Jaco Meyer is a composer and academic who graduated with a PhD in musicology from the North-West University and an LTCL in composition from the Trinity College of London. As composer he received many commissions and his music has been performed by international musicians, ensembles and orchestras. His research on music analysis, music theory and perception in music has been presented at various international conferences and published in peer-reviewed journals.
Jaco Meyer is a composer and academic, currently based in Johannesburg. His work is positively accepted and commended internationally. He started music lessons with Mrs Debbie Mostert in Rustenburg, followed by Mrs Louise Vermaak, Mrs Renate Nel and Dr Martin Ryan. His work as a musician and composer started in high school where he started a school orchestra and made music arrangements for the members of the orchestra. He also composed his own piano compositions for school concerts and festivals. Following his high school graduation, he enrolled for a BMus degree at the School of Music and Conservatory of the North-West University. Jaco studied composition with Prof Hannes Taljaard, piano with Prof Waldo Weyer, violoncello with Dr Human Coetzee, and African Music with Dr Alvin Petersen. He completed his BMus degree, specialising in Music Composition and Music Theory, with additional qualifications in Psychology, Art Philosophy, Statistics, and German. His lessons in composition include working with local composers like Hannes Taljaard, Stefans Grové, Clare Loveday, Andile Khumalo, Martin Watt, Jeanne Zaidel-Rudolph, and Jurgen Bräuninger as well as internationally renowned composers such as Wim Henderickx (Belgium), Jorrit Tamminga (The Netherlands), Diederik Glorieux (Belgium), Robert Fokkens (UK), Michael Pelzel (Switzerland), and Lukas Ligeti (Austria).
Jaco received bursaries from the North-West University (NWU), the South African Music Rights Organization (SAMRO), the National Research Foundation (NRF), and the National Institute for Humanities and Social Sciences (NIHSS) to continue with post-graduate studies. He completed a Masters degree in Music Composition at the NWU which was awarded cum laude. The work for this degree consisted of a portfolio of compositions and a research dissertation on the principles of orchestration through the lens of musical forces. His research on musical forces was conducted in more depth for his PhD in Musicology and Music Analysis: he expanded the theory of musical forces by using analyses of the Belgian composer, Wim Henderickx’s, music.
During the first year of his bachelor studies he needed a platform for his music to be performed, so he proposed and co-founded the Young Composers Concert with his lecturer, Hannes Taljaard. The Young Composers Concert soon became a prestigious annual music concert – and soon progressed into a week of workshops for new music – at the North-West University where young, talented composers’ compositions are performed. Jaco’s music was later performed on many more national and international stages by national and international artists, most notably the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra of Flanders (now the Antwerp Symphony Orchestra), Duo Montagnard, The Chamber Music Company of London, and György Sándor Fazakas. Jaco also received several commissions which include compositions for violoncello and flute from the South African Music Rights Organisation (SAMRO), music for DEKAT-TV (broadcasted on national television), various compositions for South African Music concerts of the North-West University, chorale preludes for the South African Church Organists Society (SAKOV) publications, flute compositions for György Sándor Fazakas, a solo piano composition for Rachelle Elmes-Wessels, a violoncello and piano composition from Andrew Munro and Human Coetzee, and a choir composition from the North-West Children’s Choir.
Although his music is unique in its strong conceptual frameworks, Jaco composed some compositions that should get special mention. Jaco interviewed Stefans Grové shortly before his 90th birthday, and Grové gave him a short theme that represented his own name (Stefans). Jaco composed a solo organ composition based on this theme for the 90th birthday celebration concert of Grové as part of the NWU South African Music Concert. This work was performed by Ockie Vermeulen. Jaco also composed a short work for viola and piano on the day that Nelson Mandela passed away, and continued to write a composition on every day until his funeral. These Elegies after the death of Nelson Mandela are eleven short compositions for viola and piano, first performed by Elmarie van der Vyver and Mathilda Hornsveld. Jaco was also the first composer known to set a text (Psalm 23), from the first direct translation of the Bible in Afrikaans to music. This composition was first performed by the North-West Children’s Choir. Jaco is also befriended by the renowned conceptual and word artist, Willem Boshoff, whose works he applauds and studies. Some of the artworks of Willem Boshoff provided a conceptual framework for music and an entire section of Jaco’s one portfolio was dedicated to music based on ‘translated’ artworks by Boshoff (see Fünf Skizzen nach Kunstwerken von Willem Boshoff). These compositions led to further research opportunities in music and visual art as well as further collaborations between Meyer and Boshoff. Some of these compositions were performed by the Epoch String Quartet, Magda de Vries, Olivier Barrier, Morné van Heerden, and Elmarie van der Vyver.
Jaco’s compositions have been received very positively at many concerts. The Swiss composer, Michael Pelzel, described his compositions as “very colourful and expressive ideas that are harmonically and formally well-structured”. The British violinist, Jonathan Truscott from the Bergersen String Quartet, referred to Meyer’s compositions as “moving music”. The Belgian composer, Wim Henderickx, said the following about Jaco’s orchestral composition: “The orchestral piece of Jaco Meyer is a vibrant and challenging work that uses a variety of orchestral combinations.” Martyn Williams, a British composer, writes that Jaco has “the ability to manipulate musical material into coherent and well-trusted extended musical structures.” Jaco is known to work very closely with performers and exploring the possibilities of musical instruments in great depths. This enables him to create interesting and idiomatic sound combinations and structures.
On the academic side, his research on Musicology, Music Analysis and Ethnomusicology is often presented at both national and international conferences which include the South African Society for Research in Music (SASRIM), the International Council for Traditional Music (ICTM) the Pan African Society for Music and Arts Education (PASMAE), and the Society for Students of Systematic Musicology (SysMus). He was one of the first student presenters at the international IMS-SASRIM congress held in Stellenbosch, and delivered research papers at several of their national conferences. He was also the editor of a SAKOV publication, Nuusbrief, and wrote a series of music articles for the DEKAT magazine. Several of his research papers and compositions were published in national and international journals. A complete list of his research outputs, conference papers, and publications can be found here. His research is focused on the Theory of Musical Forces, developed by Steve Larson, and how the theory can be expanded and employed in music analysis and composition. Jaco is also experienced in teaching music theory and composition at tertiary, further education training, secondary, and primary level at the North-West University and Crawford Sandton.