MACOMB, Ill. — Western Illinois University music composition professor James Romig, a 2019 finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in music, recently released a compact disc of a newly-composed original work performed by electric guitarist Mike Scheidt.
Scheidt is the founder and leader of the doom metal band YOB, which for more than two decades has received critical and audience acclaim, including Rolling Stone’s No. 1 Best Metal Album of 2014.
“The Complexity of Distance,” a 58-minute single-movement composition, was released in late June on New World Records. Scheidt, who became friends with Romig in 2015, commissioned the piece that is scored specifically for electric guitar with extreme distortion and amplification.
The liner notes of the CD indicate that the title, chosen in December 2019, refers to the “shifting temporal distances created by the work’s background rhythmic structure, and also references the challenges of collaboration between the Illinois-based composer and Oregon-based performer.” The notes go on to mention that once the pandemic began, “the title took on additional meaning as distance became a way of life for all of us.”
In late 2020, Romig delivered the musical score to Scheidt, who spent most of 2021 learning and rehearsing the music before making the recording with producer Billy Barnett at Gung Ho Studio in Eugene, Ore.
“I’ve been a fan of Mike’s work for a long time, so it was a thrill to work with him on this unusual project,” Romig said in a press release. “I imagine that some listeners might initially be intrigued, or even puzzled, by the idea of a university music professor collaborating with a touring heavy metal musician, but it turns out that the genres of contemporary concert music and doom metal have a lot in common: both celebrate experimental approaches to composition in terms of both content and form. Further, audiences for both types of music are eager and willing to devote time and energy into understanding and appreciating art that is new, unusual, and challenging.
“Our goal was to create something that would be recognizable to fans of Mike’s guitar playing, while also being recognizable to those who are familiar with my compositional style. What came out in the end, though, seems to have some unanticipated magic to it. For me, the recording possesses a mysterious blend of carefully calculated musical form and serendipitous emotional resonance. Mike’s performance is as visceral as it is precise, and he has managed to capture my musical intentions and bring them to life in a beautiful way.”
Romig has taught at WIU since 2002 and heads the School of Music’s composition program. His works have been performed in 49 states and 35 countries. his discography includes 10 published compact discs. He has served as a guest composer at many universities and has received numerous accolades, including residencies at national parks across the United States and two Copland House awards.
“The Complexity of Distance” can be purchased as a CD or digital download from New World Records, Bandcamp, Amazon and other retailers and streaming platforms.
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