The music on composer Brian Conn's latest compact disc sounds as if it could have been written 100 years ago.
Some composers would take that as an insult, but not Conn.
Conn, who lives in Barrington, has never appreciated the atonal and avant-garde music that so many composers wrote during the 20th century.
“I think that’s part of the reason classical music is doing poorly, in terms of performance sales and recording sales," Conn said. "When people leave a concert (of atonal music), they don't go home and lie in bed saying, 'I can't get that out of my head, that 'Er! Ooo! Eee!'"
On the other hand, Conn hopes people will remember the melodies of the music he composes. His third and latest CD with the Brian Conn New Music Ensemble, "Making the Streets Safe for Classical Music, Again," features seven compositions reminiscent of the Romantic period.
The pieces range from a piano duet, "Romulus and Remus," to vocal pieces in German and Italian.
"His music is really accessible," said John Towner, who has recorded Conn's three albums at Solid Sound in Hoffman Estates. "He works very hard to craft his melodies. He's quite a good arranger for voices and strings."
"I find (Conn's compositions) kind of haunting and dark," said Mary Ann Beatty of Wauconda, a soprano who performs on three of the album's tracks. "They're interesting pieces from an intellectual standpoint. He takes a great deal of care in finding texts that are appropriate for his singers."
In addition to adapting texts from writer's such as Friedrich von Schiller, Conn writes his own lyrics. However, Conn has not written any musical pieces that directly address a major aspect of his life: the fact that he has had full-blown AIDS since 1992.
"I've always kept it separate," he said. "When life puts up a roadblock, I just look for an alternative route around it."
Conn, who is 40, has been composing since he was 14.
He said he met many of his musical collaborators at St. James Catholic Church in Arlington Heights, where he has been an accompanist since 1990.
"I met all of these amazing people," he said. "It really seems to be a mecca for very, very talented people from around Chicago."
In addition to Beatty, the local performers on Conn's new CD include pianist Linda Camp of Palatine, soprano Colleen Bolthouse of Palatine and alto Val Glowisnki of Arlington Heights.
Conn has tried using computer software to compose, but he prefers the old-fashioned method of doing it on a piano and writing it out by hand.
He imagines what the various instruments will sound like playing his melodies, but he doesn't actually hear it until rehearsal. That moment of hearing his music realized is always special for Conn, he said.
"When I hear it, I'm just amazed," he said. "It sounds the way I heard it in my head."
The three CDs on Conn's Classical Angst recording label are available through his Web site at www.classicalangst.com.