Out West Arts: Performance at the end of the world

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10 Questions for...
Andrew Norman

October 03, 2012

 
Andrew Norman
Hot young composers seem to be everywhere these days. It takes something special to stand out, especially in this world of social media and hyper-connectivity, but American composer Andrew Norman has quickly made an ever growing name for himself. And best of all he manages this remarkable feat with something decidedly old fashioned – his music. His work has been featured on local stages many times including some notable performances by the Los Angeles Philharmonic. But this former USC student begins making a big splash of a return on the local scene this month when he takes up a three-year stint as Composer-in-Residence for the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, which will open its season at the Alex Theater in Glendale this Saturday October 6th. Included on that program conducted by LACO Music Director Jeffrey Kahane will be Norman’s The Great Swiftness and the orchestra will continue to feature his works and new commissions on several occasions over the next few years. This is more good news for everyone as Norman, one of this year’s finalists for the Pulitzer Prize in music, will be bringing his energy and insight to a local audience with a huge interest and appetite for contemporary music. Before things get started, though, Norman was kind enough to take a minute to answer the OWA 10 Questions to tell a little about where he’s going, his favorite hamburger, and his love for working with kids.
  1. How important is contemporary technology to your creative process?
    My relationship with technology is complicated. I'm not a natural with computers. At all. So I have yet to write a piece that has any component of electronic music in it. Which I feel bad about, but am also growing to accept as part of my (possibly anachronistic) creative identity. But I do use notation software - sometimes early in the writing process, sometimes late - and occasionally midi playback, depending on the kind of music I'm writing.
  2. What’s your current obsession?
    Rearranging the furniture in my living room. I find endless fascination in the many ways objects can be in a room.
  3. You’ve been appointed Composer-in-Residence for the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra starting this year, one of several such positions you’ve held with various ensembles. How important is this sort of long-term collaboration with a specific group of musicians to your work?
    SO IMPORTANT. Music making can and should be personal thing, and the more we can do to make new orchestral music a more personal sort of collaboration, the more honest and energized the final product will be. I love getting to know an orchestra and writing for them as people, not just players.
  4. Music education and working with young people has played a big part in your career to date. How does this activity contribute to your work as a composer?
    Young people have so much creative energy! Working with young people is like tapping into this huge, unbridled energy source; I can fill up and take it back to my own work. Sometimes I feel bad because I get SO much out working with kids - I hope they get something, too.
  1. What music made you want to be a composer?
    When I was a little, little kid my parents would play this compilation tape of the greatest hits of the Baroque. I think it was somewhere between Air on the G String and Pachelbel's Canon that I decided to become a composer.
  2. What’s your second favorite opera after Berg’s Lulu?
    Britten's Peter Grimes. I stood through half a dozen performances of it as an usher at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion back in the day.
  3. When should I clap?
    Whenever you feel like it.
  4. You’re one of The USC Thornton School’s most beloved graduates. What do you miss most about living in Southern California after your time in Europe and New York?
    Disney Hall and In-N-Out Burger.
  5. You recently completed a concerto for theremin and orchestra as part of your tenure as Composer-in-Residence with the Boston Modern Orchestra Project. Are there other unusual instruments or combinations of them you have future plans to write for? And may I suggest more pieces for the ondes martenot?
    Actually, the theremin concerto was written first for Carolina Eyck and the Heidelberg Philharmonic, and later adapted for BMOP. But yes, I tend to be drawn to instruments with dangerously wide vibratos (theremin, ondes martenot, aging mezzo sopranos...), and I learned so much from writing the theremin concerto that I want to write another, and another. There's so much you can do with it! And I've got a shot at being the Wieniawski or Vieuxtemps of the Theremin world - like in a 100 years thereminists in conservatory will earnestly debate the varying merits of Norman 4 vs. Norman 3 or 5. That's the kind of immortality I want.
  6. What’s the next big thing we should be looking for from Andrew Norman?
    I don't know! Let's focus on me figuring out how to write music today, and once I've got that down I'll get back to you.

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Nice.
Hello, anyone home? You haven't posted in a while and your Calendar, usually full for weeks on end, is from September. Hope you're OK and just on hiatus.
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