By Aram Arkun
NEW YORK — Eve Beglarian is a prolific composer and performer of music, active since the 1980s and well known for her innovative, experimental style of work. Beglarian plays piano, keyboard and the cello, and sings and speaks in her works, which combine electronics with traditional types of music and spoken word.
Over the years, Beglarian’s approach has evolved. She studied composing at Princeton University as an undergraduate, and went on to obtain her master’s degree at Columbia. She began to move away from the more formal “uptown” approach of these schools, which were often guided by mathematical formulas, and attempted to make it more accessible and organic. Beglarian explained on her website how she created her first major electronic piece, The Garden of Cyrus, after finishing school: “My goal was to wrestle the crunchy techniques of old-school modernism into something I could use, something I could love.” Many people now consider Beglarian a “downtown” or post-minimalist composer — and she does also live in downtown New York City.
She has often worked in collaboration with others and even in her own compositions, she has been very eclectic in her sources. She explained what motivates her when beginning a new project: “I feel like my job is to find things that are underrealized, not fully realized, for whatever reason, because they are in a corner somewhere and have been overlooked.” What Beglarian does is “to somehow make them available, to put them in a context in which they will be more available….I see something that is really beautiful, cool and amazing, and I want to make that available to you. That is where the urge comes from.” Naturally, she must be attracted to the music or text: “The first thing is for me to fall in love and the second thing is for me to find a way to have that connection, to bring that into focus by making something with it, that I can then give to you or whomever.” As a part of this process, she transforms the original music or set of sounds, and adds something to it of herself.
In addition to composing, Beglarian for some 15 years produced audio books for authors like Stephen King and Anne Rice, directing the actors that would do the readings and editing the result. If the budget was large enough, she would also compose music to add to the mix. However, she decided to retire from this field in order to devote herself completely to the composition of music: “I thought that something rich would happen if I were to give myself over to doing music fulltime. I think that is true to a certain degree. I can focus uninterruptedly on the things that are absorbing for me.”
Part of Beglarian’s oeuvre includes music for theater, such as for Mabou Mines’ Obie-winning “Dollhouse,” “Animal Magnetism,” “Ecco Porco” and “Choephorai,” all directed by Lee Breuer; “Forgiveness,” a collaboration with Chen Shi-Zheng and Noh master Akira Matsui; and the China National Beijing Opera Theater’s production of “The Bacchae.” She has collaborated with choreographers such as Ann Carlson, Robert LaFosse, Victoria Marks, Susan Marshall and David Neumann, and with the visual and video artists Cory Arcangel, Anne Bray, Vittoria Chierici, Barbara Hammer, Kevork Mourad, Shirin Neshat and Judson Wright. Beglarian exclaimed: “I love working in theater; I love collaborating. I’d be happy to work in film. I enjoy the give and take. It is a question of a balance. If I do too much work where I’m responding to what somebody else’s obsessions are, then I get tired and cranky — but most of the time I welcome entering somebody else’s obsessions.”