He’s got the beat

Chad Twedt

Chad Twedt composes ostinatos, pieces of classical music based around a repeated note or beat—kind of like pop music.

Chad Twedt composes ostinatos, pieces of classical music based around a repeated note or beat—kind of like pop music.

Photo By David Robert

Chad Twedt will perform a concert withUniversity of Nevada, Reno professor Dr. James Winn, at 3 p.m., Oct 16 atNightingale Concert Hall at UNR.

Forget about that boring symphonic stuff in the elevator that brings to mind Viennese aristocrats bowing on the ballroom floor. Chad Twedt’s piano compositions aren’t your grandma’s classical music.

In his new CD, Ostinato, his hands run up and down the keyboard, sometimes speeding up to a sprint, then slowing suspensefully. The piano booms and whispers. There’s an occasional new-age twinkle or bleepy electronica-type beat.

“I really like Michael Jackson’s older stuff,” the 29-year-old composer says. “And I’ve listened to a lot of techno.” (Electronica was prominent on the Web page he used to maintain, Chad’s Top 40, which is still referred to online as a quality cross-genre collection.)

Twedt writes and plays ostinatos, compositions based around repeated series of notes or beats.

“Technically, I believe the ostinato is why popular music is popular, because all popular music has a drum beat, and that is an ostinato,” he explains. “That’s why you can grab onto it, why somebody can just immediately like a piece of popular music the first time they hear it.

“I had a friend in high school who was a die-hard death-metal fan, and I said he’d like classical music if he just listened to the right kind,” Twedt says. “I told him if he gave me a blank tape, I’d make him a tape of all the best classical music I had in my collection. I put stuff [on the tape] like Rachmaninoff’s Suite No. 2 for Two Pianos and Tchaikovsky and really heavy, exciting stuff that frankly I think is almost impossible to dislike.” The friend was easily convinced. He asked for more, and Twedt ended up making him seven tapes.

“People are not exposed to the right kind of classical music,” Twedt laments, “and it takes a lifetime before they finally are open enough or they have the time to go to a concert and go, ‘wait a minute, it’s not just background music from those commercials.'” He wishes school music programs would introduce students to the “big, heavy, loud, fast stuff” that he’s confident they’d relate to better than Bach.

Twedt started playing at age 6. He liked playing Scott Joplin rags with his father. He composed his first piece of music at about 10, to fulfill an assignment.

He didn’t want to do it. It seemed too personal. But A Minuet in F was good enough to get him accused of plagiarism (disturbing to the young composer, but now he considers the charge a compliment), and he’s played it in recent years in concert as an encore.

It took Twedt several more years to fully grasp that composing isn’t a skill that comes naturally to most musicians.

“I’d never realized it was any gift until peers of mine, when I was going for my master’s degree, in my advanced music theory class … were all telling me I should try to compose, and I saw how much they were struggling with the same assignment.” In his last semester of grad school at the University of Nevada, Reno, he decided to pursue composing professionally.

He’s preparing for a concert at Nightingale Hall featuring some of his own compositions and piano duets with UNR music professor Dr. James Winn. The pair doesn’t play Queen or Nirvana, but when Twedt plays from Ostinato, you probably won’t feel like you’re in an elevator.