Composer Joey Crane talks to us about his bubbe’s blintzes, composing for hands and why he loves working at the Ale Jail in St. Paul.
You are a composer, with a PHD from the University of Minnesota in composition. What led you to that field?
I started playing guitar when I was ten and I was immediately more interested in coming up with my own songs instead of learning someone else’s. My high school in Kansas offered a music theory class and I started to create more technical compositions. I had planned to major in classical guitar, but then got more into the composition side towards the end of high school.
Where can we hear your compositions?
My website is a great place to listen to some of my work.
I also am involved with a collective in town called 113. We started as a student group at the University and just recently transitioned to a professional group. We’re sponsored by Springboard for the Arts.
Have you always lived in the Twin Cities?
I grew up in Kansas City, actually. I moved here to get my Ph.D. at the University of Minnesota and recently completed that course of study.
How would you describe your compositions?
Perhaps to be concise, I could say that I usually compose for instruments associated with classical music. Though, I find it sometimes limiting to have conversations about what my music sounds like. I don’t think it gets at the heart of the matter. Recently I’ve been interested in the visual aspect of performance. For example, I have a marimba piece that is almost completely silent, just touching on the bars and sliding; It’s choreography for the hands on the instrument and makes just the slightest sound.
You also work at the Wine Thief & Ale Jail, a beer and wine store in St. Paul. How did that happen?
I’ve liked beer for awhile. I grew up in a Jewish family where I could have wine when I liked the taste of it, even when I was a little underaged. My dad let me try beer once in awhile, but he would usually drink flavorless, macro-brews. Then I had a Boulevard Wheat and I realized beer could have flavor. When I turned 21, I started going through Beer Advocate’s listings and trying out different beers. Now, I’m a “professional” taster and purveyor for the Ale Jail.
As a beer “professional”, what’s your favorite Twin Cities’ beer?
That’s a hard one. Northgate’s Wall’s End brown ale is one of my favorites and I really like Schell’s Star of the North Berliner Weisse.
What’s your favorite Jewish holiday?
I like the spirit of Shabbat. What it means for me is spending time with friends and family and having meaningful conversations after a busy week. I like that kind of thing.
What’s your favorite Jewish food?
Blintzes. Specifically, my great-grandmother’s recipe. Her blintzes are the best. I’ve never had ones as good until I went to a music festival in Kiev and tried their blintzes. They were exactly the same.
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