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A Musical Life: Chris Opperman

Nicole Cohen
Chris Opperman

Chris Opperman is a New Jersey-based musician and composer. 

He is a graduate of the Berklee College of Music in Boston and teaches at both the Mason Gross School of the Arts and Montclair State University in Montclair, New Jersey. He has appeared on Grammy-nominated recordings by Steve Vai and has also worked extensively with multi-instrumentalist Mike Keneally. Opperman’s latest album is Chamber Music From Hell, described as “a contemporary classical concept album about a posthuman civilization and the music that follows.”

“The great Milton Babbitt once said, ‘When I write music, I write the music I would most like to hear that has not already been written.’ As a composer, I see myself in the tradition of experimental American maverick composers like Charles Ives, Harry Partch, Frank Zappa and Carla Bley: They each developed their own syntax to create works of great imagination and combined sounds and genres in their own unique styles; that is the example I have always followed in my own music.

“I have always been a studious and voracious listener and lover of all types of music and have spent a lot of time deconstructing the music I listen to. As a result, I think the coexistence of so-called classical/popular genres in my own music comes fairly naturally. It’s just the way I hear things.

“One thing I am constantly striving for as a composer and musician is incremental progress. I always try to push the limits of my music through being a deeper and more emotive performer, increasing my technical acumen and ambition in my through-composed works through rigorous study and trying to come up with different musical questions and answers to accompany them.

It’s exactly as much fun as it sounds!”

Jedd Beaudoin is host/producer of the nationally syndicated program Strange Currency. He has also served as an arts reporter, a producer of A Musical Life and a founding member of the KMUW Movie Club. As a music journalist, his work has appeared in Pop Matters, Vox, No Depression and Keyboard Magazine.