Michael Sheppard: Mad World Fantasy

It's safe to say that I've been a quiet fan of Tears for Fears my whole life. More recently however I've been enjoying the way that artists are re-contextualizing their music and taking the originals to strange and beautiful new places. With melody at the forefront of stoic and warm harmonies, the music of Tears For Fears is ripe for exploration in other genres. A few months back I posted a video performance of the incomparable jazz trio The Bad Plus performing TFF's classic Everybody Wants To Rule The World. Check out that article and video here. Today I am happy to share another dip into the canon of TFF by the massively talented and imaginative pianist and composer Michael Sheppard with his new work entitled Mad World Fantasy.

The work premiered In Baltimore this week as part of Lunar Ensemble's performance at An Die Musik. In their own words:

The Lunar Ensemble aims to promote fresh new contemporary music composed by Peabody students and alumni, and other talented composers from across America. Formed in 2009, this chamber ensemble features fine instrumentalists and singers affiliated with the prestigious Peabody Institute of the John Hopkins University. The ensemble has performed in various venues, including the An Die Musik Hall of Baltimore, MD and the new Steinman Hall for the LAUNCH Music Festival in Lancaster, PA. While last season showcased world premieres alongside canonical giants of 21st Century music, Schoenberg’s Pierrot Lunaire and Stravinsky’s L’Histoire du Soldat, this season we want to focus more on music that is exciting, new and hot off the press.

I am sorry to say that I was unable to attend this concert but I am thankful to Michael Sheppard for sharing this video of his premier. His command performance captures both the private raw emotion of the original work, as well as the burbling intensity of its quiet anger just beneath the surface. In classical music, a fantasy is a composition with open structure that would have been derived from improvisation. This compositional form allows room for both the composer and performer to freely stretch out their musical ideas. It's a perfect fit for this beautiful adaptation of an iconic song. Enjoy.