Piet Swerts featured guest at recital


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Music as a universal language is largely successful in breaking down physical borders, as will be the case for Piet Swerts.

The composer, conductor, and pianist triple-threat from Belgium is, despite any anxiety he may hold, ready to come to America (Iowa and Connecticut, in particular) to find out just what is buzzing in the nation’s musical landscape.

Swerts will introduce himself and his works to a fresh set of faces in a guest recital at 7:30 p.m. today, at UCC Recital Hall. Admission is free.

Growing up, Swerts firmly decided on a musical path at an early age. He initially discovered this passion at age 10, and by 14, told his father that his life’s work would be devoted to music. Never did another career cross his mind.

“I have only ever been busy with music,” Swerts said. “For me it feels like a very natural story. I never thought of anything else — it just kind of happened.”

Much of Swerts’ musical influence comes from composers among the likes of Johann Sebastian Bach, Ludwig van Beethoven, and Witold Lutoslawski. Over time, though Bach has had a direct influence on much of his work, Swerts said Lutoslawski’s influence was the most profound.

“He was a very conscious composer, always thinking of technique,” Swerts said. “In time, however, influence becomes less and less when you discover your own language — which is always an issue when you compose.”

The catalogue of compositions Swerts has written throughout his career is incredibly extensive, and expresses great variety. From piano, to orchestral, stage, concert band, chamber, choral, vocal arrangements among others, there are few musical arenas that Swerts has not used to put his skill to the test.

As a pianist, Swerts primarily enjoys the composition of a piano piece. Yet, ironically, it is a piano piece that can provide the greatest musical challenge.

“Because everything which has been written is of such high quality, it is hard to find one’s own voice through it all,” Swerts said.

For Swerts, balance remains the key to a successful merger of composing, performing, and teaching. As a professor of composition, he finds it often difficult to be committed to such a time-consuming lifestyle. Though this “impossible combination” pays the bills, Swerts said if he could, he would prefer to spend most of his time writing music.

Time is essential to completing a new composition. Once Swerts has had months, or even over a year to think over what he plans to do, sitting down to bring it into a sheet music reality comes as second nature.

“I think it’s very natural for me,” Swerts said. “But if some particular part doesn’t work, I just start again the next day. My musical problems are usually solved if I wait.”

Ultimately, Swerts hopes to gain a good amount of musical and educational experience from his time in Iowa. The prospects of performing with American musicians whom he has never met, and becoming acquainted with the music education system, prove to be intensely thrilling for Swerts.

“My major concern is to perform in the best way I can,” Swerts said. “I am the most connected to this music, and I’m just very happy that I have this opportunity to present it and get in contact with the American music world.”

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