of creative composition. I hope to complete a 25-minute cello concerto with orchestra in 2018 along with an electronic viola concerto. The viola concerto is vastly different and involves original sound design that I developed using a synthesis process known as frequency modulation (FM synthesis). The overall project has a unique collaborative plan—the idea is to have the soloist on-stage with an electric viola, performing through a rock-environment sound system with the synthesized music I designed playing in the background. I am arranging for a film to be made and screened during the performance, and for there to be a full complement of ballet dancers on stage. The choreography will encircle and synchronize with the live viola performer. The sheer scope of this endeavor has me very excited for the near future.

I am always working on future projects of varying scopes as well—this includes a libretto I am writing for a full two-hour opera. New chamber works, including a violin sonata and a piano trio, and several new choral works are all planned for the next two years.

fischer with student looking at sheet music

Where do you find your inspiration?

Inspiration is inherently a complex question, acknowledging the spirit of creativity, the soul of the composer and a human artistic fire that is often unquenchable. I think that like any creative field of inquiry, the artist, whether broadly defined as visual, dance, theater or music, is almost always immersed in an ongoing process of experiential stimuli that constantly and consciously affects the perpetual creative development. In other words, music composition truly is a lifelong learning process. We attend concerts, we listen, we attend conferences, we study scores and there are new works constantly added to YouTube and other media sites. I also think that there is a special inspiration in the teaching of composition. The things I stress in lessons remind me to not forget that there are simple techniques for creating and developing sections of new works—one does not always have to try for the most complex or wait for just the right moment of inspiration; sometimes we must craft the music using experience and the learned knowledge of how to develop ideas from even the simplest of sketches. From the plethora of accessible score and audio information come subtle influences—the inspiration. We take our own style and gently add a new musical flavor, or we take a new inspiration and forge into the wilderness and create something completely different. Or anything in-between! I am set in many ways with a stylistic language which underlies my musical works, but many new experiences can and do add to my next creation. Apart from that, I think I am also driven to try to achieve works that measure up, even if only in my own mind, to certain historical tour-de-force works I admire and honor.

What advice do you have for new faculty members about balancing the components of Integrated Scholarship—teaching, research, and service—in their careers?

The balance is seldom an allocated distribution by any planned percentage of time. There are often parts of the year when research and service must take a subsidiary role to prepping and grading and helping students, as is perfectly appropriate. The research is found in the times that can be afforded—I live by the adage adopted from several other disciplines—compose wherever you can, compose whenever you can, compose for as long as you can. Amazingly, the research falls in place and things get finished. I would also recommend making some of the service into something beyond committees. Find a way to truly integrate the parts of your teaching and research into the service—through hosting conferences, workshops, bringing in guest scholars (for me guest composers). I developed a single yearly concert of new music into the Festival of New Music, with invited guests, seminars, performers and multiple concerts of great variety and appeal. I make sure that students are involved in all aspects whenever possible. These activities will be so much more fulfilling if at the core of your service is the love and involvement you have for your chosen field. Finally, make sure that apart from this integration, that you step outside and live; that you go to events that are always happening at a university of this size and scope; that you find joy and celebration in your friends and family and colleagues.

More about Peter Fischer

Peter Fischer is associate professor of music at Texas Tech University where he teaches composition and theory. His works have been performed nationally and internationally. He was named the grand prize winner of the 2008 International Society of Bassists for his Sonata for Contrabass and Piano. Significant chamber works in the last 10 years include the Sonata for Flute and Piano, the Sonata for Clarinet and Piano, Cobalt Blue for Saxophone and Piano and the Reykjavik Quintet for String Quartet and Viola Solo. New works for large ensemble include: "Primordial," for orchestra, and works for wind ensemble: "The Ballet of Magical Beings," a suite of five dances, "The Ygdrassil Prelude," "Aspens in Autumn," "Firedance," and a Trumpet Concerto. Virtuosic piano works include Notturno I: "Rings of Crystalline Sky," Notturno II, and Notturno III. Recent choral works include: "Twilight," "Echo," "Leave it Better," "O Magnum Mysterium" and "I Would Live In Your Love." A chamber opera based on Gesualdo,"O D'Amarti O Morire" premiered in Toronto in 2008. Two large vocal works also add to their respective repertoire lists—the song cycle "Barcarole" for mezzo-soprano and Piano on a poem by Neruda, and the dramatic "Pele Hawaii" for soprano, clarinet and two pianos. In 2014, he completed work on a violin concerto, the choral work, "Shine," the trumpet concerto, and a string quartet. The violin concerto was premiered in March 2014 by the TTU Symphonic Orchestra under the direction of David Becker with John Gilbert as soloist. The TTU Symphonic Wind Ensemble under the direction of Sarah McKoin premiered the trumpet concerto in November 2014. The piano quartet in three movements was completed in 2015 and premiered in February 2016 by the world-renowned Amara Piano Quartet. Works in the coming two years include a viola concerto for electric viola and electronics (2017-18), a piano concerto (2017), a violin sonata, and a cello concerto (2018). Prior to TTU, Dr. Fischer was associate professor at Adams State University where he taught for eight years. Dr. Fischer studied composition with Dinos Constantinides, Peter Hesterman, Mark Lee, Paul Haydn and Jan Bach. He studied electronic and computer music with Stephen David Beck. He studied piano with Cynthia Geyer, Mark Lee and George Sanders. He completed a DMA in music composition at Louisiana State University and holds degrees in music and English literature from Illinois Benedictine College, and a master's degree in music composition from Eastern Illinois University.