Andrew Norman

Notes from the Composer

Tuesday, June 15, 2010


Performed by the Tonhalle Orchestra, Zurich; Conducted by Michael Sanderling

I have never been more stuck than I was in the winter of 2008. My writing came to a grinding halt in January and for a long time this piece languished on my desk, a mess of musical fragments that refused to cohere. It was not until the following May, when I saw a copy of Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse-Five and remembered one of its iconic sentences, that I had a breakthrough realization. The sentence was this: "Billy Pilgrim has come unstuck in time," and the realization was that the lack of coherence in my ideas was to be embraced and explored, not overcome.

 I realized that my musical materials lent themselves to a narrative arc that, like Vonnegut's character, comes unstuck in time. Bits and pieces of the beginning, middle, and end of the music crop up in the wrong places like the flashbacks and flashforwards that define the structure and style of Slaughterhouse-Five.

 I also realized that the word unstuck had resonances with the way that a few of the piece’s musical ideas get caught in repetitive loops. The orchestra, perhaps in some way dramatizing my own frustration with composing, spends a considerable amount of time and energy trying to free itself from these moments of stuckness.


The Companion Guide to Rome - VI. Clemente

Performed by the Scharoun Ensemble of the Berlin

Like many of the buildings in Rome, this piece is the product of a long gestation marked by numerous renovations, accretions, and ground-up reconstructions.  What has emerged is a collection of portraits—nine in all—of my favorite Roman churches.  The music is, at different times and in different ways, informed by the proportions of the churches, the qualities of their surfaces, the patterns in their floors, the artwork on their walls, and the lives and legends of the saints whose names they bear.  The more I worked on these miniatures, the less they had to do with actual buildings and the more they became character studies of imaginary people, my companions for a year of living in the Eternal City.


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Comments [12]


Really nice pieces!

Sep. 27 2010 08:39 PM
Nina from New York

I really like the energy of this; the way it scoots around is fun as are the sudden shifts in dynamics and instrumental groups.

Sep. 20 2010 04:56 PM

andrew's music is emotional, crafty, polished, challenging, and understated. that orchestra piece pulls off the kind of wild splicing and jaggedness that lots of composers attempt and few effectively achieve, and that string trio is an extremely well-composed work of art that speaks volumes. he is a brilliant composer and he has an incredible feel for string writing - real control combined with freedom and innovation. i'm glad he's still on the island -- orpheus should commission him.

Sep. 16 2010 12:56 AM
Carl S. from Bloomington, IL

I've been impressed with everything I've heard by Andrew -- the gestures and drama are fantastic.

Jul. 14 2010 05:31 PM
Juhi Bansal

Andrew's music is always fresh, exciting, and a joy to listen to. Andrew would be fantastic for the project!

Jul. 04 2010 01:19 PM
Anna from Berlin, Germany

With the first piece I was not amazed, but the second is intriguing and well written.

Jun. 26 2010 11:33 AM
Molly from Viola, Tn


Jun. 25 2010 09:51 PM
Yotam H from Brooklyn

I love Andrew's string writing -- so exciting, touching, elegant, muscular!

Jun. 25 2010 08:20 AM
Brett Banducci from Los Angeles, CA

"The Companion Guide to Rome" is the "Souvenir de Florence" of the 21st century. Bravo Andrew, amazing music!

Jun. 24 2010 06:06 PM
A. Lanzilotti from Berlin

Andrew Norman's new work, "The Companion Guide to Rome", is both well crafted and extremely moving. The string writing is gorgeous, and Norman's lyricism comes through even the most fragmented and jarring of techniques. It is a honest and heartfelt piece, and I look forward to following his work in the future.

Jun. 20 2010 01:10 PM
Jordan Kuspa from New Haven

I love Andrew's music. He is possibly the most fluent and exciting writer of orchestral music I know. He should be a sure pick!

Jun. 19 2010 11:32 PM
TIMO from Brooklyn.

Andrew should win it!

Jun. 18 2010 10:29 PM

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