Eric Rich may be best known for his outdoor performances at the Downtown Farmers Market, but for this local musician, the pianobike-guy persona was just the beginning. These days, he composes and performs his own contemporary classical music with the 22-person Eric Rich Ensemble, a continually growing group of musicians who play everything from stand-up bass to French horn to electric guitar.
A self-taught pianist, Rich started his musical career in the punk scene in high school, but he found his true inspiration a few years ago, when a friend introduced him to experimental artists such as Steve Reich and Godspeed You! Black Emperor. This minimalist music caught his fancy because “the structure is so dynamic; you really have to listen to it to understand,” Rich says. “And I like the complexity and longevity of it. It’s a process—it’s not just a little piece of emotion, [instead], it really builds.”
He became interested in piano by chance, when the keyboardist in his band was out of town and he ended up recording a track. With limited instrumental experience—he was a vocalist in the band at the time—Rich realized he had both the talent and the desire to explore this new musical realm.
Even now, with a group of loyal musicians and several compositions under his belt, Rich explains that his method of writing music is based on feeling. “I still don’t know much about music theory,” he says. “My writing is becoming more technical, but it is still based upon intuitive, not analytical, writing.”
While he has performed on piano with his ensemble in the past, Rich is focusing this time around on the challenge of composing. His newest works involve several new instruments that he has never composed for, including the harp and wind instruments. Rich emphasizes the importance of his musicians in creating each piece; for him, “the relationship between composer and performer is bridged, [and] the writing process is very much mutual. They challenge me, and I challenge them.” And despite how far he’s come on his own, Rich humbly attributes much of his success to his musicians, from whom he’s learned so much.
The members of the ensemble are all volunteers, and he’s lucky to work with them, he says: “I’m so fortunate to have people who are interested in doing this with me, because it helps me see my vision through.”
ERIC RICH ENSEMBLE
441 W. 300 South
Wednesday, Dec. 14
Free, $5-$10 suggested donation