Skip to page content


Listen to audio:

About this Piece

Andrew Norman is a composer of chamber and orchestral music. Born in the Midwest and raised in central California, Norman lived for seven years in Los Angeles, where he watched Walt Disney Concert Hall slowly take shape while ushering at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion.

A graduate of the University of Southern California and Yale, Norman counts among his teachers Martha Ashleigh, Donald Crockett, Stephen Hartke, Stewart Gordon, Aaron Kernis, Ingram Marshall, and Martin Bresnick. He is the recipient of the 2006 Rome Prize and the 2009 Berlin Prize, and he has been commissioned by numerous ensembles and organizations, including Carnegie Hall, the Aspen Music Festival, the Minnesota Orchestra, and the Tonhalle Orchester Zurich. Norman has served as composer-in-residence for Young Concert Artists in New York and for the Heidelberg Philharmonic, which premiered his theremin concerto.

Upcoming projects include a new work for piano and orchestra, to be premiered by Emanuel Ax, with the Los Angeles Philharmonic under Gustavo Dudamel, later this season (May 1-3, 2014). Norman is composer-in-residence for the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, and his works are published by Schott Music.

Try was commissioned by the Los Angeles Philharmonic and the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic, and premiered on a Green Umbrella concert here in May 2011, conducted by John Adams.

The composer has provided the following note:

“I never get things right on the first try. I am a trial-and-error composer, an incurable reviser. And this is a problem when it comes to high profile commissions from world-class ensembles in spectacular concert halls, because in these rare cases I get exactly one try to get it right, and I really, really want to get it right. Disney Hall and the Los Angeles Philharmonic have meant so much to me over the years that the overwhelming desire to write for them the perfect piece was enough to stop me dead in my creative tracks. It took me many months to realize the obvious: my piece was never going to be perfect no matter how hard I tried, and perfection was not even the right target on which to set my sights. The best thing I could do to honor the adventurous spirit of the Philharmonic and Disney Hall was to try as many new things as I could, to embrace the risk and failure and serendipitous discovery implicit in the word ‘try.’

“The piece I ended up writing is a lot like me. It’s messy, and fragmented, and it certainly doesn’t get things right on the first go around. It does things over and over, trying them out in as many different ways as it can. It circles back on itself again and again in search of any idea that will stick, that will lead it forward to something new. And, at long last, after ten minutes of increasingly frantic trying, it finds one small, unlikely bit of musical material it likes enough to repeat and polish and hone until it finally (fingers crossed) gets it right.”

— John Henken