Derek Bermel in the CPR Performance Studio.

(Photo: CPR/Charley Samson)
Composer and clarinetist Derek Bermel performs this weeked with the Colorado Chamber Players in a program that includes his own pieces as well as music by Brahms and Denver native Petra Hogan.

Bermel's musical output is sometimes called eclectic, and he openly draws inspiration from many genres.

"I try to just make music out of what I love," Bermel told CPR Classical. "Everything from the Beatles and the Jackson Five to gospel music and a lot of jazz ... And then of course I was learning classical music, and I always loved contemporary music."

Bermel and the Colorado Chamber Players will perform his "Mulatash Stomp," a piece partly inspired by "Contrasts," which Hungarian composer Bela Bartok wrote for big band legend Benny Goodman. ("Mulatash" means "all-night party" in Hungarian.)  Bartok's and Bermel's pieces both call for piano, violin and clarinet.

This weekend's concerts also include "A Short History of the Universe," for clarinet and string quartet. Bermel said he borrowed some ideas from string theory, which he encountered while based at Princeton University.

"It's talking about the very big and very small," Bermel said. "It's talking a lot about gravity, and somehow gravity is something I can imagine in music, where things are pulled toward each other and there are attractions."   

Click the audio above to hear Bermel talk about his early years imitating his brother, his studies with William Albright and William Bolcom, his interest in physics and more. 

Bermel and the Colorado Chamber Players perform at 7:30 p.m. Friday at St. John's Cathedral, 1350 S. Washington St. in Denver, and at 7 p.m. Saturday at Opus Two Hall, 9167 Davidson Way in Lafayette. The musicians will also perform excerpts from the program in a free  concert at 11 a.m. Saturday at the Boulder Public Library, 1001 Arapahoe Ave. in Boulder.

Bermel also recorded his piece "Thracian Sketches" (by permission of Peermusic Classical) and Igor Stravinsky's "Three Pieces for Solo Clarinet" in the CPR Performance Studio. Hear both recordings by clicking the audio at the top of this article.