“...the Centre Pompidou in Paris. Do you know this building?” Andrew Norman has suddenly switched subjects to architecture—his voice lights up. “Where the entire structure, all the innards of the building are on the outside—all the pipes, and all the vents, and all the support structure—you see everything, none of that is buried.”
My mind flashes to the escalator of the Centre Pompidou, riding up the outside of the building slowly as Paris reveals itself in layers of rooftops, threads of pedestrians. I happened to be in Paris this summer during Fête de la musique, an annual festival of music outdoors that feels more like an Ivesian maze of drum circles and Indie rock bands. Needing a respite from the chaotic buzz of the streets, a friend and I went to the opening of an exhibit at the Centre Pompidou on the Beat Generation. Entering the dimly lit exhibit, we found each artifact a treasure: the long single scrolled manuscript of Jack Kerouac’s On the Road from 1951 almost filled the length of the main room sprawled out in a long glass case.
Adventure and storytelling, noise and a mess of sounds that only reveal themselves through focused engagement with the narrative: all evoked in a moment with the image of the Centre Pompidou. Norman continues—“and that’s, I think, maybe a good metaphor for what I’m trying to do in music, because I want you, the audience, to see and hear everything that I’m doing. I want the music to wear its structure on the surface.”
The audience will have a chance to see what Norman is doing live on October 28 when the Los Angeles Philharmonic premieres the revised version of Play, his celebrated first symphony. Structured in three movements—or “Levels,” as they are titled—it is an intricately planned work dealing with themes of control, free will, hidden messages, and of course, playfulness. The key elements of Play are the things that inspire me in Norman’s music: physicality, the use of form to create narrative, and an interest in the experience of live performance.
Read the entire article here, and experience Play live with Gustavo Dudamel and the Los Angeles Philharmonic:
Friday, October 28, 2016 at 8PM
Walt Disney Concert Hall, Los Angeles
Monday, October 31, 2016 at 8PM
Louise M. Davies Symphony Hall, San Francisco
Update — November 29, 2016: Heartfelt congratulations to Andrew on being awarded the 2017 Grawemeyer Award for Music Composition for Play! In this interview with NPR, Andrew talks about the honor of receiving the award and also uses it as a chance to advocate for diversity.
For additional reading, check out William Robin's profile of Norman in the New York Times and Alex Ross's piece on Norman in celebration of him being named Musical America's 2017 Composer of the Year.