When Ohio Wesleyan University faculty member Jennifer Jolley was asked to compose music that imagined the Brahms’s B Major Trio being heard “Through the Looking Glass,” her musings turned meow-ful.
“All I could hear were cats,” recalls Jolley, assistant professor of music, inspiring her to write “The Lives and Opinions of Literary Cats.”
Jolley says she was inspired by a time in history when Johannes Brahms signed his musical works as “Johannes Kreisler,” a fictitious composer from E.T.A. Hoffman’s novel “The Life and Opinions of the Tomcat Murr.” In the book, a printer’s error mixes Tomcat Murr’s autobiography with a book about composer Johannes Kreisler, leaving the reader to tease out who is the cat and who is the composer.
“And if one cat isn’t enough,” Jolley says, “at the beginning of ‘Through the Looking-Glass,’ Alice is playing with her kittens Snowdrop and Kitty. … This ultimately begs the question: Is this cat music or composer music? Is Johannes Brahms now Johannes Kreisler, or even Tomcat Murr, Snowdrop, or Kitty?”
For her feline fancies, Jolley recently was named a winner of the International Alliance for Women in Music’s 2017 Annual Concert Competition. Nine winning compositions were selected from 60 entries from composers representing the United States, Canada, and South Korea.
The winning pieces will be performed live Oct. 28 at the University of Kansas School of Music and will feature the Kansas Virtuosi chamber music ensemble.
Jolley’s piece made its official debut earlier this year with the San Francisco-based Left Coast Chamber Ensemble, which commissioned the purr-fect piece as part of its mission to “forge connections through stirring presentations of chamber music across the Bay Area.”
Jolley, who joined the Ohio Wesleyan faculty in 2012, earned her Doctor of Musical Arts at the University of Cincinnati’s College-Conservatory of Music. She teaches music composition, theory, orchestration, and electronic music.
Hear “The Lives and Opinions of Literary Cats” and learn more about Jolley at www.jenniferjolley.com. Learn more about Ohio Wesleyan’s Department of Music at www.owu.edu/music.