Music For Writers: Playful Andrew Norman

Image - iStockphoto: Zeffss1
Image – iStockphoto: Zeffss1

‘Every Now And Then, I Just Want To Throw A Wrench In’

Imagine the orchestra as this sort of complicated 19th-century futurist machine, all moving parts and cogs and gears, and little people. I find that sort of fascinating. But every now and then, I just want to throw a wrench in and see what will happen.
Andrew Norman. Image: BMOP Sound
Andrew Norman. Image: BMOP Sound

Andrew Norman is ready to show you — at least through sound — just what happens when he tosses a wrench or two onto the concert stage.

In fact, consider the title of his sprawling, brawling new work, released by BMOP Sound. It’s called Play. Do yourself a favor and hit that — hit play, just below — as you read this article.

Thanks to our colleagues at New York Public Radio’s Q2 Music 24/7 contemporary classical stream Q2 Music, you can hear the entire album free of charge as part of the Q2 Music Album of the Week series.

And the first thing you’re going to ask yourself as the music starts is  whether there’s a single one of those “little people” in the orchestra who’s not playing his or her head off. This is nobody’s lullaby.

 So let’s think about that title. You can:
  • Play a game. And yeah, Norman’s three movements are titled Level 1, Level 2, and Level 3. Game on.
  • Stage a play. I’ll give you a sense for how Norman sees that, um, playing out, shortly.
  • Play with things. Or people. In Level 2, his instructions to orchestra members include points at which he wants them to freeze after playing their parts.
  • Play that music, of course. And in Norman’s terrific Meet the Composerprogram for Q2 Music — Better Living Through Architecture — he’s heard asking host and violist Nadia Sirota to “hand me that viola” so he can demonstrate some of the unusual sounds he likes to get out of stringed instruments by playing them the “wrong” way.

I was honored to voice the credits at the end of that particular edition of Meet the Composer, and I’d heard Norman talking with Sirota about modernism — “Oh, dude…I didn’t mean to say dude…Oh, dear, modernism!” Amid a lot of great giggles, what you learn here is that this guy has been composing since he was 10. But getting to the University of Southern California (where he teaches now) exposed him to the dissonant phantasms of leading mid-twentieth century modernism.

“Why couldn’t I just sound like beautiful Danish furniture?” he asks Sirota.

But no, when he thinks of modernism and things architectural, Norman tells me, his Play “sort of wears its structure on the surface. In fact, it reminds me a little of the Pompidou Centre in Paris. This idea of a building that’s wearing all its nuts and bolts on the outside. And that becomes the subject of the piece.

“How Play is put together is what it’s all about. If that makes any sense.”

It does. Just listen. Architecture, while once a helpful point of clarification in his development as a composer, he says, “isn’t foregrounded” nowadays in what he’s doing. “But it’s just how my brain works.”

Read More

There’s more: Read the full story at Thought Catalog

By Porter Ander­son

Writing on the Ether: Music For Writers: Playful Andrew Norman

Originally published by Thought Catalog at


PubSenseSummit 2015 banner


IfBookThen banner


LBF banner general 2015 dated

2015 Digital Minds banner

Logo at 640

2015 BSA Email 625 x 150 Enter

IDPF General Banner 640 x 130

Leave a Reply