‘Every Now And Then, I Just Want To Throw A Wrench In’
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.
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.
- 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.”
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Originally published by Thought Catalog at www.ThoughtCatalog.com