“He has likened his start-and-stop rhythms and rapid-fire exchanges to video games, YouTube playback, and other digital-age phenomena. It is a voice singularly his own, and several major commissions from leading orchestras and soloists of our time have vindicated his vision.
Contemporary composers often find themselves caught between two groups that stand in stark opposition to each other. On one side is the mainstream concert-going public, which is notoriously conservative in its attitudes toward contemporary music. On the other is the community of composers, critics, and new-music aficionados, who often disdain the sort of tonal-leaning, Romantically inclined pieces that are thought to have the best chance of appealing to a broad audience. What delights one group disgusts the other, and vice versa. Such is the fate of new music in a performance-based classical culture that has been sidelining composers for a century or more.
Every once in a while, though, a significant talent manages to command respect on both sides of the great divide. Thomas Adès, Musical America’s 2011 Composer of the Year, is one, having won applause both at the Metropolitan Opera and at European new-music festivals. Andrew Norman, this year’s honoree, is emerging as another: He has received performances at leading orchestras while PhD students subject his work to analytical dissection. Later this month ((October 28-31), Gustavo Dudamel will lead the Los Angeles Philharmonic in performances of Play, a three-movement symphonic piece that stands as Norman’s most ambitious statement to date. The outer movements are brilliant and buoyant—studies in kinetic thrill. The middle movement, by contrast, is almost experimental in character: Sonorities float in space like sculptural mobiles. In one formidable span, Play sums up the contrary tendencies of the music of our time.…” —Alex Ross, Musical America
Labels: Andrew Norman, Award, DawnToDust, Musical America, Switch, Utah Symphony