Academy fellow Shelley Monroe Huang interviewed composer Andrew Norman—member of the Sleeping Giant collective—whose Histories made its Carnegie Hall and NYC premiere this week at Weill Recital Hall. Shelley, a bassoonist, interviewed Andrew while on residency at Skidmore College this week as part of her work with The Academy.
As a kid, I
liked making up my own stuff more than practicing music by the dead guys.
For me, being a composer means
having a musical idea and figuring out how to share it with other people.
Tough question! I really like
so many things about so many composers. Right now, I feel
like I'm sort of a kindred spirit to Brahms. I throw away lots and lots of what
I write and I'm a constant reviser, like he was. And the level of craft
you can see in all his works is such a high benchmark to which I aspire.
If you could only read the
thousands and thousands of emails we sent to each other on
these subjects, you'd know we did not immediately know what we wanted to
do. We had many different ideas regarding how we would go about it. But we were
definitely excited about responding to Histoire because it is a piece
that means a lot to each of us individually.
Eventually we hit on the idea
of stealing. Stravinsky himself said that "good composers borrow,
great composers steal." So we decided that each of us would steal
something we found significant from Histoire and make it our own.
My four little pieces form a frame for the
work of my three colleagues. I tried to make these interludes as different
texturally, dynamically, and conceptually as I could from the pieces they
surround. I also tried to give my four pieces a strong trajectory throughout,
as if they were actually one piece that keeps getting interrupted and delayed
by the work of my colleagues.
We very much want our work to
form a dramatic whole, but we don't necessarily want to blend our distinct
voices into something homogeneous. Part of what makes the piece work is that our compositions
all sound so different from each other. Contrast is
so important in music, and I feel like we came up with a piece here that is
more varied than something any one of us could have done alone.
Stravinsky is awesome! I hope
that just a little of his awesomeness could find its way into our piece.
I love how active my composer
colleagues and I have been able to be in the rehearsal process. The players
have given us the time and space to really work collaboratively. We've been
changing things, rewriting them, rethinking them in rehearsals, and the
musicians have all been game to try anything.
The food! And the chance to interact with the Skidmore students. They're a great
bunch. And, quite honestly, the hall they have up at Skidmore is so
amazing! It was a treat to have my music played in there.
I am sort of obsessed with
mid-century furniture right now. Also, I love looking at
buildings. Patterns in architecture really get me going creatively.
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