Scoring History with Zachary Greer

Category: music 147

Composer Zachary Greer marks the 200th anniversary of New Brunswick’s last fatal duel with new album.

Matt Carter 

Zachary Greer composes music for film. Over the past few years he has emerged as one of the province’s most promising young artists in the field of cinematic scoring. But for his latest project, he had no official script to work from, no dialogue and most importantly, no visual guide outside his own imagination. Turning to New Brunswick’s own fascinating history for inspiration, Greer’s latest effort tells the story of New Brunswick’s last recorded fatal duel. 

On October 2, 1821, two New Brunswick lawyers met in a field to settle an argument, just outside Fredericton’s city limits. George Ludlow Wetmore, the man who issued the official challenge to George Frederick Street, lost his life that day. Street fled to Maine but eventually returned, was acquitted of all charges and resumed his law career. It is a fascinating story to say the least. 

“I find the characters of this story more fascinating than the duel itself,” said Greer. “There was obviously a lot more pressure on reputation during that time. Looking at it today, it’s easy to wonder why anyone would actually do something like this – challenge someone else to a duel – but there it is. A poor reputation could have ended a career or forced someone to leave the city altogether.”

The Duel interprets the characters, the act and the fallout of this event with compositions that speak to both the time period and enormous emotional weight both Wetmore and Street must have been dealing with in order to commit to such an act.

“The characters of these two men, the coming to terms with the challenge, plus the regret and the guilt, those are some of the main themes of the music itself,” said Greer. “And there aren’t any recorded documents that say whether or not Street carried any guilt for Wetmore’s death, but I’ve tried to work that into the narrative of the music. I just found that idea really interesting when looking at this story.”

For this project, Greer enlisted the help of his frequent collaborator, violinist Ali Johnson, as well as violist Mark Kleyn and cellist Emily Kennedy, who perform together as the neo-classical duo Pallmer. Primarily a collection of instrumental compositions, the story’s narrative arc concludes with the track Final Breath, featuring the haunting voice of Kennedy, summarizing the events and the inevitable aftermath of guilt and regret. 

Much of the recording for The Duel was done at The Recordery with engineers Evan Hanson and Brad Perry helping Greer capture a range of sounds to work from.

“We did a lot of textured recordings, getting musicians to play a lot of sustained notes with a few different techniques in order to generate a variety of tones,” said Greer. “I created samples and sound beds from there.

“I’d never worked closely with other people on a recording project like this. It was a great experience and a lot of fun for me.” 

The project was supported in part by Music NB and through a grant from the Canada Council for the Arts’ Digital Originals program launched last year.

Greer is already looking towards other events in New Brunswick history for his future projects. 

“My main idea behind these projects is to, in the end, have a collection of music that Symphony New Brunswick could do a whole show of, with all these pieces inspired directly by New Brunswick historical events and stories.”

To stay current with Greer’s music and to learn more about his work, visit www.zacharygreer.com

The Duel will be officially released January 21, 2020 through Bandcamp as well as other streaming services. 

Related:

Award winning New Brunswick composer Zachary Greer talks about composition, inspiration and how he got started writing music for film and theatre. 

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