Santa Cruz Good Times

Friday
Oct 24th
Text size
  • Increase font size
  • Default font size
  • Decrease font size

Finding Nirvana

music_featurepauldooleyComposer Paul Dooley finds inspiration in film, math and grunge rock

When he was only 12, Paul Dooley felt transformed after watching Shine, an Australian film starring Oscar winner Geoffrey Rush, who plays a gifted but mentally mad pianist. Once the credits rolled, Dooley took to the piano, but instead of losing his mind, he found musical enlightenment by combining his two loves: classical music and raw, Seattle grunge sound.

“I taught myself how to play music by playing pieces by other people, and then changing them to make them my own—I improvised a lot,” recalls the 27-year-old composer and percussionist. He remembers his early piano days being jam-packed with countless renditions of Nirvana’s 1991 release Nevermind, particularly the song “Come As You Are.”

Dooley’s appreciation of both the classical and alternative rock genres sparked an unwavering interest in composition.

Dooley accredits Beethoven as both “the next best thing after Nirvana,” and his formal introduction to classical music. “I fell in love with Symphony No. 3,” he says. Dooley also values contemporary composer John Adams’ influence on his career. “Before [Adams], I didn’t really know composing as a living was possible.”

Currently working toward a doctorate at the University of Michigan, with two bachelor’s degrees—one in music composition, the other in mathematics—from the University of Southern California under his belt, Dooley is finally “composing as a living,” too. And his educational background is helping him do it. “Higher mathematics is exercising a creative logic, which relates directly to composition and using logic,” he says. “In doing a mathematic proof, you have to decide where to start and then how to be creative and elegant. Composing is the same way—it leads to something meaningful and climactic.”

Today, the Santa Rosa-bred musician imparts that knowledge in Ann Arbor, where he teaches electronic music at the University of Michigan, in addition to giving private music theory, composition and orchestration lessons to residents of Washtenaw County.

Dooley describes the role of a composer as “amazing, but daunting.” He elaborates by adding, “the orchestra is one of the greatest palettes of an artist because there are so many different sound worlds you can create … you get so ambitious in trying out different things.” These ambitions can lead to nerves, but Dooley embraces them. “If a composer doesn’t get nervous, they have a problem—or they’re lying,” he says.

Dooley will attempt to channel those nerves into a moving performance at this year’s Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music, where he will join two other young composers—29-year-old Wang Lu and 22-year-old Chris Rogerson—for the “In the Works” concert on Wednesday, August 3.

While Dooley is a yearly attendee of the festival—present at each one in the last decade—this is the first time he will showcase his own material. He admits that his piece is influenced by “the energy and excitement” of dance (his mother’s favorite pastime, which he claims he’s no good at), and Alarm Will Sound—the 20-member band from New York that he hasn’t stopped listening to since last summer—whose “technical and virtuosic” elements, he admires.

Unlike most modern day music, Dooley’s highly complex (and anticipated) orchestral piece contains no lyrics, and is solely driven by layered instrumentation. But he poses one question to the listener: “Does text supersede the music?”

After a moment of silence, Dooley takes a stab at his own question: “I’m not so sure about that,” he says, as if looking inward to his 12-year-old self for some semblance of an answer. “People thought the symphony was dead, but then Beethoven came along.”


Paul Dooley’s work will debut at 5:15 p.m. Wednesday, August 3, at Santa Cruz Civic Auditorium, 307 Church St., Santa Cruz. No Cover. Call 426-6966.

Comments (0)Add Comment

Write comment
smaller | bigger

busy
 

Share this on your social networks

Bookmark and Share

Share this

Bookmark and Share

 

Santa Cruz Restaurant Week

A huge part of Santa Cruz Restaurant Week has always been about offering a great dining experience for an affordable price. For some locals, the $25 flat-rate cost has provided the opportunity (or the excuse!) to try new spots, and indulge in Santa Cruz fine dining in a way they might have thought too pricey before.

 

Scorpio Sun, New Moon Eclipse, Mercury Direct

The Sun enters Scorpio’s mysteries Thursday under a new moon and partial solar eclipse (something essential has come to an end, its purpose completed). In Scorpio we harbor secrets, are devoted to something deep, dark and hidden. Sometimes it’s ourselves. We can bring great suspect to our assessment of others. Scorpio is the scorpion, the serpent and the eagle—three levels of development. As the serpent we take shelter in our beliefs. Sometimes we bite (or sting). The eagle vanquishes old beliefs through its sharp intellect, soaring high in the air, seeking to understand through perspective. Understanding releases us from the bondage of fear. The eagle is like the mother soothing feelings of mistrust, offering protection. Knowledge does this, too.

 

The New Tech Nexus

Community leaders in science and technology unite to form web-based networking program

 

Light Humor

College comedy questions a post-racial America in ‘Dear White People’
Sign up for Good Times weekly newsletter
Get the latest news, events

RSS Feed Burner

 Subscribe in a reader

Latest Comments

 

Back Porch

Austin Kaye on backyard dinners and why it’s his favorite time of year to be a chef

 

What’s the most outrageous situation you ever saw at a restaurant?

Damani Thomas, Santa Cruz, Chef/Owner

 

Wine Lust

The Spanish Godello grape, plus arancinis, tender butter lettuce and pork schnitzel at Soif

 

What artist or artists participating in the encore weekend of Open Studios should not be missed?

Santa Cruz | Teacher