Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Andrew Norman: brief survey of his music

Here’s another young composer with a website of music to explore, Andrew Norman, about age 33. Raised in California, he attended USC and Yale, and studied piano and viola first. 

Here is the basic link

He has also composed some pieces for the Minnesota Orchestra (where I worked in 2002 and 2003).
I sampled a few of his works from his website.  Many of the works are available to be played back in entirety.  Use a good sound system if possible; there is a lot of spatial separation of sounds. 

Apart” (2011, 9 minutes), commissioned by the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, allows the instrumentalists to play their lines at their own speed, so that no two performances are the same, at least according to the composer. Yet, the piece sounds lush, harmonic; it even begins with a descending string figure that echoes the beginning of the Beethoven Ninth.

Sacred Geometry” (2003, 10 minutes), for the New York Youth Symphony, composed when Norman was at USC. His concept is drawn from the geometrically rigorous blueprint of the Chartres Cathedral, near Paris (I think I just missed it on my 1999 trip, driving a rented car to Bayeux to see the Tapestry and William the Conqueror Museums).  The composer says he achieves an unusual effect toward the end by following a set of mathematical rules involving the “circle of fifths”.

He offers a one minute excerpt from a piano composition in progress, “Make Believe”, which he says pays homage to Chopin, Liszt, and Ravel – but it is the Liszt element that stands out, perhaps especially the Liszt “Legends”, which I studied myself in high school back in the late 1950s. There is the same sort of stretching of tonality that one found in some of Liszt’s more experimental works. I really look forward to hearing the completed “rhapsody” (or perhaps sonata-like piece).

Sync Up” (2002, 3 min) is a “competition” between left and right hands on the solo piano.  It sounds to me like a cross between Ravel and Ginastera (with a little of Bernstein’s “Age of Anxiety” thrown in), with a lot of virtuosity.  This pieces ends abruptly with a crash – no chance to respond. 

Here, Pendulum New Music presents "Gran Turismo" (2007) in a 2009 performance in Boulder, CO.  "Apart" and "Together" are both viewable on YouTube. The "Turismo" music reminds me of the finale of the Shostakovich 11th Symphony (which I heard around 2005 at the Kennedy Center). 

Are short pieces like short films? 

Once or twice, I’ve heard heavily syncopated music on disco floors that sounds like it might have been adapted from music of “people I know”.  I’ve got to go back and check.  

Picture:  Some Ravel (Gaspard de la nuit) on an building wall near the Minnesota Orchestra Hall in downtown Minneapolis.  

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