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Andrew Norman is a composer of chamber and orchestral music. Born in the Midwest and raised in central California, Andrew spent seven years in Los Angeles where, among other activities, he watched Walt Disney Concert Hall take shape while ushering at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion.
A graduate of the University of Southern California and Yale, Norman counts among his teachers and mentors Martha Ashleigh, Donald Crockett, Stephen Hartke, Stewart Gordon, Aaron Kernis, Ingram Marshall, and Martin Bresnick. In recent seasons Norman has been commissioned by the Minnesota Orchestra, the Los Angeles and Royal Liverpool Philharmonics, the Grand Rapids Symphony, and the Aspen Music Festival. He has been a fellow at the American Academies in Rome and Berlin, the MacDowell Colony, Yaddo, and the Copland House. Norman recently finished a two-year residency with Young Concert Artists in New York, and he was composer-in-residence for the city of Heidelberg this season, and he becomes composer-in-residence with the Boston Modern Orchestra Project this year. Norman is a committed educator who enjoys helping people of all ages explore and create music, and his works are published by Schott.
“A lifelong enthusiast for all things architectural, Andrew writes music that is often inspired by forms he encounters in the visual world,” according to the biography posted on his website. “His music draws on an eclectic mix of sounds and usually features some combination of bright colors, propulsive energy, a healthy dose of lyricism, and the fragmentation of musical ideas.”
The composer has included the following note about Try in the score: “I never get things right on the first try, so why should my music? This is a piece that tries things over and over until it finally (fingers crossed) gets them right.”
Norman may have been reticent with his program note, but he has written almost a narrative poem to the players in the provisional score. It begins “madcap fast,” with “fat, round, and gloomy” piano chords punctuated by “nasty and buzzing” woodwind multiphonics. There are many extended techniques, requiring special instructions and expressive urgings, such as “lowest possible pedal tone, growling, with little or no pitch,” and “crazy sul ponticello scratchiness.”
After fragmenting into gestural explorations, the music hits a section that the composer marks “chaotic rewind,” then starts over, from a soft C-sharp in the piano. This happens several times, as the music “tries” – in the sense both of attempts and of tests – various forms of the main gestures. Near the end the piano tries to expand its little downward motive, “growing more agitated, like a tantrum of frustration,” as the guiro, “like an impeccably timed comedy duo… cuts off the piano’s every gesture… spontaneity encouraged.” This evolves towards its final form, with an important viola solo in harmonics. The piano finally finds the right notes – something like a truncated version of one of Messiaen’s modes of limited transposition, prefigured earlier in reverse order by the trumpet. This scale/arpeggio becomes a rolled chord that is then released note by note, from bottom to top, ending where the piece began, on a quiet C-sharp in the piano.
— John Henken