Published by
Project 440

Andrew Norman

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Unstuck

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.