"Composer, instrument builder, avant-garde cabaret master and all-purpose madman..."
—Rick Massimo, The Providence Journal, June 8th, 2006
Steven Jobe's compositions are a wild blend of folk music sounds, compelling rhythms and inventive tone color combinations. With pieces ranging from fiddle tunes to a string quartet, a couple of concertos and an opera, he is at once traditional in his emphasis on melody, but also unconventional in his tone color inquiries. If he doesn't have the instrument for the sound he hears, he designs it.
Portrait by Tom Stio
Jobe began composing in 1987 when he was commissioned by the Community College of Rhode Island to compose the lyrics and music for an original musical, Walking on Air. A few years later he wrote the lyrics and music to an opera, Joan of Arc (then called Jeanne d’Arc), which premiered in Providence, Rhode Island in 1993. With the help of his friends and colleagues, a concert version of the work was performed at Bell St. Chapel with a twenty piece chamber ensemble – including glass bells, hurdy gurdy, accordion and harmonica – in support of a cast of a dozen or more.
In 1994, Jobe began to explore the possibilities of chamber music, composing and arranging a wide variety of small ensemble pieces for theatre projects at the Rhode Island School of Design and for two productions of the Pan-Twilight Circus (a RI-based circus/theatre project).
In 2005, Jobe composed a string quartet, Four Movements for String Quartet and Soprano, which was premiered in May 2005 at the Carriage House Stage in Providence. Four Movements was performed again in December 2007 by the Providence String Quartet.
Subsequently Jobe was commissioned by bassoonist, Jim Morgan (a specialist in the French-style bassoon) to compose the Concerto for Bassoon. That piece had its premiere in June 2006 with Morgan as soloist.
In 2007, Jobe was commissioned by the First Works Festival in Providence to compose Music for Three Hurdy-Gurdies. A substantial work scored for chamber ensemble with vocalists, it featured all three of the hurdy-gurdies that he plays or has developed, two of them large-scale (7 and 10 feet long), one-of-a-kind instruments.
The design and construction of the 10 ft long Bosch Hurdy-Gurdy was funded by a New Works grant from the Rhode Island Foundation in 2002. It is based on an image from a painting by Hieronymus Bosch, The Garden of Earthly Delights. With a full range of sounds in the bass and contrabass range, the instrument has been integral to Jobe's work since its completion in 2006.
Music for Three Hurdy-Gurdies had its premier in October 2007. Jobe is now composing a new opera, The Legend of the Fairy Melusine.